What happened to equality of opportunity?

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s back-to-school time already.

As a dad of two daughters, Grade 4 and Grade 2, I’ve been busy these past few weeks getting them everything they need for school. This year, my daughters and I also packed up back-to-school supplies at my constituency office, donated by the Olivia Jollata Memorial Trust.

Children are very observant and my oldest child asked me how much it costs for back-to-school supplies. I replied that it’s very expensive, especially for those who already struggle to make ends meet. According to a 2013 study, parents in Atlantic Canada will spend on average $450.

My daughter’s question got me thinking about one of the most fundamental aspects of our education system: equality of opportunity. The idea that all children have the same opportunity to excel, to achieve and attain their dreams, is a guiding principle of our education system that seems to have been forgotten.

The enormous cost of school supplies is a clear threat to equality of opportunity. For too many Nova Scotians, back to school shopping takes a huge bite out of their household budget. The provincial government has a responsibility to do something about this.

The Progressive Conservatives have introduced the School Supplies Tax Credit Act. This bill would provide a 50 per cent tax credit for parents/guardians and teachers on school supplies valued up to $200. In doing so, more parents and guardians can share in the joy and excitement of the first day of school with their children rather than dreading the expense. It’s a small gesture that gives parents a break.

This September brings big changes for me. As a teacher for the past 13 years, I would normally be preparing to go back-to-school at this time of year. But this September, I am preparing to go into the House of Assembly as the MLA for Dartmouth East and the Progressive Conservative Education Critic. I will be fighting for issues like this and standing up for common sense policies that support families and strengthen the principle of equality of opportunity.

I hope all our students, parents, teachers, EPAs and ECEs, and support staff have a great back-to-school week. As I tell my daughters, school is the most important job you will ever have and we all have a role to play. Government’s role is to implement common sense policies that support parents and guardians and strengthen the principle of equality of opportunity. By doing so, we will ensure the best schooling experience for our kids.

There is no reason why the McNeil Liberals couldn’t pass this bill this fall. Together we could make back- to-school time a little easier on families.

Tim Halman

MLA Dartmouth East

Progressive Conservative Critic

Education and Early Childhood Development