Tag Archives: neoliberalism

The Many Faces of Privatization

Public funding for private schools may be the most obvious way public education in British Columbia is being privatized, but there are other less obvious privatizing strategies at work. The Many Faces of Privatization is a background paper I co-authored with Sandra Mathison and Larry Kuehn as part of Funding Public Education project of the Institute for Public Education / British Columbia.

The paper offers analysis of 1) the common neoliberal narrative that legitimizes and promotes privatization thus drawing the public into a manufactured consent of privatization and 2) specific contexts in which this privatization in manifest, such as personalized learning (especially with technology), choice programs, school fees and fund raising, business principles of school administration, corporate sponsorships, fee paying international students, and publicly funded private schools.

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking

I was recently interviewed about the impact of neoliberal capitalism on schools, universities, and education in general by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, an Algerian-based journalist.

Over the course of the interview we discussed a wide-range of issues, including: the fundamental conflict between neoliberalism and participatory democracy; the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the possibilities of transforming schools and universities into forces for progressive change and, in particular, academic freedom and free speech on campus, schools as illusion factories, curriculum as propaganda; what it means to be a dangerous citizen; and the role of intellectuals/teachers as activists.

The interview has been published in English and French, links below.

American Herald Tribune

Algérie Résistance II

Palestine Solidarité

 

The New Teachers’ Roundtable: A Case Study of Collective Resistance

New issue of Critical Education launched:

Critical Education
Volume 8, Number 4
March 1, 2017

The New Teachers’ Roundtable: A Case Study of Collective Resistance
Beth Leah Sondel

Abstract
The New Teachers’ Roundtable (NTRT) is a democratically run collective of new teachers who have become critical of neoliberal reform since relocating to New Orleans, with organizations including Teach For America, as a part of the post-Katrina overhaul of public schools. Through interviews and observations, this study examines the ways in which collective members support each other in attempts to navigate experiences they perceive as dehumanizing to themselves, their students, and their students’ communities. By developing relationships amongst themselves and with other stakeholders affected by and resisting privatization, they are able to challenge their own privilege and begin shifting their perspective and pedagogy. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of how teachers who have been affiliated with market-based movements can be galvanized to work in service of movements that are democratic, anti-racist, and accountable to communities.

Keywords
Neoliberalism; Teacher Resistance; Critical Pedagogy; Social Movements

Cultural Logic launches new issue #CulturalLogic21

Cultural Logic is a journal of marxism, literature, and radical politics, which has been an open access journal since it was founded in 1997.

The new issue, Cultural Logic 21, features the following articles and poetry.

Articles

Anthony Barnum
“Identifying the Theoretical Development of the League of RevolutionaryBlack Workers for a Pedagogy of Revolution”

Paul Diepenbrock
“Consolidating US Hegemony:A neo-Gramscian of Pantich and Gindin, and Konings”

Rich Gibson
“Sudents and Teachers! The Unasked Question:Why Have School?”

Matthew MacLellan
“The Gun as Political Object:Transcoding Contemporary Gun Culture and Neoliberal Governmentality”

Larry Schwartz
“The Ford Foundation, Little Magazines and The CIA in the Early Cold War”

Alan J. Spector
“Campus Activism Today — Some Lessons from Students for a Democratic Society”

Poetry

Alzo David-West
“1932, A Pseudo-Revolutionary Poem”

Cultural Logic 22 will be a massive 20th anniversary triple issue on “Schol-Activism” produced in collaboration with Works & Days. Look for it in the coming months.

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia
Delivered at “Breakfast with the Dean” panel April 21, 2016

E. Wayne Ross, PhD
Professor
Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia

First of all I would like to thank Dean Blye Frank for inviting me to participate on this panel and thanks to all of you for coming out this morning to participate in a discussion on academic freedom.

On the surface, it’s easy to be pro-academic freedom, kind of like being for mom and apple pie. But, academic freedom is a contested issue in universities (and schools, but that is a very different matter).

