Every October 5 is marked as World Teachers’ Day around the globe. It’s a day of international celebration of the important role played by teachers in educating the next generation to take their place as future leaders in communities worldwide.
Here in BC, as in many other jurisdictions, teachers are actively defending public education from funding cuts and advocating for improvements to classroom conditions. Collective bargaining is one important tool that teachers have used to advocate for their own needs and those of their students.
“Ever since 2002, when the BC Liberals stripped our collective agreements, teachers in this province have advocated tirelessly for a return to the guarantees of manageable class sizes and adequate support for the many students with special needs,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
“This week’s throne speech failed to deliver the kind of change BC teachers and students need. We have been calling on the government to repeal Bills 27 and 28 and, at a minimum, return classroom conditions to the levels of staffing that existed before the illegal contract stripping. That would require a reinvestment of a minimum of $336 million this year.”
Lambert said that she receives e-mails and phone calls from classroom teachers who are facing untenable situations in their classrooms, no matter whether they are teaching in inner-city, suburban, or rural schools.
“Since our collective agreement was illegally stripped in 2002, elementary teachers in Vancouver have seen unacceptable classes being organized in many of our schools. Year after year, our school district has had to make cuts to the very resources teachers rely upon to meet the needs of all students, but in particular those students with unique needs. Teachers are committed professionals, but cannot do more with less. It is time for the provincial government to step up with the necessary funding to ensure that every student’s learning needs can be met,” said President of Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association Chris Harris.
And President George Serra Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, said the situation is equally difficult in the secondary schools. “Teachers are increasingly having to work in classrooms with unmanageable combinations of students with special needs, English as a Second Language, and uncoded yet very needy students. These unmanageable classrooms are a direct result of cuts to funding and are resulting in conditions that many teachers are finding unsafe for students,” said Serra.