After a province wide vote conducted from April 17-19, the BCTF voted 73 per cent in favour of resisting Bill 22, the controversial Education Improvement Act. A total of 21,625 teachers voted yes, and 7,846 voted no. Susan Lambert, the BCTF president characterizes the result as a strong vote of confidence in the action plan crafted by delegates to the BCTF’s Annual General Meeting in March.
Lambert noted that Bill 22 virtually wipes out class-size and composition limits and says that learning conditions will undoubtedly suffer as schools come into a year when public education will face a $100 million funding short fall.
Erika Blume, the LCTA president says that Cowichan Lake students will only be affected for a short time by the job action “and I hear that community members have volunteered to take over for the soccer team, so that is great! The withdrawal of extracurricular activities is always a difficult choice for teachers to make. Everyone needs to remember that teachers volunteer their time with these students because they love what they do, not because it is a required aspect of their job.”
Blume says that although parents and students will have to take on more of the planning and coordinating of the graduation ceremony— which is usually organized by the teacher— students and parents volunteer anyway, it will proceed as planned and students do not need to worry. “Planning and coordinating graduation is not a job requirement. It has been done by Michele Taylor every year because she loves LCSS students.” When it comes to field trips and other such activities, Blume says that those field trips that are part of the planned curricula and where teachers assess the student, will still go ahead as planned. “Other activities should stop.”
Many parents and students are concerned about report cards and whether they will be completed at the end of the school year, but Blume states that “The LRB ruled that report cards will be completed by the end of April. The CVTF will be in discussions with the school board to determine what the report cards will look like for this session. Formal report cards will be completed at year-end. Teachers have been assessing and reporting to parents throughout the school year. I have heard from many parents that they have had more information on their child’s progress this year, than ever before. Although emails, notes in agendas, letters, and phone calls are not considered formal reporting, these are the many avenues parents have used to keep current about their child(ren)’s progress this year.”
Though many parents are empathetic to teachers’ demands for class size and composition limits, some fear that the demand for wage hikes overshadows this issue. “Wages is not the key issue in our struggle for fairness nor has it ever been by any group except the media and government,” says Blume. “Rules around class size and composition have been eliminated by Bill 22. Teachers have no ability to address the many needs of students in their classrooms and now class averages will be set at 30 students. Bill 22 has eliminated the ability for teachers to negotiate a fair collective agreement and has silenced any opposition to this matter through punitive fines. The government’s treatment of teachers is draconian. They deserve to be treated with respect not the contempt this government has for them and the profession.”
Blume says she feels lucky to live in a town like Lake Cowichan because, “parents take the time to discuss their views and educate themselves about our issues. Parents and students have been very supportive of teachers because they value all the hard work, time and effort of local teachers. The LCTA would like to thank each and every parent who has supported us in our job action.”
The plan calls for other actions which include mounting a public awareness campaign to educate B.C. residents about the impact of Bill 22 and to mobilize opposition to it. It also opens the possibility of another vote in the future on a full withdrawal of services. Lambert says that Bill 22 “adds insult to injury by requiring teachers to be complicit in the stripping of basic rights and protections in our collective agreement.”