I find that the inadequacies of public education funding have ignited a fire in me. Is anyone else feeling like we should stop fundraising for the things that should be funded by the government?
The teachers have been lying to us. For years. They've been covering it up. Papering over underfunding and mismanaged fiscal priorities with brightly coloured posters and sparkly stickers. Concealing an impoverished system by buying the damn supplies themselves. Without receiving so much as a tax break on those purchases.
Yes, I've bought the materials in the boxes that I'll be hauling to work each day this week. And yes, I sincerely wish that I hadn't had to go out of pocket to make sure that my students get the best education that I can give them. The underfunding of public education in B.C. has already taken enough out of me. I refuse to let it take who I am as a teacher, too.
The early afternoon sun brightens the kitchen as it shines down through the skylight; I can hear my two youngest children, managing to not bicker and argue their way through Lego Star Wars on the TV, and I'm sitting across the kitchen table from my teacher husband, typing this as he plots out his Socials 8 course for the year. This is the first Sunday in months that feels normal for us.
As families in B.C. prepare for the long-awaited return to school, I am inspired to sit down and write out my own reflections of this past summer. In countless movies, we see children hard at work on their first day of classes, writing out their first essay of the school year. And so, I take a page from that to bring you "What I Did On My Last Day Of School."
Well, here we are, with a deal to vote on. We're climbing up out of the trenches, dusting ourselves off, holding our noses against the stench of manipulation, and voting. We'll vote yes, but it won't be an overwhelming yes.
These past three months have been an exercise in spinning plates, deciding what bills must be paid now and which can sit for a month; making those excruciatingly embarrassing phone calls to utility companies to ask for extensions, explaining our circumstances and hoping for an understanding and lenient person on the other end of the phone. I can't help but shake my head, because shouldn't teachers with their professional training be able to make ends meet better than this?
Despite what I know was a Herculean effort on the part of our bargaining team, I very much hope that B.C. teachers will vote no to the tentative agreement. After five weeks of strike, and 12 years of legal battles, this is not the deal that will restore sanity to public education and it is not a fair deal for teachers and students.
Now, do I feel as though both sides compromised equally on this contract? No. I do feel like the teachers gave up more. But as much as I'd like a salary increase that actually kept up with the rate of inflation, and the budget to fund some firm way of handling class size and composition, this whole strike wasn't about economics.
Millions of years ago, a triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus rex fought it out as the Cretaceous period came to a end. Neither realized their struggle was futile since they were both about to become extinct. The B.C. teachers' strike is another epic struggle of dinosaurs as the Ministry of Education and teachers' union are locked in bitter dispute over issues that have little significance since the market for education has fundamentally changed.
Then there is the issue of school supplies. I have watched the list steadily lengthen over the years. This year alone, I have spent $300 just so my children can have adequate supplies for school. Not to mention that their supply lists include ridiculous items like Kleenex, photocopy paper and Ziploc bags. If our schools don't even have the funding to supply children with something to wipe their noses with, then like one parent said to me, "What's next, toilet paper?"
Everybody watching the B.C. public teachers' strike has heard of E80, and nobody understands it. Even the negotiating teams can't agree on what it means -- a pretty good sign that it should be deep-sixed pronto. The bottom line is that the parties' positions on E80 is fatally poisoned by distrust. Many fault the union, but it's the government who wrote the script.
The current teachers federation vs. government struggle is more than a labour dispute. For those who look closely, what's revealed is a style of government that appears to disregard facts, deceive the public, tarnish the reputation of teachers, all in a move to pit the people against teachers and their legal right to due process under the law. Government's disdain for trained professionals in order to gain a political advantage is deplorable. No government should hide the truth of its past misconduct. No government should balance the budget at the expense of teachers and kids.
I sacrificed myself, along with my army buddies, to help children in other countries to attend school, but what can I do in my own country to get children back in school in B.C. Madam Premier, this is our province. Not just mine and definitely not just yours. This province is not just yours to destroy the rights and freedoms of the people.