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Fixing a Gap in Adult Education

A number of constituents have contacted me regarding the high cost of upgrading high school courses. I wrote to the Minister of Education to ask that he consider removing the barriers to educational access that his government put in place in May 2015. I received a disappointing response which failed to address the key concerns of the letter.

I subsequently wrote to the Minister of Advanced Education urging him to close a gap in coverage that the policy change had created. When government chose to end funding for high school graduates upgrading  secondary courses, they forced secondary schools to charge tuition to high school graduates. This included public schools, like SIDES or The Link, which offer online classes and are well suited for academic upgrading.

Along with the policy change government introduced the Adult Upgrading Grant, which is administered by the Ministry of Advanced Education and is meant to provide some support for low-income students. However, this grant only covers courses taken at post-secondary institutions and does not include any of the secondary schools which now have to charge tuition to high school graduates. I asked the minister to extend the grant to a more diverse group of schools, in particular to secondary schools which focus on distributed learning and currently have high rates of enrollment for students upgrading courses.

A non trivial component of the government’s surplus has come at the expense of those who can least afford it. Cuts to those seeking to upgrade their high school education to pursue work and educational opportunities do nothing more than perpetuate the poverty trap. British Colombians deserve a government which will make education more accessible for all British Colombians.

Below I reproduce the text of my letter and I will share the response when it is forthcoming.


Text of the Letter


February 12, 2017

Honourable Andrew Wilkinson
Minister of Advanced Education
PO Box 9080 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2
Canada

Dear Minister Wilkinson,

I’m writing to you in light of concerns that constituents have brought to my attention regarding the high cost of upgrading high school courses.

As you know, in 2015, the provincial government ended funding for students upgrading high school courses, if they have already graduated. Since that policy change, returning students now face a fee, generally $500-$550 per course, to take grade 11/12 course. These fees place an undue burden on individuals, and their families, as they work to expand their professional and academic opportunities.

I have learned that at the South Island Distance Education School (SIDES) in Victoria alone, there are hundreds of students who are unable to afford the fees of upgrading their courses, and thus remain on the waitlist. This does not include the many who don’t even apply to join the waitlist, discouraged from doing so when they learn the cost.

I have written the Minister of Education about my concerns with this policy and am now writing you to outline a specific gap that it has created.

The Ministry of Education still funds high school courses for students who have not graduated. The Ministry of Advanced Education provides support for low-income students who have graduated and are taking high school level courses at one of nineteen post-secondary institutions.

There is, however, no support for students who have graduated high school and are pursuing academic upgrading through institutions other than post-secondary schools. For example, high school graduates attending public schools in Victoria, like SIDES or the Link, are not eligible for tax deductions, reimbursement under RESPs, or the Adult Upgrading Grant.

These two schools specialize in providing a flexible academic environment to accommodate the needs of students. With many returning students are juggling career and family obligations, this an ideal environment for them to return. Attending a school focused on secondary education can also be less jarring return to the education system for many students.

I find it difficult to understand why two students of similar income levels could take equivalent courses that have comparable prices and that only one would receive government support.

As your ministry oversees the Adult Upgrading Grants, I ask that you increase the number of institutions which are approved to administer them. Specifically, I ask that you give public schools that have a focus on distributed learning the ability to authorize these grants.

If you feel that this falls outside the purview of your ministry, then I urge you to coordinate with the Minister of Education and develop a funding program which would achieve the same results.

I fully believe that we should all fund students who pursue academic upgrading, whether or not they’ve graduated. British Columbians have been promised a high school education, and there is more to that than just a diploma. Whether or not someone has graduated, they should be supported as they flesh out their secondary education, seeking to open their mind or opportunities.

At the very least, this government should, fill the gap that has been created by its policy change and provide the Adult Upgrading Grant to a more diverse group of institutions, including specialized secondary schools.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Reintroducing a Bill to Lower the Voting Age to 16 in British Columbia

Today in the legislature I reintroduced a bill that if enacted would lower the voter age in British Columbia from 18 to 16. The new name of the bill is Bill M220 — Election Amendment 1, 2017.

Those who have been following this site will know that last year, I initiated a conversation on whether or not we should reduce the voting age to 16. The response on social media was wonderful and we received many emails on the topic.

It turns out that this conversation is not only happening now in BC. Prince Edward Island held a referendum in the fall on electoral reform. The eligibility to vote will be extended to youth aged 16 and 17 in this referendum.

