THE BLOG
06/17/2014 06:57 EDT | Updated 08/17/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. Teachers Are Only Asking For What Was Taken Away

The B.C. teachers' union isn't demanding unheard-of new funding. They're asking for the funding that B.C.'s kids used to have. They're asking for the government to respect the rule of law and invest in B.C.'s future. They're asking the Liberals to return the money that they have spent elsewhere.

BCTF

So, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (which negotiates on behalf of the province) has released its costing of the proposal that the B.C. Teachers' Federation tabled last week. You know, the one that they didn't like too much. Now, I'm not 100 per cent sure how they've calculated the numbers but for my purposes, it doesn't even matter.

What matters to me is how shocking this one number is:

Almost $2 billion in additional funding is being requested -- funding that isn't currently in the education budget.

It's preposterous!

It's ludicrous!

It's those greedy teachers who have no concept of reality!

Alright. Are you good? Did you get that out of your system? Because I want to turn this on its head for you.

Over the last decade, almost $2 billion has been funnelled out of public education.

Over the last decade, public education has had a funding reduction of almost $2 billion.

Over the last decade, our students have been deprived of $2 billion that should have been theirs. The government's own numbers say so.

Class size and composition wording much like the BCTF is asking for used to be included in the contract. Teachers negotiated for these provisions and took years of zero per cent pay increases in order to fund them. They put their own potential earnings back into the school system in return for these working and learning conditions.

Let's pause here for a moment to talk about what class size and composition actually mean. The first is rather straight-forward: the number of students in a class. The more students in a class, the less one-on-one attention is available for each student. This has a direct impact on students.

Class composition is a little trickier to explain, however. Class composition refers to the emotional and education needs of students. Some students require more assistance than others to accomplish the same learning outcomes as their peers.

For some, this means that they receive and Individual Education Plan - or an IEP. These IEPs include strategies and goals to help the student succeed, whether they are behavior or academic in nature. The more IEPs per class, the more complex the learning environment becomes in terms of classroom management and instruction, lessening the one-on-one time spent with each student, and impacting the teacher's ability to give each student what they need to succeed.

So, teachers bargained for limits to class size and language limiting the number of IEPs per class. And they gave up raises to do this. Because it was worth it.

Then, in 2002, the contract that included these negotiated terms was ripped up. The class size and composition language that the BCTF is trying to re-negotiate now was removed. Just...poof. Gone.

The Supreme Court of B.C. has twice said that the Liberal government's dissolution of the negotiated contract was illegal. The courts have told the government that they need to fund these things. Twice.

And, what will it take to pay for the things that they are legally required to include? Almost $2 billion, according to their own calculations.

Because the BCTF isn't demanding unheard-of new funding. They're asking for the funding that B.C.'s kids used to have. They're asking for the government to respect the rule of law and invest in B.C.'s future. They're asking the Liberals to return the money that they have spent elsewhere.

So, when you think about what a huge amount of money $2 billion is, remember that this is money that used to be in the education budget. We used to have it. Now we don't. Think about what its loss has meant for the public school system.

Because if it's ludicrous to consider adding that much money to the budget, how are we supposed to thrive when it's been taken away?

(This blog first appeared on Ashley Mackenzie's site.)

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