How can I make anyone understand the issues in the dispute between government and the BCTF? It’s so exasperating hearing some comments – especially those repeated in the press! So much of it is just untrue. I don’t blame the public for its ignorance. Unless you’re working in the field, it’s hard for you to know what’s really going on. But my god, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. And much of it is narrative created by government.
For the life of me, I can’t understand how anyone could doubt the teachers in favour of believing the government narrative. How is it possible that people mistrust teachers? Teachers! That odd brood of overly moral sticklers – the ones who told you not to swear in the hallways; the ones who caught you out for cheating on tests. You believe the government over them? Ask yourself this: How often did your teachers lie to you? How about politicians?
Anyhow. Here they are: 8 untrue statements.
Untrue statement #1 – Teachers are greedy.
Teachers in BC are the second lowest paid in the country, and they have not had an increase since 2010. This includes benefit plans. These are simple facts. The wage proposal they have on the table currently would not make them number 1 in Canada – not even number 3.
Untrue statement #2 – This dispute has gone on for decades with all governments.
Up until the end of the 90s, bargaining was done locally, district by district. The first real provincial bargaining began with the BC Liberals. The government’s behaviour, which is detailed in the Supreme Court’s Bill 28 ruling, was antagonistic, and unlawful. And it has continued to be.
Furthermore, a lot of BCTF press in the past centred around its fight for human rights provisions for its members. It’s unthinkable now that we would exclude people from teaching based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, but in the 80s and 90s a lot of people took exception to the BCTF for its stand on these “controversial” issues. Perhaps that’s what people are remembering.
Never in the history of the BCTF has there been this much acrimony with government. Teachers are seeing the public school system being dismantled. They have desperately tried to hold the thing from falling in on itself, but the services keep getting cut more and more deeply, and the teachers are getting tired. Morale is at an all-time low. It’s bound to affect the children. Does this matter to anyone?
This government wants to privatize education. They want to see charter schools and user fees. Their vision is for a system that would be far from “universally accessible”.
Untrue statement #3 – Both parties are to blame.
The BC government was found in court (just this past January) to have negotiated in bad faith. Let me repeat that. THE GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATED IN BAD FAITH.
They also repeated legislation that violated the charter. Repeated! In other words, after being told once that they were violating the law, they violated the law again.
Untrue Statement #4 – This dispute is all about money.
Actually, that’s partly true. The public school system is being starved to death. The government is not funding districts for its employees’ pay increases. Districts are facing huge shortfalls (and teachers’ wages haven’t moved for 3 years.). BC’s public schools are underfunded to the tune of $1000 per student per year less than the national average. Those aren’t BCTF stats. Those are Stats Canada stats.
The reason for this underfunding is that the government of BC would like to force districts to seek public-private partnerships. The BCTF is opposed to this because it recognizes the vulnerability of students. What possible reason could Chevron have to sponsor programs in Coquitlam and Surrey? Which religion would you like in charge of your child’s curriculum?
This government is ideologically opposed to public funding of anything. It has privatized our rail, our hydro, our ferries, our highway maintenance and our hospital services. Every one of those services has become worse as a result. We pay higher rates while our highways get terrible snow removal and our hospitals are filthy.
Untrue Statement #5 – There is simply no money in these difficult times.
Yes there is. The BC Liberals cut income tax by 25% when they got into office. This was supposed to stimulate growth, but it did not. All it did was reduce government revenue. To recover this revenue, the Liberals have increased user fees for many things, and cut services. Then they claim poverty when it comes to keeping public sector salaries and services up to national levels.
I remember driving home from work the day tax cuts were announced. I was quite happy about this until I saw my next paycheque, which was actually lower than it had been due to an increase in CPP contributions. Only the already-wealthy benefited from these tax cuts.
A simple fact: BC’s corporate tax rate and personal income tax rate are both lowest in Canada.
Untrue Statement #6 – When I was a kid we had huge class sizes and we managed.
Well… you may have managed, but lots didn’t. Students were segregated into “special classes” years ago, and if they weren’t making the grade they’d go to “alternate school” or just drop out. And the incidence of mental illness and special needs has gone way up.
Untrue Statement #7 – The government has increased funding of schools.
The government’s reports of increased funding of schools don’t take into account that it has not increased funding to anywhere near the level to cover increased costing. To provide the services it did before the BC Liberals were elected, the Vancouver School Board would need $47 million a year more.
Untrue Statement #8 – It’s the same old same old with the BCTF.
I’ve been in this game for 27 years. It is not the same old same old. Not by far. We are dealing with a rabid corporate ideology from a government that has no social awareness, ethics or conscience. They are destroying education.