Below please find reproductions of both the text and video of the introduction of my bill. In addition, I reproduce the accompanying press release.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Election Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: In this bill I’m introducing today, I would propose lowering the voting age to 16 in the province of British Columbia. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit throughout their life.

It’s also a common misconception that 16-year-olds are not as informed on and engaged in political issues as older voters. The research, however, says otherwise. These young citizens of British Columbia are old enough to drive, pay taxes and sign up for the military. In fact, the notion of taxation without representation is one that is not founded within our democracy. We require representation with taxation. Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and parts of the U.K. have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds, and it’s time British Columbia do the same.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Madame Speaker: Hon. Member, was that No. 1 or No. 2?

A. Weaver: That was No. 1. I’m sorry. Thank you, hon. Speaker.

Madame Speaker: No worries.

Bill M220, Election Amendment Act 1, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

 


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Andrew Weaver introduces bill to lower the voting age in B.C.
For immediate release
February 20, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Today Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, re-introduced the Election Amendment Act 1, which seeks to engage youth in politics through lowering the voting age to 16.

“There is a lot of evidence that shows that if we engage our youth earlier in the political process they are more likely to develop voting as a habit for the rest of their life,” says Weaver, also the Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“I’ve been speaking to individuals of all ages since I introduced this bill last Spring. I have heard overwhelming support for lowering the voting age.

“The decisions we make today as legislators will have a profound impact on the lives of our youth. I can’t think of a good reason why they shouldn’t have a stake in those decisions.

“It appears there is a trickle-up effect in civic participation. When youth engage, conversations around the dinner table tend to focus on politics and local issues, which results in a positive impact on voter turnout for the whole family.”

Many other jurisdictions, including Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and parts of the UK, have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds. Scotland experimented by lowering the voting age in their independence referendum. It was so successful that they subsequently permanently dropped the voting age to 16 in all Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

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Media Contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Bill M204 — Family Day Amendment Act, 2017

Today in the legislature I tabled a bill titled Family Day Amendment Act, 2017. The Bill amends the Family Day Act to prescribe that the third Monday in February each year is observed as “Family Day”.

As noted in the text of my introductory speech below, the amendment would align the date of BC’s Family Day with Family Days and other public holidays observed across the rest of Canada, and in the United States.

To see the rationale for this change, please consider viewing the video made by Andrew Johns, founder of the #UniteFamilyDay petition. His petition has already received more than 20,000 signatures.

Below are the video and text of the introduction of my bill together with our accompanying media release.


Video of my Introduction



Text of my Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Family Day Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I am very pleased to introduce the bill intituled Family Day Amendment Act, 2017. This bill amends the Family Day Act to prescribe that the third Monday in February each year is observed as Family Day. This amendment would align the date of British Columbia’s Family Day with family days and other public holidays observed across the rest of Canada and in the United States.

The purpose of Family Day is to highlight the importance of family and to bring families together. This isn’t happening in B.C., with us observing family day a week earlier than all other provinces. Families spread out beyond B.C. aren’t able to be together. Federal employees and many who work in business are forced to work on Family Day since it is a business day everywhere else.

Instead of responding to corporate lobbyists in the ski industry, this government should honour the spirit of Family Day by putting families first and moving it to align with the rest of North America.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M204, Family Day Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


 February 16th, 2017
For immediate release
Weaver proposes legislation to unite B.C. Family Day with rest of Canada

VICTORIA B.C. – “Family day is meant to put families first, not lobbyists from B.C.’s ski industry.” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

Premier Christy Clark passed the Family Day Act in 2012 establishing B.C.’s very own Family Day on the 2nd Monday in February, compared to the rest of Canada who celebrates on the 3rd Monday. This bill amends that act to align the date of B.C.’s holiday with Family Days across Canada and President’s Day in the United States.

“With B.C. observing Family Day a week earlier than all other provinces, families are not being brought together. Many British Columbians are forced to work Family Day, since it is a business day everywhere else, and families spread out beyond B.C. aren’t able to be together.

“Instead of responding to corporate lobbyists in the ski industry, this government should put families first and honour the spirit of Family Day. The B.C. Liberal should move the holiday to align it with the rest of North America.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

It’s time to eliminate the high cost of upgrading high school courses

A number of constituents recently contacted me regarding the high cost of upgrading high school courses. To start the new year, and in anticipation of the upcoming provincial budget to be tabled in February, I wrote to the Minister of Education to ask that he consider removing the barriers to educational access that his government put in place in May 2015.

