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Students should educate themselves about the school board trustees election

October 12, 2017 —

Understanding Canada’s political processes can be daunting for anyone new to the country or has otherwise remained blissfully unaware. Still, it’s worthwhile to be involved. Every citizen plays a role in ensuring our political system remains strong.

This extends to municipal politics, which has the most impact on our day-to-day lives of any level of government. Calgary’s election day is Oct. 16 and advance voting has been open since Oct. 4. You’ve probably heard or read about election races for mayor and councillors, but Calgarians also have a choice to vote in either the public or separate school board trustee races.

Voting for a school board trustee might seem inconsequential. As university students, the Calgary Board of Education likely seems like a faint memory from childhood. If you moved to Calgary for university, you may have never engaged with it at all. However, the CBE plays a big role in making Calgary a great city to live in. If you plan to own property or raise a family anywhere in Alberta, it’s worth casting a meaningful vote in this race.

The CBE receives $1 billion in provincial funding every year. This is disbursed to schools throughout Calgary to fund programs, services and infrastructure improvements by the CBE’s board of trustees. The same board also approves all unionized employees’ collective agreements, including for teachers. If you’re studying education at the University of Calgary and are graduating soon, these are the people who will approve your salary and benefits if you end up working in Calgary’s public system. Just like in the more high-profile races, it’s imperative that you read your candidates’ platforms and make an informed choice with your future in mind if working in Calgary is important to you.

This doesn’t mean the rest of us are off the hook. School boards can’t decide how much funding they receive from the province, but deciding how that funding is spent is their responsibility. If our high schools aren’t budgeted properly, it could mean that the city’s post-secondary institutions will be overrun with unprepared first years in the near future.

A strong education system is foundational to a well-functioning civil society. If any current U of C student wants to live in a thriving city, they need to care about the school board trustee election. It’s tempting to not read a long list of candidate’s platforms, especially when midterms and assignments are already taking up most of your time. But you will regret it if poor candidates slip through the cracks and obtain seats at the board of trustees table.

Karyn Draper, a candidate for school board trustee in Wards 12 and 14, made a post on their Facebook page that read “LGBTQ R U 2 DUM 2 C THE TERRORIST ATTACK IN EDMONTON IS YOUR FAULT AS WELL” following a violent attack in the province’s capital in late September. She also believes that the LGBTQ community regularly commits violent acts in Calgary. These statements are ignorant and someone with such an inept understanding of the world should not be in a position of power.

The existence of a candidate espousing hateful views should be a wake-up call to everyone to ensure that they make informed decisions when voting for their school board trustees. Do not go to the ballot box and indiscriminately mark an X beside a candidate’s name. Make sure you pick the candidate who most accurately represents your personal views. The only way to do this is to take the time to educate yourself.

By Jesse Stilwell, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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