EDITORIAL: Much to do about money

Very few parents would have expected last fall that their children’s school year would be over by just the second week of June.

Yet that strongly appears to be the case, as negotiations between the BC Public School Employers’ Association and the BC Teachers’ Federation collapsed after the weekend, and a full-scale strike is underway.

It is unlikely now that a settlement can be reached between the two sides, which remain far apart on wages, benefits and classroom issues.

BCPSEA’s latest offer includes a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year, and a series of wage increases up to May 2019 that includes “economic stability dividend” amounts depending on B.C.’s economic performance.

The BCTF wants a $5,000 signing bonus followed by increases of 3.5 per cent in the first year and 1.5 per cent in each of the next three years, for a total raise of eight per cent plus compounding, which brings it closer to 12 per cent – double what any other public service union has accepted this year.

As the BCTF and some members of the public maintain, “it’s not all about  money,” and in some respects, that’s true.

The BCTF also wants reduction in class sizes and changes to composition, with more special needs support.

The harsh reality is in the costs.

The BCSPEA has calculated the current teachers’ wages and benefits demands to be worth $211 million in year five. Expanded preparation time for teachers would add another $90-million plus.

And the price tag on the union’s position on class size and composition? The BCPSEA puts that at $1.67 billion – a 30-plus per cent increase on the entire B.C. annual education budget of about $5 billion.

Ultimately, it does become all about the money.

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