This is the question BC teachers are asking themselves after their second meeting with the government appointee charged with implementing the BC Supreme Court ruling which found Bills 27 and 28 to be unconstitutional and invalid.
Susan Lambert, President of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said Friday’s meeting with Paul Straszak, president and CEO of the Public Sector Employers’ Council, was deeply disappointing because teachers expected good faith talks to reverse the damage done by the offending legislation.
The bills, imposed in 2002, enabled the provincial government to strip class-size and composition guarantees from teachers’ contracts, eliminate more than 3,000 teaching positions, and cut at least $275 million from the education budget every year over the past decade.
“We said government’s first obligation is to repeal the unconstitutional legislation, and its second obligation is to remove the financial straitjacket from school boards, restore the funding, and put in place the services kids need by next September,” Lambert said. “However, the government representatives would not commit to any changes that would improve teaching and learning conditions.”
Lambert said teacher representatives received conflicting messages. Government says it “is interested in discharging its obligation,” yet continues to pursue the same policy objectives of “flexibility and choice” and would not rule out “corrective legislation” that would be the same or similar to the bills already found to be in violation of the Charter.
“They don’t appear to have learned anything from the ruling,” Lambert said. “They continue to pursue cuts to the system when what we really need is significant reinvestment. Only by substantially increasing funding will school boards have the real flexibility they need to provide quality programming with a range of choices to meet the needs of all students.”
Lambert emphasized that the BCTF is serious about securing positive change in classrooms, not participating in pro forma consultations that will only further erode students’ opportunities and teachers’ rights.