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), describes a number of major academic freedom cases in Canada ranging from the University of Manitoba blocking a documentary film that reports findings of research on genetically modified crops; to irregularities that lead to the suspension of David F. Noble’s appointment to an endowed chair at Simon Fraser University; to Mary Bryson, the Faculty’s senior associate dean, and her battle with UBC over intellectual property rights. The arbitration decision in the Bryson case is described by CAUT as “landmark in the struggle to insure that faculty, not administrators, determine the content of courses.”[1]

In recent years there has been international attention given to the academic freedom cases of Professors Norman G. Finkelstein and Steven Salaita, who lost jobs as a result of social justice scholarship and activism, in particular, criticisms of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians living under occupation.

Threats to academic freedom are real and have a long history in Canadian postsecondary education and beyond.

CAUT defines academic freedom, in part, as including:

the right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; … freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works; … Academic freedom always entails freedom from institutional censorship.

Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual. Academic freedom makes intellectual discourse, critique, and commitment possible.

Academic staff must not be hindered or impeded in exercising their civil rights as individuals including the right to contribute to social change through free expression of opinion on matters of public interest. Academic staff must not suffer any institutional penalties because of the exercise of such rights. [2]

In short academic freedom is essential to the mission of the university.

Dean Frank asked the members of this` panel to focus on issues of academic freedom in light of the current search to fill the new UBC position of Senior Advisor to the Provosts on Academic Freedom.

My first thought was that if we have provosts who need advisors on academic freedom, maybe they shouldn’t be provosts, really. But, perhaps I’m being too glib, even for a short breakfast talk.

Of course the creation of this new advisory position is the result of controversy created by the former chair of the UBC Board of Governors, John Montalbano, when he interfered with the academic freedom of Sauder School Professor Jennifer Berdahl, after she blogged about UBC President Arvind Gupta’s “resignation” after 13 months in office.[3]

Oh, wait a minute. Let me correct myself, like many of UBC’s self-investigation exercises the external report on the Berdahl case, written by former justice Lynn Smith, did not find fault with any individual university administrators.

“No individual intended to interfere with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom, or made a direct attempt to do so… However, sometimes several relatively small mistakes can lead to a failure of the larger system.”

Despite whatever good intentions might lurk behind the creation of the new academic freedom advisor position – and I do believe that its existence is primarily a public relations effort – at best this position is a band-aid on a life-threatening wound and at worse it is yet another diversion – a manifestation of an ideological stance that is widely held in society and practically hegemonic in universities—liberal neutrality. I’ll briefly address both of these circumstances.

Corporatization of the University (The life-threatening wound)

The corporate takeover of education at the K-12 and postsecondary levels, facilitated is by governments that might best be described as executive committees of the rich.

The trouble begins when the framework for understanding the nature and aims of education and scholarship is as a tool vital for economic success. As Thomas Docherty argues in his book Universities at War, the university has become a servant of the national and provincial economies in the context of globalization. Its driving principles of private and personal enrichment are understood as necessary conditions of progress and modernity.

Docherty sees this circumstances as a radical impoverishment of the university’s capacities to extend human possibilities and freedoms, to seek earnestly for social justice, and to participate in the endless need for the extension of democracy. Docherty argues that we must take sides in this matter because market fundamentalists are on the march and the war is being fought not just for scholars but also for a more democratic, more just, more emancipatory way of life.

The Problem of “Liberal neutrality”

In her article “Why I’m Not a Liberal,” Robin Marie Averback argues that

“In the liberal imagination, education and accommodation are self-evident solutions, since the problem can neither be understood as a matter of brute power struggles nor as a product of structural inequality fundamental to the functioning of entire institutions … You can’t choose a side when liberalism insists there are no sides at all.”[4]

This notion, helps to explain how the Smith Report on the Berdahl academic freedom case creates a victim without a victimizer. This is a pattern played out in numerous instances at UBC in recently. See, for example, the reports on:

  • the privacy breach related to documents on the Arvind Gupta imbroglio[5]
  • Commerce Undergraduate Society Frosh Week “rape chants”[6]
  • UBC handling of sexual assault complaints[7]

Averback reminds us of the picture book version of social justice that we often see on walls of community centres,

“In this picture book version of social justice struggle, no one ever opposes freedom’s forward march. All the oppressed need to do is rise up and assert themselves; the world they are fighting for is realized simply by the act of self-declaration.”

