Opinion

RADIA: Is B.C.'s teachers' dispute really all about the children?

I don’t know about you but I’m getting frustrated at the ongoing disputes between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.

In the past, I have used this space to rail against the BCTF. And I’m going to do it again.

The BCTF — one of the most militant unions in the province — has initiated job action even though talks with the employer are ongoing. Stage one, which began last week, includes teachers refusing to supervise students outside the classrooms or communicating in writing with administrators. Stage 2, according to reports, could include rotating strikes.

The teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, more special-needs assistants and a 13.5% salary increase over three years.

Really? A 13.5% hike over three years? How many of us, whether in the public or private sectors, will get a 13.5% wage increase in the next three years?

As usual, some in the BCTF are touting their laughable claim that this is  “all about the children.”

If it’s about the children, they’re doing quite well, thank you very much. I’m reminded of a 2013 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development study illustrating that Canadian students had some of the best math, science and literacy skills in the world. Moreover, B.C. students were near the top when you broke down the statistics by province.

If it’s really about the kids, then why is the BCTF so hesitant to sign a long-term deal to ensure class disruptions don’t ever happen again?

To be fair, I’m not letting the Christy Clark government off the hook, not this time.

February’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling, which noted that the government improperly stripped class sizes and composition levels from teachers’ contracts, is a black eye for this government. It’s something for which it has to take responsibility.

Moreover, most people — teachers, parents and students — agree that there are not enough special needs assistants in our schools. I think we’ve all heard horror stories about how that affects our children’s classes. The onus is on the province to fix that problem.

The bottom line is that there are a growing number British Columbians, like me, who are just sick of these disputes.

Just get a deal done and stop holding our children hostage.

Because it really is all about the children.

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.

 

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