How can we afford to bring the Olympics to town but cannot afford textbooks, library books and soap for our children?

Westside Parent letter to the editor on inadequate education funding.

November 18, 2005

To The Editor:

On Thursday night I participated in a meeting of parents representing elementary school PACs in the constituency of Vancouver-Quilchena. We met with our MLA, Colin Hansen, and welcomed the opportunity to discuss education matters of importance to parents and students at our different schools.

Every concern raised at the meeting boiled down to inadequate funding for public education. The standard government line that education funding has never been higher fell flat because we know that education costs are even higher. Some of these costs are a direct result of unfunded legislated mandates. There is still disparity to the detriment of the system and, more importantly, to the detriment of our children.

Parents made it very clear to Mr. Hansen that we want more of our tax dollars spent on public education. He used a term – “the highest of the high” – pertaining to prioritizing seismic upgrading of schools. We asked him to relay our request to the government to make funding of public education their “highest of the high” priority.

I shared the information that our PAC, over seven years, has contributed an annual amount of $20,000 to our school. This is money spent to supplement math, library and fine arts resources and other “extras” that enrich every child’s educational experience. Our school budget last year was $29,000. Parents agreed that these are shocking figures.

It was also disgraceful to learn that one of the schools represented cannot afford enough soap for the entire school year. The custodian has watered down the soap and now staff has given up theirs for the benefit of the students.

I wonder when we, as a society, decided that we can afford to bring the Olympics to town but cannot afford textbooks, library books and soap for our children. What, indeed, is this government’s “highest of the high” priority?

Imagine my shock coming home from this meeting to the even more disgraceful news that MLAs had just voted themselves a significant raise. I guess that answers my question.

Yours truly,

Deborah Broadley

Illegal Strike or Civil Disobedience? SFU Forum on teachers strike, Oct. 20.

On Thursday, October 20, 2005, panelists for a special Faculty Forum helped kick off an insightful and meaningful discussion among students, faculty members, and staff regarding the teachers’ dispute in B.C. Entitled “Illegal Strike or Civil Disobedience?: Reflections on BC Education Today,” the event included dialogue on the effects of the job action for students, parents and teachers currently and the impact it may have in the future. The complete audio and video from the Faculty Forum will be available on the Faculty of Education website shortly.

Earlier in the week, the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Education released a statement regarding the teachers’ strike:

The Executive Committee of the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University supports the right to teachers to negotiate a fair and comprehensive contract that includes teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms.

We urge the government and the BCTF to move quickly to arrive at a resolution and one that will enable teachers to return to British Columbia’s classrooms with confidence that the challenges of their work will be recognized and that educational concerns will be addressed.

We call attention to the necessity that negotiations and dialogue about education draw upon credible research and scholarship, in order to facilitate constructive discussions in the public, professional and political domain.

SFU ‘forum’ on the strike.

The Teachers’ Strike: Two upcoming Events

(1) Hosted by Left Turn: The B.C. Teachers Strike: A Dress Rehearsal for The General Strike Of 2006? November 22, 2005.

(2) Hosted by the Vancouver & District labour Council: Lessons Learned from Teachers’ Dispute. November 15, 2005.Event 1: The B.C. Teachers Strike: A Dress Rehearsal for The General Strike Of 2006?

Last month’s illegal strike may well have been a watershed for the B.C. labour movement. Despite a vicious campaign by the Liberal government, court rulings that included the largest fine against a union in Canadian history, and lukewarm support from the BC Fed, teachers seem to have emerged not only undefeated, but more militant and united than ever.

How did this happen? What went down in the back rooms? What impact is this having on the rest of the labour movement? How about community support? And of great importance for all activists fighting the Liberals’ privatizing and union-busting, what does this mean for next spring’s looming public sector confrontations? Will there be a general strike, or a general demobilization? Will the spring sizzle, or fizzle?

SFU Harbour Centre
Room 1900
Tuesday, November 22
7:30 PM

Speakers: Lisa Descary, Richmond Teachers Association; Gretchen Dulmage, HEU vice-chair, Children and Women’s Hospital; Will Offley, B.C. Nurses Union; Lawrence Boxall, CEP Local 2000.
(Organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

For more info contact

Event 2. VDLC Pizza Educational: Lessons Learned from Teachers’ Dispute

Presentations from the BC Teachers’ Federation, CUPE, and the Vancouver and District Labour Council, each will provide their perspective from their role in the dispute.

