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Parents, teachers, and support staff protested at the Gulf Islands School Board offices this week as the first four-day school week began on Salt Spring Island.

CUPE BC president Barry ONeill was on hand to congratulate the islanders for their efforts.

Todays demonstration by people concerned with the educational futures of Gulf Islands kids are saying loud and clear that they dont approve of the pressure being brought to bear on school boards by the provincial government.And they are asking school trustees to stand with students, parents, CUPE members, and teachers in opposing the four-day school week he said.

The four day week could cost about 70 CUPE members on the Gulf Islands as much as 20 per cent of their paid work.

ONeill said the Liberals have spent the last three years wringing money out of the health care and education systems to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Now, the impact of the Liberals priorities is being felt in community after community throughout the provincein school district after school district.

Education funding has been frozen for three years. There is no longer any targeted funding for special needs students.School districts have tried to save money by cutting programs and services, reducing bus routes, lengthening the school day, longer Spring Breaks, and reducing support services.

None of those factors make for long-term healthy school environments in BC communities, says ONeill.CUPE members, linking up with Southern Gulf islands parents is one example of a community united against the deteriorating state of public education in B.C.

In Parksville/Qualicum, the school board cut ten days out of the school year.Students dont return to class in the seaside district until September 13. And there will be more forced days off this year.

Provincial under-funding is forcing many B.C. school districtsincluding North Vancouver, Langley, Saanich and Cranbrookto cut between three and ten days this year.Other districts have reduced the school week to four days.

ONeill says inequality is spreading throughout the public education system as the province cuts back public school funding, raises tuition fees and pours millions of new dollars into private schools.

ONeill urged school trustees to take a strong stand in favour of an adequately funded education system.

Many trustees have spoken out and some boards have attempted to pass realistic budgets, says ONeill, but wed like to see the B.C. School Trustees Association take a stronger public stand against the school closures and cuts to school days.

More than 30,000 CUPE members work in BCs public education system.