At UBC everybody seems to be for academic freedom. It’s like a picture book version of academic freedom. But in the all-administrative university – a phrase coined by Benjamin Ginsberg in his book The Fall of the Faculty – the response of the administration to an academic freedom crisis is the creation of yet another administrative position, aimed at educating and accommodating.

This reminds me of a comment someone made in the context of the recent UBC Board of Governors debacle(s) and the compromised Presidential Search Committee, “UBC doesn’t need a new driver, because the problem is with the car.”

Here are some academic freedom issues that the new position will like never come close to addressing:

  • Intellectual property rights;
  • Corporate influence on campus academic programs and research.[8]
  • Faculty loss of control over academic programs (such as the teacher education program in our faculty)
  • Respectful workplace statements that become instruments that encourage bullying and mobbing of faculty with dissenting points of view or who merely ask questions that make people uncomfortable;
  • Middle managers, like those in Sauder, who intervene like their corporate counterparts to threaten the rank and file on issues of solidarity and criticism of management (e.g., the recent UBCFA no confidence vote);
  • People like those faculty members who have warned UBC Professor Jonathan Ichikawa (sponsor of the UBCFA no-confidence vote in the Board of Governors) that his activism would negatively affect his advancement at the university;
  • Students/faculty self-funding themselves;
  • Administrative efforts to “right-size” academic programs;
  • Tenure and promotion committees that forego evaluative reading of faculty scholarship and instead focus on impact factors or the amount of external dollars won in competitions.

When no one is understood as protecting a position of power (liberal neutrality) how do we combat these threats to academic freedom? I don’t think the answer is by appointing an advisor to the provost.

Questions for discussion:

To what degree are the new policies for academic speech inscribed in academic work, regardless of where it’s done? As the academic workplace is increasingly displaced and distributed, are academic policies displaced and distributed as well? Observed at work, monitored at home and tracked in between—these are not so much choices as the cold reality of 21st century academic work.[9]

BC Premier Christy Clark has warned provincial postsecondary institutions that they must do a better job of producing graduates who meet the needs of the private sector (2014 Throne Speech). What happens to academic freedom when universities are cast as servants to the provincial or national “economic success?”

Notes

[1] CAUT, Major Academic Freedom Cases: http://www.caut.ca/issues-and-campaigns/academic-freedom/academic-freedom-cases

[2] See full CAUT statement on academic freedom here: https://www.caut.ca/about-us/caut-policy/lists/caut-policy-statements/policy-statement-on-academic-freedom – sthash.0grFSra5.dpuf

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ubc-chair-john-montalbano-resigns-after-report-finds-academic-freedom-not-protected-1.3272776

[4] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/why-im-not-a-liberal/

[5] http://universitycounsel.ubc.ca/files/2016/03/D-Loukidelis-Report-on-UBC-FOI-Processes-final-7-Mar-16.pdf

[6] http://president.ubc.ca/files/2013/09/Fact-Finding-Report-copy.pdf

[7] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ubc-sexual-assaults-complaints-expulsion-1.3328368

[8] See government appointments to UBC Board and U of Calgary/Enbridge relationship: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/calgary/caut-ucalgary-uofc-dru-marshall-david-robinson-1.3531851

[9] See Petrina, Ross, & Mathison (2015). Threat convergence: The new academic work, bullying, mobbing and freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 24, 58-69. Retrieved from http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/article/view/186137/185332

Critical Education to publish articles series “The Media and the Neoliberal Privatization of Education”

Forthcoming articles in the current volume of Critical Education will include a special series examining The Media and the Neoliberal Privatization of Education, edited by Derek R. Ford (Syracuse University), Brad Porfilio (California State University, East Bay), and Rebecca Goldstein (Montclair State University).

The series will be launched on March 30, 2015 and run through August 15, 2015.

