THE BLOG
02/17/2014 06:14 EST | Updated 04/19/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C.'s Latest Action On Class Sizes Is Orwellian 'Newspeak' In Action

Recent news stories detailing the number of teachers needed to be re-hired as a result of the finding of the legislative stripping of teachers' collective agreements as unconstitutional, is a stark picture of the duplicity and obfuscation characterizing this government's attitude toward public education since 2002.

In preparation for the appeal, government instructed Superintendents to catalogue the damage done. The affidavit lists the number of classroom and specialist teachers required to return us to 2002 levels. Surrey would need to hire 445 new teachers including 273 teacher specialists most of whom provide individual programs for students with special needs. Langley would need to hire 228 teachers, Coquitlam 277, Kamloops Thompson 52 ... and so on and so on. Government is arguing that the "irreversible loss" of public funds is contrary to the public interest. In this appeal for a stay there is no mention of the kids.

Place the testimony in the appeal up against the "highest funding ever" doctrine of the last decade. Place it up against the mantra that this government cares about families and kids. Place it up against the patently false rationale that underfunding was a result of student decline. Place it up against the charade and the intentional manipulation of the annual FSA scores, created to blame teachers, schools and school districts to divert public attention for the deliberate misappropriation of education funds. Place it up against the corrupt and deceitful claim that class size and caps on the number of students with special needs is discriminatory and unjustified and has no effect on learning outcomes.

Government is caught in a box of their own creating. Unable to admit that these numbers are clear evidence of the choices they themselves made to adopt a funding policy designed to rob public education of the support necessary to provide students with the attention they need, government is claiming harm to the public purse. The appeal is an astounding example of hypocrisy.

When government tore up our collective agreement with seeming impunity our faith in the justice system and the democratic rule of law was shattered. Teachers worked under harder and harder conditions with each passing year. We acted as witnesses and whistleblowers as kids were robbed of the one-on-one attention they deserved and despaired when they fell through the cracks of a system stretched to breaking point.

This appeal is not unexpected or even disappointing. After enduring the last dozen years, teachers have come to expect punitive attacks and deceit. But the appeal is nevertheless astonishing, not just because of its frailty (government did not appeal the first and most significant decision that they had acted unconstitutionally to strip teachers of collective agreement rights and language) but because it creates a rationale that is in complete opposition to the policy statements and actions of this government throughout the course of its mandate. It's literally fiction come to life, Orwellian "Newspeak" in action.

The ideology of "flexibility and choice" is what drives this government. It is the ideology behind the intransigent refusal to adequately fund the most valuable and cost-effective service a government can provide its citizens and its future. These positive sounding words mask a policy bent on fostering private alternatives and private schools for those that can afford them at the expense of those of us who can't. But you'll never hear that in a sound bite or fancy slogan or in the appeal affidavit.