Opinion

NELSON: BC Liberal government doesn’t value public schools

“The BCTF needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Their ridiculous demands and constant whining drives me nuts. Where’s the money supposed to come from in these tough times?”

“Oh yeah? Well, the Ministry of Education has been out to get teachers for years, ripping up contracts and bargaining in bad faith. They’re dishonest and they really hate teachers. ”

Whoa, just a minute. Everyone stop yelling.  Before we jump into our rhetorical foxholes and chant sound bites, might we step back and take a broader view of public education, the demise of which is what B.C.’s education  “battle”  is really about?

Public education is the most successful initiative of western democracies. Public schools teach children common Canadian cultural beliefs, language and values.

In public schools, children interact with people of different races, colours, ability levels and socio-economic standing. Public schools are the great equalizer, the melting pot within Canada’s multicultural mosaic.

Public schools give children a safe place to develop as individuals, not just as an appendage of their parents. This is a fundamental developmental contribution.

(And with luck, kids might get to walk to and from a neighbourhood public school with friends, an activity arguably more important to their development than math class.)

So when media noise encourages you to pick a side in B.C.’s  “education wars,”  you can throw up your hands and say,  “A pox on both their houses!”  like my colleague over there or you can support respecting and defending public education.

Because our government doesn’t.

Since 2001, our BC Liberal government has been judged to have been bargaining in bad faith with B.C.’s public school teachers over a 12-year period: by the United Nations (10 times); the Supreme Court of Canada (2007); and the Supreme Court of B.C. (twice: 2011 and 2014).

Since 2005, funding for B.C.’s public schools rose 16.9% while private school funding went up 45.6%

Sure, teachers want more money — they’ve had six years of zeros in the last 11 — and, yes, sometimes they’re clumsy in how they ask for it.

But the real struggle in B.C.’s education war is over privatizing education. The more we allow the hysterical devaluation and disrespecting of our public schools and teachers, the sooner we will ruin a world-class public school system.

 

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