Here is a full listing of forthcoming articles in Critical Education, from March through September 2015:

Critical Education
ISSN 1920-4125

Forthcoming Articles in Volume 6:

Volume 6 Number 6
March 21, 2015
‘That would give us power…’ Proposals for Teaching Radical Participation from a Society in Transition
Edda Sant
Manchester Metropolitan University

Volume 6 Numbers 7-16
Critical Education series The Media and the Neoliberal Privatization of Education
Editors: Derek R. Ford, Brad Porfilio & Rebecca Goldstein

Volume 6 Number 7
March 30, 2015
The News Media, Education, and the Subversion of the Neoliberal Social Imaginary
Derek R. Ford
Syracuse University
Brad Porfilio
California State University, East Bay
Rebecca A. Goldstein
Montclair State University

Lessons from the “Pen Alongside the Sword”: School Reform through the Lens of Radical Black Press
Kuram Hussain
Hobart and William Smith College
Mark Stern
Colgate University

Volume 6 Number 8
April 15, 2015
Breathing Secondhand Smoke: Gatekeeping for “Good” Education, Passive Democracy, and the Mass Media:  An Interview with Noam Chomsky
Zane C. Wubbena
Texas State University

Volume 6 Number 9
May 1, 2015
Speaking Back to the Neoliberal Discourse on Teaching: How US Teachers Use Social Media to Redefine Teaching
Kessica Shiller
Towson University

Volume 6 Number 10
May 15, 2015
Political Cartoons and the Framing of Charter School Reform
Abe Feuerstein
Bucknell University

Volume 6 Number 11
June 1, 2015
Neoliberal Education Reform’s Mouthpiece: Education Week’s Discourse on Teach for America
Michelle Gautreaux
University of British Columbia

Volume 6 Number 12
June 15, 2015
Re-Privatizing the Family: How “Opt-Out” and “Parental Involvement” Media Narratives Support School Privatization
Amy Shuffelton
Loyola University Chicago

Volume 6 Number 13    
July 1, 2015
Learning from Bad Teachers: The Neoliberal Agenda for Education in Popular Media
José García
University of Texas at Austin

Volume 6 Number 14
July 15, 2015
#TFA: The Intersection of Social Media and Education Reform
T. Jameson Brewer
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Matthew Wallis
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Volume 6 Number 15 
August 1, 2015
Engagement with the Mainstream Media and the Relationship to Political Literacy: The Influence of Hegemonic Education on Democracy
Paul R. Carr
Université du Québec en Outaouais
Gary W. J. Pluim
Lakehead University
Lauren Howard
Lakehead University

Volume 6 Number 16
August 15, 2015
Teach For America in the Media: A Multimodal Semiotic Analysis
Sarah Rose Faltin Osborn
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jessica L. Sierk
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Volume 6 Number 17
September 1, 2015
Capitalizing on Knowledge: Mapping Intersections Between Cognitive Capitalism and Education
Joseph Paul Cunningham
University of Cincinnati

New book: The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education – 2nd Edition

The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education – 2nd Edition
Can Hope (Still) Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism?

Edited by:
Paul R. Carr, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Brad J. Porfilio, CSU, East Bay

A volume in the series: Critical Constructions: Studies on Education and Society. Editor(s): Curry Stephenson Malott, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Brad J. Porfilio, California State University, East Bay, Marc Pruyn, Monash University, Derek R. Ford, Syracuse University.

Published 2015

Anyone who is touched by public education – teachers, administrators, teacher-educators, students, parents, politicians, pundits, and citizens – ought to read this book, a revamped and updated second edition. It will speak to educators, policymakers and citizens who are concerned about the future of education and its relation to a robust, participatory democracy. The perspectives offered by a wonderfully diverse collection of contributors provide a glimpse into the complex, multilayered factors that shape, and are shaped by, education institutions today. The analyses presented in this text are critical of how globalization and neoliberalism exert increasing levels of control over the public institutions meant to support the common good. Readers of this book will be well prepared to participate in the dialogue that will influence the future of public education in United States, and beyond – a dialogue that must seek the kind of change that represents hope for all students.

