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Worried about increasing encroachment of private interests in public education, delegates at the Annual General Meeting of the BC Teachers’ Federation have voted to call on the provincial government to establish conflict-of-interest regulations governing school district dealings with corporations.

“Private businesses are seeking to profit from public education, and using increasingly sophisticated and aggressive schemes to market technology, textbooks, learning resources and many other products,” said Susan Lambert, president of the BCTF. “It’s high time we had consistent and clear guidelines to protect the public interest.”

After more than a decade of chronic underfunding, schools, parents, and teachers face mounting pressure to raise funds through private means to meet the needs of students across the province. Delegates therefore voted to have the BCTF gather information on the extent of funding coming from corporate sponsorships and donations, Parent Advisory Committee fundraising, and teachers’ personal donations.

“We believe it’s vitally important for British Columbians to understand the extent to which parents and teachers are subsidizing the public education system, and how hard individuals are working to bridge the gap between the needs in schools and the funding provided by government,” Lambert said. “Our study will document that.”

In an emotional farewell, BCTF past-president Irene Lanzinger, now secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour, paid tribute to Susan Lambert. “Susan is motivated by her deep commitment to teachers and to public education,” Lanzinger said. “Her union activism is fundamentally grounded in her social justice activism. She works on building a better world through her work as a teacher and her work in the union.” And, Lanzinger added, “she’s a heck of a lot of fun. She knows how to laugh with others and at herself.”

Joining table officers Jim Iker, Glen Hansman and Teri Mooring on the Executive Committee are members at large: David Komljenovic of Kamloops, Teresa Grandinetti of Coquitlam, Gail Chaddock-Costello of Langley, Paul Steer of Delta,  Mike Ball of Nanaimo, Joanna Larson of Prince Rupert and Janine Fraser of Boundary School District.

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For more information, contact Nancy Knickerbocker, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).