A non trivial component of the government’s surplus has come at the expense of those who can least afford it. Cuts to those seeking to upgrade their high school education to pursue work and educational opportunities do nothing more than perpetuate the poverty trap.

I reproduce the text of my letter below.


Text of the Letter


January 4, 2017

Honourable Mike Bernier
Ministry of Education
PO Box 9045, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2
Canada
Dear Minister Bernier,

I’m writing to you today in light of concerns that constituents have brought to my attention regarding the high cost of upgrading high school courses.

Since the subsidy was removed in May 2015, adults now face a fee to upgrade grade 11/12 courses, generally $500-$550 per course. This fee is placing a huge burden on families and individuals looking to upgrade their high school education and pursue work and educational opportunities.

I have learned that at the South Island Distance Education School (SIDES) in Victoria alone, there are hundreds of students who are unable to afford the fees of upgrading their courses, and thus remain on the waitlist; many more don’t even apply to join the waitlist, discouraged from doing so when they learn the cost.

In particular, these fees harm those who are seeking to upgrade their courses at secondary schools, since only courses taken at postsecondary institutions are eligible for tax deductions, reimbursement under RESPs, or the Adult Upgrading Grant.

This situation leaves a significant gap in our support for students, leaving those who upgrade their courses at secondary schools to pay course fees and to go without the financial assistance that benefits students at postsecondary institutions. It is not always an option to attend a post-secondary school: many low-income individuals need the flexibility of distance learning to enable them to balance their studies with their work.

I have heard from families who are struggling financially to help their children cover the costs of these courses. For others, the cost is too high a barrier to overcome, preventing motivated individuals from upgrading the courses they need to attend college or university, and therefore foreclosing the opportunities that would otherwise become available to them.

Currently, the BC Government is penalizing people who return to school, and preventing so many from upgrading their education and realizing the associated opportunities.

Please act to make adult education more accessible. This would be best achieved through reinstating the subsidies to these courses. In the absence of these subsidies, I ask you to extend the eligibility requirements for upgrading grants, to encompass students who upgrade their courses at secondary schools.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Politics for the people, by the people

Looking ahead to 2017, I can’t help but feel incredibly excited – not the least of which is because the provincial election is on the horizon. I sincerely thank you for putting your trust in me these past four years. This May I’m hopeful that you will afford me the distinct honour of serving you as your MLA for a second term. I’m also eager to see how the election will play out across British Columbia.

The politics of 2016 were trying, to say the least, but I feel that positive change is afoot in B.C. From east to west and north to south people are realizing that status-quo politics is not serving them or their communities. We are seeing people reach their limits with parties who bend to organized union or corporate interests. People are fed up with political parties and their MLAs being reduced to puppets controlled by corporate or union puppet masters with a firm grip on their purse strings. The election, however, will put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of British Columbians.

Since the B.C. Greens, of which I am now the leader, stopped accepting corporate and union donations, we have seen an incredible ground swell of support. Politics for the people, by the people, has really struck a chord in B.C. and I know it has not gone unnoticed by other politicians. These politicians now have to leave their back room meetings and answer directly to British Columbians. And British Columbians are demanding thoughtful responses, not sound bites or media lines, to their questions about housing, affordability, public education, income security, MSP premiums and hydro rates, environmental protection, climate change, doctor shortages, and the spiraling Fentanyl overdose epidemic, to name but a few.

The riding of Oak Bay – Gordon Head had the highest voter turnout in the province in 2013, something I am endlessly proud of to this day, and I’m optimistic that the change that started in our community will spread to other ridings in 2017.

I draw my inspiration from our community that I’ve been grateful to call home for my entire life. I was born in Victoria, attended Oak Bay High School, raised my family in Gordon Head and built a career here. As a professor at the University of Victoria for the past twenty-five years, I have been fortunate enough to work with, and teach, some of the brightest minds in science.

The B.C. Greens have incredible candidates stepping up across the province. I’m convinced that this election will be the first time in a very long time that voters have a viable third choice, and no longer have to hold their nose when voting for the lesser of two evils. It’s my job as leader of the party to provide people with something they can vote for, not against.

We will face some massive challenges in our future, to be sure, but I am confident we will overcome them. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with my office.

I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.