As for the question contained in the title of the book – The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope (Still) Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism? (Second Edition) –, Carr and Porfilio develop a framework that integrates the work of the contributors, including Christine Sleeter and Dennis Carlson, who wrote the original forward and afterword respectively, and the updated ones written by Paul Street, Peter Mclaren and Dennis Carlson, which problematize how the Obama administration has presented an extremely constrained, conservative notion of change in and through education. The rhetoric has not been matched by meaningful, tangible, transformative proposals, policies and programs aimed at transformative change, and now fully into a second mandate this second edition of the book is able to more substantively provide a vigorous critique of the contemporary educational and political landscape. There are many reasons for this, and, according to the contributors to this book, it is clear that neoliberalism is a major obstacle to stimulating the hope that so many have been hoping for. Addressing systemic inequities embedded within neoliberalism, Carr and Porfilio argue, is key to achieving the hope so brilliantly presented by Obama during the campaign that brought him to the presidency.

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments. Foreword: Barack Obama’s Neoliberal War on Public and Democratic Education (2014, for the second edition), Paul Street. Foreword: Challenging the Empire’s Agenda for Education (2011, for the first edition), Christine Sleeter. Introduction: Audaciously Espousing Hope (well into a second mandate) Within a Torrent of Hegemonic Neoliberalism: The Obama Educational Agenda and the Potential for Change, Paul R. Carr and Brad J. Porfilio.

SECTION I: USING HISTO RICAL AND THEORETICAL INSIGHTS TO UNDERSTAND OBAMA’S EDUCATIONAL AGENDA. Even More of the Same: How Free Market Capitalism Dominates Education, David Hursh. “The Hunger Games”: A Fictional Future or a Hegemonic Reality Already Governing Our Lives?Virginia Lea. Ignored Under Obama: Word Magic, Crisis Discourse, and Utopian Expectations, P. L. Thomas. The Obama Education Marketplace and the Media: Common Sense School Reform for Crisis Management, Rebecca A. Goldstein, SheilaMacrine, and Nataly Z. Chesky.

SECTION II: THE PERILS OF NEOLIBERAL SCHOOLING: CRITIQUING CORPORATIZED FORMS OF SCHOOLING AND A SOBER ASSESSMENT OF WHERE OBAMA IS TAKING THE UNITED STATES. Charter Schools and the Privatization of Public Schools, Mary Christianakis and Richard Mora. Undoing Manufactured Consent: Union Organizing of Charter Schools in Predominately Latino/a Communities, Theresa Montaño and Lynne Aoki. Dismantling the Commons: Undoing the Promise of Affordable, Quality Education for a Majority of California Youth, Roberta Ahlquist. Obama, Escucha! Estamos en la Lucha! Challenging Neoliberalism in Los Angeles Schools,Theresa Montaña. From PACT to Pearson: Teacher Performance Assessment and the Corporatization of Teacher Education, Ann Berlak and Barbara Madeloni. Value-Added Measures and the Rise of Antipublic Schooling: The Political, Economic, and Ideological Origins of Test-Based Teacher Evaluation, Mark Garrison.

SECTION III: ENVISIONING NEW SCHOOLS AND A NEW SOCIAL WORLD: STO RIES OF RESISTANCE, HOPE, AND TRANSFORMATION. The Neoliberal Metrics of the False Proxy and Pseudo Accountability, Randy L. Hoover. Empire and Education for Class Consciousness: Class War and Education in the United States, Rich Gibson and E. Wayne Ross. Refocusing Community Engagement: A Need for a Different Accountability, Tina Wagle and Paul Theobald. If There is Anyone Out There…, Peter McLaren. Afterword: Working the Contradictions: The Obama Administration’s EducationalPolicy and Democracy to Come (from the 2011 edition), Dennis Carlson. Afterword: Barack Obama: The Final Frontier, Peter Mclaren. Afterword: Reclaiming the Promise of Democratic Public Education in New Times, Dennis Carlson.About the Authors. Index.

