Business has a place in public education

If a business will inject desperately-needed funds into our schools, and get some recognition in return, are we really willing to say “no”?

Accessing much-needed funds provided by local businesses and corporations is critical to our educational system today.  School board hopefuls Dan Coulter and Karen Jarvis are way off base with their negative viewpoints towards “corporate involvement” in our schools.  For Mr. Coulter to suggest “public education is public, everyone pays enough taxes” might sound great on the campaign trail, but it is not realistic.  Indicating that there is no place for corporate involvement in either our education or health care systems suggests Mr. Coulter is unaware of the $200 million raised thus far for the new Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. I believe there may be the odd dollar in there from private enterprise….

For Mrs. Jarvis to suggest “my kids aren’t here to promote business, they’re here to be educated” is another naïve outlook.  With ongoing government cuts in almost every sector, do we really think that our government will ever adequately fund the needs in our schools? Do we think government funding will actually improve to the point that we are happy with what’s happening in our educational system? I think Mr. Coulter and Mrs. Jarvis might as well be looking around for Mr. Rourke and Tattoo from “Fantasy Island”!

Shouldn’t we be more concerned about getting more resources for our schools and improving our children’s access to a better education? Shouldn’t we be looking for solutions, instead of hoping the government miraculously finds the money? Shouldn’t we be trying to find more sources of funding, so that we can look at reducing class sizes, having better access to much-needed resources, more time for kids with special needs, and more quality time with our teachers?

We already have corporate involvement in our schools, and we need more, not less. Ford’s “Drive One 4UR School” events have raised roughly $60,000 over the past few years for schools in the Chilliwack district alone. Murray Honda has donated a vehicle for a grad fundraiser for the last two years. Many other businesses help fund our school sports teams and other extracurricular activities.  Where would this money come from if local businesses and corporations didn’t get “involved”?  Certainly not the government, regardless of who is in power.

Creating more revenue streams is critical to the long term success of our schools. Does that mean recognition of our corporate partners in the form of company logos and signage? In all likelihood, yes.  Welcome to the reality of the 21st century! Do we really believe that “corporate involvement” in helping to fund and improve our educational system will lead them to dictating what is taught in a social studies class?  Ridiculous!

We see it all around us; businesses helping local causes, fielding fundraising requests on an almost daily basis. More and more, people are turning to local businesses to help support their programs and events. Is our educational system in such great shape that we can say “no, we don’t need to do that.”?  I certainly don’t think so.

What do businesses really expect in return? A little recognition, some improved awareness in the community of their involvement and support – of something as critical as our children’s education?  That’s how business works!

When our narrow-minded school board denied a request for a local school football field to be named the “Rotary Field”, when the Rotary Club was offering to donate $10,000, I realized how out of touch with reality the school board was.  Being a class organization, the Rotary Club still put up the money, but is it realistic to expect local businesses to do the same?

If a business is willing to inject some desperately-needed funds into our schools, and get some recognition in return for doing so, are we really willing to say “no, we’re okay”? I hope not. We need to pull our heads out of the sand, think outside the box, and put some effort and creativity into repairing our deteriorating educational system.

It’s about choices – we can have the “Rona Industrial Education Wing” and “Chapters-Indigo Library”, or your daughter can be in a class with 32 kids, 12 of whom have special needs or behavior issues, and not enough books to go around. What’s it going to be?

Would we need guidelines and parameters for corporate involvement in our schools? Absolutely. That’s where we should be focusing our efforts – solutions. Solutions to the problems facing our educational system – not “hoping” that our government of the month is somehow going to find the money needed to improve the education our kids are getting, to improve graduation rates, and make our youth more effective leaders of the future.

Anyone who thinks the government will step up with the funding needed to fix our educational system is sadly misguided, and shouldn’t be running for anything, except maybe the hills…”Da plane, boss, da plane!!!”

Paul McManus

Commercial Account Manager,

Chilliwack Ford