November 15, 2005 at 5:30 pm (Followed by regular VDLC meeting at 7:30 PM Maritime Labour Centre 1880 Triumph Street)

Keziah McCrystal Rothlin, Executive Asst.
Vancouver and District Labour Council
#140 – 111 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC V5L 4C4
604-254-0703 Phone
604-254-0701 Fax Email

Roundtable on Public Education

75 plus people -parents, unioninsts, academics, teachers, community members- found their way to the obscure room in the Chemistry Building to hear Jinny Sims, president BCTF, Catherine Evans, president BCSPE, Paul Orlowski, Vancouver teacher, Kevin Millsip, Vancouver trustee, Wayne Ross, Curriculum Studies UBC and myself (Charles Menzies) speak on the significance of the teachers strike. After the presentations the floor was opened for discussion and questions and a further hour of commentary followed.

We will be uploading a webcast of the event shortly in this space. We will also be publishing online the proceedings of the event in printed form.

In the meantime you can find the text to two commentarites, Stephen Petrina’s welcome and my own, here. Please note that these are unedited draft comments and will be revised and expanded for the online publication to follow.

Download Petrina’s welcome
Download Menzies’ comments

Roundtable on the BC Teacher’s Strike being held at UBC

A roundtable discussion on the Teachers’ strike is now being planned by Charles Menzies, Steve Petrina and Wayne Ross.

WHEN: Wednesday November 9th at 4:30 pm
WHERE: Chemistry Building, room 126. CHEMISTRY BUILDING EAST WING; Also called Building C(Wayfinding at UBC).
View meeting room locater map customized for our event

Jinny Sims, President BCTF.
Catherine Evans, President BC Society for Public Education.
Paul Orlowski, Vancouver Secondary Teacher.
Kevin Millsip, Trustee Vancouver School Board.
Larry Kuehn, Director of Research and Technology, BCTF.
Charles Menzies, Parent Advisory Council member and Associate Professor of Anthropology, UBC.
E. Wayne Ross, Professor Dept. of Curriculum Studies, UBC

THEME: A roundtable discussion on the significance of the teachers’ strike and struggle for public education in British Columbia.

FORMAT: A panel of presenters representing teachers, parents, and researchers will each speaker for 5 to 10 minutes each. This will be followed by a moderated discussion of the significance of the teachers’ strike.

Department of Anthropology and Sociology, UBC
Department of Curriculum Studies, UBC
Canadian Studies Programme, Faculty of Arts, UBC
Department of Political Science, UBC
Centre for Research in Women’s Studies and Gender Relations
First Nations House of Learning, UBC
Workplace: A journal for academic labor
New Proposals Publishing Society

PDF event poster (revised Nov 8, 2005): Download file

Extend the School Year (2)

See BCTF Representative Assembly position on extending the school year BCTF School Staff Alert, Nov. 7, 2005

The teachers’ position is completely understandable, especially given the fact that the Minister of Education has implied teachers should ‘catch-up’ but without any pay. While I still personally believe that a paid extension to the school year is a reasonable request the political context is such that an extended school year is not a viable solution. And, as research has demonstrated (see link to article below) the impacts as measured in standardized tests are minimal.

Further to my previous post and suggestion to extend the school year a number of issues have emerged.

(1) The adverse impacts on teachers engaged in graduate study during the summer term if the school year is extended into July.
(2) That time might be added to the school year but that teachers would not be paid for this added time.

I hadn’t considered the first point and I had simply assumed that any extension of the school year would necessarily mean that teachers and other staff would be paid for the additional work done to make up for the missing ten days. This is critical. From my perspective extending the school year in any way would be contingent upon teachers being paid for the added time.

It would appear that a middle ground solution is emerging that would see the postponement of January provincial exams. This would at least accommodate some of the difficulties related to the ten day work stoppage.

I would also like to point to an article on the impact of strikes on student achievement from the U.S. in which it indicates that strikes have had minimal if any real impacts on student test results.Click here for full story.

School Boards reject idea of extended school year.CBC coverage on extended school year question. Further to this issue school boards are saying they don’t think extending the school year is workable.