Who's right? BCTF and Provincial Standoff...
So much for the long, hot days of August – in the education system, things are just starting to heat up.
Which begs the question - who is playing politics with our children and who is trying to build a system that will meet student needs over the next decade?
Is it the teacher’s unions, including the BCTF, who, according the Elections BC, spent over $1.5 million dollars of their member’s money in the provincial election trying to defeat the government? Or is it that same government who played the fear card of an imminent teacher strike in the dying days of the campaign?
Putting aside the BCTF lawsuit brought over the Premier’s allegation that the BCTF was considering job action (which now looks pretty ridiculous given that there IS a strike vote happening on September 20th to 22nd), let’s try to clear through the rhetoric and see if we can figure out where the truths lies.
The starting position of any discussion around education in our province must be this – every single player in this debate has the best interests of our children at heart. Period. To saw anything else is inflammatory and doesn’t serve the best interests of anyone – especially our kids.
The teachers, the government, parents, and Minister of Education Shirley Bond, all want to build an education system that is sustainable over the long-haul.
But, it wouldn’t be politics in BC if they didn’t disagree on the methods required to achieve this great goal, sometimes vehemently with the requisite packed lines on call-in shows and early morning placard-waving on the bridges.
The BCTF contends the system is in chaos and disrepair and that our children are suffering in classrooms that are just not able to meet their needs. They protest that the removal of class-size limits and the reduction of 2500 full-time teaching positions are leaving our children vulnerable to sub-standard educations. And, to be fair, they really do need a contract.
The government, of course, has an entirely different perspective. They feel that increases in the budget – over 10% in five years – and the highest ever level of per student funding are critical improvements to budgets that stagnated under the NDP government.
79% of BC students graduate from high school – again a record. BC students are among the best in the world in math, reading and science in a recently released Programme for International Student Assessment.
Clearly our system is working and our teachers are doing a heck of a good job in teaching our children. Let’s give them credit they deserve and get them their contract.
So, to revisit the BCTF issues… Fewer teachers? Well, there are 30,000 fewer students due to our aging population. And the average elementary school class size? 23.2 students - up a whopping 0.6 of a student from 2000-01 number of 22.5 students. Hardly an indication that schools are going to hell in a hand basket.
Can the government and the BCTF work together to build an even better system? Absolutely – there is always room for improvement. But the BCTF had better get some stronger arguments in place if they are going to initiate job action and truly jeopardize the school year for our kids.
Students don’t deserve politics getting in the way of their educations.
As seen today in 24 Hours Daily.