Teachers, more than anyone, would welcome stability in BC classrooms.
The BC Teachers' Federation is well into negotiating a collective agreement with the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), who bargain on behalf of school districts and the BC government. The process to date has been smoother due to an agreement to follow a bargaining framework that included the assistance of an appointed facilitator. In addition to bargaining provincial issues, significant progress has been made at the local school board level to deal with local issues. Both parties are eager to reach a negotiated agreement before June 30, 2013.
At this point, the proposed plan by Christy Clark for a 10-year deal with teachers has not been put on the provincial table by BCPSEA. In fact, the government has had two representatives at the provincial bargaining table since January. Neither the notion of a 10-year agreement, nor any of the proposals in the framework document has been raised at the provincial bargaining table despite several months of meetings between the parties.
Teachers are reluctant to accept the long-term agreement because it ignores court rulings and contradicts current government legislation. More importantly, it prevents teachers from exercising their right to bargain their working conditions and the learning conditions of students.
Right now, BC has the worst student-educator ratio in the country. It would take the hiring of at least 6,600 teachers to bring teacher staffing numbers up to the national average. To make things worse, BC spends $1,000 less per student than the national average. Imagine what we could do with $1,000 extra per child in our schools!
BC students graduating this year have experienced larger class sizes and fewer forms of personal support in the classroom than their parents. More than a decade of cuts to education funding have eliminated the positions of more than 1,500 specialized teachers who would have delivered services necessary to support our vulnerable students.
These cuts began when then-Education Minister Christy Clark brought in legislation that stripped teachers of our right to bargain working and learning conditions like class size and class composition. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional. Two years after that ruling, teachers are still seeking appropriate redress for the violation of our rights, and will be back in court this fall. In the meantime, teachers will continue to push the government to act on this important ruling and restore the services our students need and deserve.
Teachers want a fair deal and better support for their students through the collective bargaining process. A fair outcome can only be reached through a fair process and the proper funding being available.
The numbers tell the story
This easy-to-read pamphlet clearly illustrates the decline in government support for public education over the past decade. Facts and trends gathered from Statistics Canada and other reliable sources highlight the loss of teachers and specialists, the worsening student-educator ratio and the increased numbers of students with special needs.
BC ranks last in funding public education when compared to all 10 provinces. In fact, BC ranks last on all measures. BC students are getting short-changed. The stark reality is that education funding increases have not been large enough to preserve the same levels of service our students had a decade ago.
According to Statistics Canada, who regularly report comparisons between the provinces on a number of education measures, BC ranks last on seven key measures, including the following:
BC students and parents deserve a plan of action to start moving BC back up to the national average in terms of education funding. Children who began Kindergarten in 2002 now have gone through their entire school careers in larger classes, with less support for special needs, and with fewer counselors, librarians, and other specialist teachers to help them along the way.
A 25% cut to corporate income taxes in 2001 severely reduced provincial revenue. Now is the time to restore the taxation necessary to support not only public education but universally accessible, quality public services that are essential for an equitable and healthy society.
BC teachers call for improvements in education funding, not by reducing other public services, but by increasing taxes to generate the necessary revenue needed to adequately meet the needs in the range of public services. That plan to restore taxation would increase the funding support for education to at least bring BC up to the Canadian average.
Our students deserve better. There is no valid excuse for British Columbia to continue another decade of reducing educational services. We want to be able to say to the public, and our students, that things are improving, that they can expect to get back at least some of the reduced or eliminated services.