Myth vs. Reality: Taking on the BCTF
Three major myths have dominated the BCTF illegal strike this week. It’s time to address them.
Myth #1 – Classes are too large
British Columbia is among the few jurisdictions in Canada with class size standards embedded into the School Act.
Because of this, the average elementary class size declined last year and is expected to be even smaller this year.
No single kindergarten class is allowed to have more than 22 students and the average across a district must be no more than 19 students, providing flexibility for districts to develop smaller classes for high-need learners.
No Grade 1-3 class is allowed to have more than 24 students and the district average is capped at 21 students. All public schools are required to report yearly on class sizes so that parents can see how their kid’s school stacks up.
The government believes that class sizes are too important to be relegated to the status of collective bargaining issue but, instead, that class size limits should be entrenched in legislation. The BCTF viscerally disagrees with this approach and thinks that class sizes should be negotiated by the employees, along with working conditions and items like vacation time. For the record, no other major Canadian province includes negotiation of class sizes in the collective bargaining process, mostly because it stifles the ability of school districts to build classes that reflect the unique needs of students.
Myth #2 – Public education is crumbling and kids are suffering
It is really hard to buy the BCTF rhetoric that our system is on the edge of collapse when you spend a few minutes researching BC student achievement. A record percentage of BC students are graduating from high school. BC students lead the pack, according to both the International Student Assessment and the School Achievement Indicators Program, in science, for example.
These measures aren’t just because of increases to government funding, but also because we have fantastic teachers in this province – teachers whose union has been unable to negotiate an agreement on their behalf in over twelve years.
Myth #3 – The BC Liberal Government keeps cutting education funding
This one is pure falsehood and I shake my head each and every time I read it. Per student funding has never been higher in this province and, in fact, has increased 10% since 2001. Last year, the government spent $10 million on new textbooks and $5 million on innovative literacy programs, in addition to hundreds of millions on capital improvements.
There are 30,000 fewer students in BC compared to five years ago. It is pretty obvious that we’re going to need fewer teachers, unless you are living in socialist dream land where your employer pays even if you aren’t working.
Of course, in that utopian world, there are unlimited funds for every publicly funded service. But we don’t live in that world and we have to make difficult choices. That’s why we elect governments.
So, pay BC’s great teachers the highest wages in the country. But in exchange for that, insert personal accountability into the system. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t have these self-serving BCTF myths circulated every time the union doesn’t get to write the public education policy in BC.
(As seen today in 24 Hours Daily)