Phenomenon of Obama 2 ed

CFP: Learning, technologies, and time in the age of global neoliberal capitalism

Call for Papers

SPECIAL ISSUE OF KNOWLEDGE CULTURES

Learning, Technologies, and Time in the Age of Global Neoliberal Capitalism

The study of time, technology and learning has preoccupied scholars across disciplines for decades. From the psychological impacts of networked gadgets to the nature of perception, attention, communication and social interaction, through the paradigm of 24/7 teacher/student availability, to the acceleration of study programs and research, these themes are dialectically intertwined with human learning in the age of global neoliberal capitalism.

However, the ‘social’ and the ‘technical’ are still frequently discussed as separate spheres in relation to human learning, rather than as mutually shaping of each other within capitalism. Using various critical approaches, this volume invites authors to ask diverse probing questions about the multi-dimensional, individual and social experience of time, by teachers and learners of all kinds, imbued in contemporary neoliberal technoscapes.

This Special Issue of Knowledge Cultures invites authors to explore these questions especially in relation to all kinds of human learning, including, but not limited to, the formal process of schooling. We are particularly interested in situating the relationships between human learning, social acceleration, and digital technologies in the context of global neoliberal capitalism – and in developing viable alternatives / seeds of resistance.

Working at the intersection of technology, psychology, sociology, history, politics, philosophy, arts, science fiction, and other related areas, we welcome contributions from a wide range of disciplines and inter-, trans- and anti-disciplinary research methodologies.

Submissions

All contributions should be original and should not be under consideration elsewhere. Authors should be aware that they are writing for an international audience and should use appropriate language. Manuscripts should not exceed 6000 words. For further information and authors’ guidelines please see

http://www.addletonacademicpublishers.com/images/Instructions_for_authors1.pdf.

All papers will be peer-reviewed, and evaluated according to their significance, originality, content, style, clarity and relevance to the journal.

Please submit your initial abstract (300-400 words) by email to the Guest Editors.

GUEST EDITORS

Sarah Hayes, Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice, Aston University, UK (s.hayes@aston.ac.uk)

Petar Jandrić, Department of Informatics & Computing, Polytechnic of Zagreb, Croatia (pjandric@tvz.hr)

IMPORTANT DATES

1 May 2015 – Deadline for abstracts to editors

1 June 2015 – Deadline for feedback from reviewers

1 November 2015 – Deadline for submissions/full papers

1 January 2016 – Deadline for feedback from reviewers

1 March 2016 – Final deadline for amended papers

Publication date – late 2016 / early 2017

 

Neoliberalism and the Degradation of Education (Alternate Routes, Vol. 26)

Alternate Routes V 26 cover

Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research

VOL 26 (2015)

NEOLIBERALISM AND THE DEGRADATION OF EDUCATION

Edited by Carlo Fanelli, Bryan Evans

Contributors to this anthology trace how neoliberalism has impacted education. These effects range from the commercialization and quasi-privatization of pre-school to post-secondary education, to restrictions on democratic practice and research and teaching, to the casualization of labour and labour replacing technologies, and the descent of the university into the market which threatens academic freedom. The end result is a comprehensive and wide-ranging review of how neoliberalism has served to displace, if not destroy, the role of the university as a space for a broad range of perspectives. Neoliberalism stifes the university’s ability to incubate critical ideas and engage with the larger society. Entrepreneurship, however, is pursued as an ideological carrier serving to prepare students for a life of precarity just as the university itself is being penetrated and occupied by corporations. The result is an astonishing tale of transformation, de-democratization and a narrowing of vision and purpose.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ARTICLES

Carlo Fanelli, Bryan Evans
Jamie Brownlee
Jeff Noonan, Mireille Coral
Paul Bocking
Simten Cosar, Hakan Ergul
Garry Potter
Eric Newstadt
Caitlin Hewitt-White
Mat Nelson, Lydia Dobson
Paul Orlowski
Teresa Marcias
Tanner Mirrless

INTERVENTIONS

Heather McLean
Henry Giroux
Christopher Bailey
Carl E. James
Jordy Cummings
Joel D. Harden
Jordy Cummings
Carlo Fanelli

REVIEWS

Peter Brogan
Christine Pich
Jordan Fairbairn
J.Z. Garrod
Madalena Santos
Amanda Joy
Shannon T. Speed
Aaron Henry

BC Teachers’ Strike: Analyzing the government’s bargaining strategy & its “affordability” trope

Published in Rabble.ca on Friday, September 12, 2014 as:

B.C. schools could be open Monday, if the government wanted

Public schools in British Columbia could be open Monday, if the government wanted.

