Remember just a few months ago when the B.C. teachers' strike ended and we all heard Christy Clark promise to make public education a top priority? Well, after taking the time to look into the many amendments of Bill 11, I have come to the conclusion that our government severely lacks the ability to make any part of our children's education a priority.
Our government would love nothing more then for all of us to turn a blind eye to yet anther bill that will strip rights from students, teachers, and parents and help give our education minister more power and control over a system he knows little about. They would love for you to pay attention to only the Pro D aspect of the bill, which serves as nothing more then a red herring, attempting to cover the many other concerning aspects of Bill 11.
More then anything, they would love it if all of us bought into the Liberal spin that teachers need to be more "accountable" for their time on professional development days, which is clearly just anther attempt to drive a wedge between parents and teachers.
Like most bills, this one is long and complicated and you may or may not need a university degree to understand the entire thing. Also, because Bill 11 is mostly proposed amendments to the School Act, Teachers Act, and the Independent School Act you would also need to have all these in front of you to understand the changes proposed to each one.
Does anyone else ever get the feeling that our government purposely makes these things overly complicated in hopes that no one will take the time to read and understand them?
If you haven't taken the time to read over Bill 11, or are simply overwhelmed by the thought of the task, I've come up with what I feel are some of the most concerning aspects of the bill:
Bill 11 will remove sections of the school act which has strict controls over who has access to our children's information and how that information is used. With Bill 11, it will no longer be an offence to violate students' privacy.
Our government will now be handing over all of our children's personal information over to Pearson's -- the same company that is currently embattled in controversy in the U.S for selling students information to marking companies and tracking students social media accounts -- with no restrictions on how this information is shared and absolutely no penalties if they do decide to sell our children's information.
The U.S. is currently working on increasing restrictions for student information and privacy why is our government deciding to do the exact opposite?
Bill 11 will effectively remove our right to live and participate in a democratic society, giving the minister of education the right to remove our elected school trustees and replace them with people of his choosing as he sees fit.
I know in School District 68, we worked really hard to elect seven out of nine new trustees who are all amazing advocates for our schools; now we are being told that they can just be removed if the Minister of Education feels like it?
How are we to teach our children about democracy when our government can just remove those we choose to elect? Does that not show more characteristics of a dictatorship then democracy?
With Bill 11 our minister of education will also have the power to force school boards into shared services, but only with "designated" service providers. Shared services is a great option to save money, which is why school boards across our province already engage in this practice.
However the wording around this worries me: does this mean that boards wont be able to participate in shared services if the education minister doesn't approve of the company in question?
Will this lead to favouritism among larger companies preferred by our government, while eliminating all the smaller community-based companies and services that boards currently share services with?
Doesn't it stand to reason that limiting the options for who boards can share services with, is really working against the goal of saving as much money as possible?
Bill 11 will also drastically change the way in which boards report on student achievement. It will delete all references to achievement contracts, SPC (School Planning Council), reports on student achievement, superintendents of achievement, district literacy plans, and francophone literacy plans. SPCs, one of the last standing parent voices in our schools, will cease to exist under Bill 11.
One has to wonder after removing all of these, what tools our government will implement to track student achievement? Perhaps this is just another step in our government's plan to adopt the U.S. model or GERM practice of relying solely on test scores to measure our students' abilities and achievements.
Professional Development Days
As a single working mother, I can understand the difficulty around Pro-D days for working parents. I get the struggles around daycare and feeling like your children are missing out on classroom time.
But its important to remember professional development is vital in keeping our teachers up to date with learning and teaching practices and in the end our children will benefit from having teachers who are more informed and prepared.
Also remember that teachers voluntarily added five unpaid days to the school calendar to cover these professional development days.
Even if you don't agree with Pro-D days, the fact is Bill 11 will do nothing to eliminate these days, but rather gives the education minister more control over them. Instead of Pro D days centered on what teachers and students need on a local basis, the minister -- who has absolutely no teaching experience or first-hand knowledge of what our local schools need -- will be able to create a cookie cutter-one size fits all approach to Pro D days.
At my son's school, they noticed this year that students in certain grades were falling behind on reading comprehension, so teachers used Pro D days to focus on tactics and skills they could use to help these students. Guess what? Reading levels improved.
What worries me the most about Bill 11 is the increased control our education minister will receive. More control over our school boards, teachers, student info, professional development, financial aspects and so much more. I don't know about you, but I like the fact that we elect our school trustees and that, in the event an issue arises, I know who I can contact for help or clarification.
Have you ever tried to contact the minister of education? If you are like me and have --multiple times -- you know that you will never get a response from him, and he certainly does not care in the least bit for yours or my opinions regarding education.
Bill 11 opens up a flood gate of issues that will affect many aspects of our children's education, including their personal information. Please take the time to talk to and write your MLA and other government officials and share your feelings regarding this bill.
Bill 11 has not one aspect that will improve our children's education or learning environment.
It is imperative that we not allow our government to take more control, to further their goal of eroding our public education system to the point of privatization.
We must fight for our children's right to a good quality free public education, if we don't who will?
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