08/29/2014 01:22 EDT | Updated 10/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Ending Teachers' Dispute Lies In Hands Of B.C. Government


I am incensed at the insistence by B.C. School Trustees Association that "both sides" are equally to blame for this teachers' contract dispute. I am incensed at the massive disrespect I am experiencing at the hands of this government.

I am incensed that B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the parent body that claims to represent 80 per cent of the voices of parents in this province, demonstrates support for the government's position.

The province is now asking for a "cooling off" period before it will agree to mediation. This comes after all of the following events:

  • The original B.C. Public School Employers' Association was replaced in August 2013 when they were close to a deal with the teachers
  • The government has now twice been found guilty of violating Charter Rights
  • Teachers have been sitting at the table for 18 months trying to get a deal with the government,
  • The government locked teachers out of their classrooms in June 2014 during lunch time, forcing them to eat their lunch on the sidewalks outside their schools,
  • The province imposed a 10 per cent punitive daily salary cut.

Now, the B.C. government is using social media ads that promote the Cisco corporation-inspired BC EDplan to persuade parents that the obstacle standing in the way of getting children back into the classroom are the teachers.

Since those who use the analogy of divorcing parents also claim that both sides are ignoring the children, let's examine that.

It is teachers like Carrie Gelson who have raised the issue of childhood poverty in this province.

It is teachers who spend an average of $1,200 of their after-tax income on classroom resources. It is teachers who often spend more time with their students than with their own family during the school year, giving up holidays and weekends to accompany students on field trips.

It is a growing number of teachers whose health is suffering due to the enormous load they continue to bear in an underfunded public education system.

And what has the government done "for the children?"

It has refused to subsidize daycare, the $40 bribe notwithstanding.

It has refused to do anything about the fact that B.C. has the highest childhood poverty rate in the country. In fact, a representative of the government, Marc Dalton, says that childhood poverty does not exist.

It is planning to not just cut but to completely eliminate designations for special needs in classrooms. If you don't have students with special needs, then clearly you don't need to provide support for students with autism, with learning disabilities; students who are gifted, or students who are deaf.

Teachers do not hold the purse strings to public funds in this province. Teachers cannot pass legislation. Teachers cannot ignore Supreme Court rulings without risking jail.

The government can and has done all these things.

It is the government who can end this dispute.

It is the government that can ensure that each student in a B.C. public school is funded at least to the Canadian average. It is the government that can stop spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on litigation and instead invest that money into public education.

Doing these things would demonstrate that the government does indeed have the children's best interests in mind as far as public education goes.

But it would not be enough to indicate that the government was anywhere near considering helping the millions of children who go hungry each day and whose parents cannot afford daycare.

This government has many opportunities to do something "for the children."

If they need any ideas about which opportunities they should consider first, they can ask a teacher.

B.C. Teachers' Strike 2014