VANCOUVER-The BC government's new education legislation, Bill 11, is complex and will take time to properly analyze, but of immediate concern is the Minister of Education's new powers to override democratically elected school boards so he can implement the government's ongoing underfunding agenda, BCTF President Jim Iker said today.
"Parts of the legislation like Section 32 will expand the Minister of Education's power to issue directives to school boards and replace those democratically elected bodies with an appointee if they don't comply," said Iker. "This is absolutely about the government's underfunding and 2015 budget that is forcing $54 million more in cuts to school districts. It's just a matter of time before we see the government order directives to close schools, cut important programs, or force layoffs."
On the parts of the legislation related to professional development, Jim Iker said BC teachers are actually very proud of BC's professional development programs and initiatives. "However, the changes to professional development were unfortunately announced without consultation. Earlier today, government staff did say that there would be a two-year consultation and we will hold them to that commitment."
The BCTF has a very long and proud history of supporting professional development, but like many things, it needs to be properly funded and respect teachers' professional autonomy.
"There are over 41,000 public school teachers in BC teaching dozens of different subjects. BC teachers will not support a top-down government-mandated approach to professional development."
Just last week, 700 delegates at the BCTF Annual General Meeting passed a detailed recommendation on professional development that shows our deep commitment to improving our practice as well as the need for adequate funding and time. That recommendation states:
That the Federation continue to lobby the Ministry of Education for additional new dollars to:
1. support the implementation of the new curriculum that may result from the current revision process.
2. make available comprehensive and regionally appropriate in-service and learning resources to support the implementation of the enhanced Aboriginal content across the curriculum areas in the new curriculum.
3. make available adequate release time, as determined by the individual teacher or by teachers in collaboration, to ensure effective and responsible implementation of the new curriculum.
4. restore school-based teacher-librarian and district teacher co-ordinator positions to support school-based teachers in the implementation of the new curriculum.
5. restore other learning specialist teacher positions that have been lost to the system.
To learn more about the BCTF's robust professional development network, including our 32 provincial specialist associations, teacher mentoring, workshops, conferences, and teacher inquiry projects, go to http://bctf.ca/ProfessionalDevelopment.aspx.