On Wednesday, in nearly unanimous fashion, members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation voted to walk from the picket lines into their classrooms, if the B.C. Liberal government would agree to binding arbitration on all issues, except the most contentious, class size and composition, which is currently before the courts.

Prior to the teachers’ vote government rejected the idea, twice. Education Minister Peter Fassbender called the teachers’ effort to get the schools open by going to binding arbitration, “absolutely silly” and “a ploy.”  The former advertising salesman who has been the face of a formidable government PR campaign seemed uncharacteristically perturbed.

In recent weeks, the government’s strategy has become increasingly transparent. Forcing teachers to choose between financial hardship, perhaps ruin, or protecting court victories over a government that stripped class size and composition language from their contract 12 years ago.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the provincial government infringed on teachers’ Charter rights when it stripped class size and composition language from their contract in 2002. Justice Susan Griffin gave the government a year to solve the problem.

In 2012, the legislature enacted new legislation that had same effect as the old and, in January 2012, Justice Griffin’s ruled in favor of the teachers again.

Former crown prosecutor Sandy Garossino told Global TV,

“Over and over and over again, [Justice Griffin] goes through a litany of examples of where the government really never intended to negotiate in good faith with the union at all. It’s very hard to get past that ruling, and it really does in my view cast a completely different view on the nature of the negotiations that are going on now. The credibility of the government is certainly in question.”

Government is appealing Justice Griffin’s decision and it is scheduled to be heard next month by the B.C. Court of Appeals.

Meantime, government wants to negotiate its way out of court losses by insisting teachers accept a contract clause, known as E80, which the union and legal experts say abrogates teachers’ court victories requiring government to restore class size and composition language to teachers’ contracts. E80 is a poison pill the union refuses to swallow.

Throughout negotiations government has argued that B.C. teachers’ demands are unaffordable. It would be more accurate to say that the B.C. Liberals have prioritized cutting taxes for the rich and corporations over providing adequate funding for public services such as education and child welfare.

The key factors in affordability are size of the economy and tax rates.

B.C. Liberals waltzed into the legislature in 2001 and started an unprecedented program of inequitable tax cuts. As a result, B.C. now has a regressive tax system. A Broadbent Institute report released this week points out that in the B.C. the poor are now paying more in all taxes as a percentage of income than the rich.

B.C. Liberals’ tax cuts over the past 10 years have benefited the richest 1 per cent of British Columbians to the tune of $41,000 per year, while the bottom 40 per cent have benefited by an average of $200 per year.

Both the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Conference Board of Canada agree that despite the elimination of the provincial deficit and the recently announced $353 million surplus, overall spending as a share of the provincial GDP is shrinking and will reach a record low in 2017.

In August, the Conference Board report “British Columbia Fiscal Snapshot: Back on Solid Groupnd” said the B.C. government will have to spend $1.6 billion more than it has budgeted on education to maintain a constant level of spending over the next three years.

With the B.C. near the bottom in provincial per student education funding and B.C. teachers near the bottom in average salary, government has budgeted 0.6 per cent increases for K-12 education the next three years. That’s not a typo.

While the provincial budget conservatively projects revenue increases at 8 percent annually, it has budgeted less than a one per cent annual increase in the budget for B.C. schools.

The current B.C. budget projects the economy to grow by almost 20 per cent over the next five years, before inflation. And the government estimates teachers’ demands for wages, class size and composition funding would add up to nearly 15 per cent over same period.

What Minister Fassbender really means when he says the province cannot afford teachers’ demands is that government has not budgeted enough to education to meet teachers’ demands.

The funding model for public education in B.C. reflects the ideological principle that more of the public’s collective wealth should be devoted to maximizing private profits rather than serving public needs.

The teachers have proven they’re serious about getting back to work. The B.C. Liberals remained intractable in their devotion to an ideology that is fundamentally anti-social.