Dear friends and family, I am a teacher you know. I am gutted about the present labour dispute in BC schools.
Maybe I'm a foolish idealist but I believe in public education and equal access for all kids.
I hope you will trust me that this is not a fight about money. You know the financial strain this has caused for us. This is a fight about making sure every kid has access to a funded public education, where every child, regardless of family socio-economics has the same chance to be successful. If this was about money, I would have folded long ago, taken the paycheque and left kids to flounder in the class.
I wish I could leave education policy decisions in the hands of the policy makers. I wish that my contract ta lks only focused on salary and benefits. But I can't trust that this government will make decisions in the best interest of students.
In 2002, the Liberal Government stripped class size limits and composition language from teachers contracts. The Supreme Court of BC, in 2011, gave the govt one year to put class size and composition language back into collective bargaining. They have ignored this ruling. Justice Griffin, in her 2014 ruling, instructed the government to retroactively restore class size and composition levels improperly stripped from teachers' contracts in 2002. They have also thus far ignored this ruling and are filing another appeal.
For 10 years, students have been shortchanged. Last year, each of my classes had 29-30 students in it; two of those classes had 6-8 students on specialized learning programs who required additional learning, behavioral, social-emotional or mental health support.
Stripped language putting limits on class size and composition was replaced by the Learning Improvement Fund, which turns student needs into a lottery system. If we win, our kids get adequate support. If we lose, they lose. As a staff representative, I have personally worked on the application for these funds for the last three years. Each year, our staff has asked for an add itional two teachers to support at-risk students. We received no more than 1/3 of a teacher each year. The needs are real. Just because we don't receive the funding does not mean the needs of these vulnerable students suddenly disappear.
The government's response is always, "We can't afford to." BC Place 's roof cost 500 million, the Olympics cost over 1 billion, Smart Meters cost 900 million, BC Ferries CEO, David Hahn's pension was over $10 million. It's not that we can't afford to, but where we put our priorities. Kids are a priority. Education is not a liability, it's an investment.
This is not a fight about salary; both sides agree that the sticking point is class size and composition.
We all want our kids back in classes and there’s still something you can do: if you have children, grandchildren, or believe in public education, please take a moment to write or call your MLA. It takes just a few minutes to use the MLA finder @ https://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm.
If writing your MLA on this holiday weekend feels like too much to ask, please know my colleagues and I have gone without a paycheck ; some, like Glenn and I, have had to take out additional loans to stay afloat, some are in process of being evicted while others will deal with mortgage foreclosure; all because we stand up for our kids .
Thanks for reading,