It’s great for our students and for education that an agreement has been reached, and so quickly (thank goodness for Supreme Courts and Elections) on the restoration of the illegally stripped language from the teacher’s contracts.
This restoration takes us back to 2000 with the language on class size, specialist teachers and class composition, although I understand that class composition will also will be going to a “a provincial joint committee to examine and resolve any outstanding issues related to class composition.”
But we need to clearly understand the resolution of this 15 year battle, and battle it was, is only the beginning of the battle to get proper funding that supports our children and provides them with the levels of services that they need. I am just waiting for Premier Clark to come out and blame all of this on the BCTF. I can hear her now, ‘if only the BCTF had dropped their lawsuit we could have put more money in years ago.’ BS of course. These past 15 years have been all about damaging public education and supporting their elitist friends in the private schools, particularly the elite private schools.
We need to remember, and remind both the public and our members, that teachers paid for class size and composition by giving up a wage increase in the 1998 contract. That wage increase, compounded not only over the past 15 years but over the life of my pension, amounts to tens of thousands of dollars to myself personally and many other teachers. One of the things that impressed me about the teachers and the BCTF in regards to the illegal stripping of our contract was that there was no desire by teachers to receive personal compensation for what was taken from them. This truly was all about returning services to our students.
We also need to be clear that this does not bring public education back up to where it should be after 15 years of neglect. This restores the illegally stripped clauses from our contract, but it does not add in any new money for the necessary infrastructure to run the system. We still do not have adequate money for resources or field studies to make learning more real to our students and to support the New Curriculum. And we still need additional supports for our students than what was provided in 1998. There have been cuts to custodial and secretarial time, there are repairs and upgrades to our facilities that need to be done after years of neglect. The list goes on.
As I said in the heading the devil is in the details and the funding. I am looking forward to seeing what school districts will be getting from the Liberal government this Friday, March 10 as our District grant for 2017 – 2018 and then I am looking forward to seeing if this settlement is really going to be fully funded (including the physical space to house the new classrooms), without us having to reduce support or administrative services to pay for the government’s actions. On that I will wait and watch, but, quite frankly, not trust. I need to see the money, and we need a government that will really make public education a priority after this government has spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars trying to restrict services to children.