Highlights of the non-binding recommendations by facilitator Vince Ready to settle the B.C. teachers dispute:
The government should consult with the B.C. Teachers Federation about amending the School Act with respect to class size limits for Grades 4 to 12.
COMMENT The government could easily agree to this but still do next to nothing. To ‘consult with’ simply means that the government hold a meeting with the BCTF, listens to their thoughts, and . . . . There is not obligation to accommodate teachers’ input or concerns. There is no mechanism to ensure that real and meaningful amendments will follow or, if amendments do follow, that they will in fact address the very serious problems caused by the government’s stripping class size and composition language from the BCTF contract.
The B.C. government should provide additional funding of $20 million this year to the issue of class size and special needs students and consider retaining the increased funding in future.
COMMENT Any one time boast to funds leads to problems and disruption in following years if it is not written in as an ongoing budget item. But, $20 million doesn’t really go very far to solve this pressing problem. As a parent of a child who falls into this category I know that system is way under funded. Vancouver itself is millions of dollars underfunded in terms of special needs education alone.
The government should commit to fund $40 million towards harmonization of salary grids through the province. The parties will meet within 60 days of the return to work to determine how the funding will be applied.
COMMENT Harmonization is a nice thought. But how does that help a teacher living in the lowermainland or Kelowna, for example, who’s income is harmonized with a teacher living elsewhere? Given the high cost of housing in areas like the capital district, the lowermainland and the Okanogan, harmonization won’t really address cost of living impacts and the facts that most teachers have in real dollars lost income. Furthermore, if you factor in reduced services to education, increasing class sizes, and changes in class composition teachers have been taking a wage cut. So, harmonization seems a shallow and inadequate solution.
The government and the teachers federation should establish an ongoing process for regular communication on teaching issues, because the dispute “has highlighted a huge gap in avenues of communication between the BCTF and government.’
COMMENT This is one of those ‘no-brainers.’ Yes of course. We need to see how this will be accomplished though. Will there be some concrete examples?
Overall I feel disappointed by these recommendations. As a parent I have seen real and devastating impacts of the current government’s education policy. In their first contract for teachers they legislated cost increases but didn’t fund them. Then they legislated what amounts to a lock-out contract that caused a major walkout. The Ready Report, while it makes some moves toward improving public education, doesn’t really make the grade.
The BC Fed and Jim Sinclair need to keep on the pressure. As parents we need to maintain and expand our support of the teachers.