There are roughly 14,000 students in the Chilliwack public school system. Assuming each has at least one parent or guardian, that’s about 14,000 people with a vested interest in the Chilliwack school district.
There are approximately 1,800 teachers and support staff who work for the district. And while not all live in Chilliwack, those who do (and their partners) have a stake in an effectively run school board.
Overall, there are about 64,000 eligible voters in Chilliwack. And while not all have school aged children, they all pay taxes and contribute something to the school district’s $123.5 million annual operating budget.
Further, our society and our economy are shaped by the schools in which our students learn. The ability to succeed in work and flourish in life is influenced significantly by the experiences gained by those students at school.
And yet, on Saturday, during the 12-hour window allotted for the Chilliwack school board byelection, only 1,453 people found the time to vote.
Rough math puts the voter turnout at about a 2.3 per cent.
To Dan Coulter goes well-earned congratulations. He ran an effective and polished campaign that delivered a 181-vote margin over his nearest rival, Harold Schmidt.
There’s no doubt he’ll bring fresh insights to the board, and that his passion for skills training, aboriginal enrichment and academic excellence will be welcomed.
However it is impossible to ignore the larger lesson Chilliwack voters delivered to the 14,000 students in the Chilliwack school system. Just two weeks earlier we stood in silence as we honoured the sacrifices made by others in the defence of democracy. We teach our children about the importance of social responsibility, of community involvement, and personal accountability.
And what do we show them?
A voter turnout of 2.3 per cent.