16 Months later -the Vince Ready report

Change in attitude needed in B.C. teachers’ talks: mediator
CBC News

Veteran mediator Vince Ready is recommending some changes, but not a complete overhaul, in the way B.C. teachers negotiate their contracts with the government.

In his report, which was 16 months in the making, Ready says there is no need to scrap the current bargaining structure.

Vince Ready’s report. Download file

The government page on teacher labour negotiations can be found here.

The BCTF bargaining page can be found here.

Vancouver School Board Cuts Spending

The enrollment miscalculation continues to dog the Vancouver School District. The following is cribbed from VSB info released at this evenings school board meeting (see VSB Oct. 11 Committee III minutes; see also previous post on this topic, October 6, October 4. ).

In order to obtain input from the public and stakeholder groups with respect to the proposed Budget Reductions, a Committee lll/V meeting will be held at the Ed Centre on Tuesday November 14, starting at 7:00 to receive delegations.

Individuals or groups wanting to register as a delegation for this meeting should contact Trustee Support in the Secretary Treasure’s office by November 10th. It is anticipated that the Board will make decisions on the proposed budget reductions for phase 1 at the nov 20th board meeting.

This does not change the regular cttee lll meeting the next day. That date will go ahead as planned.
This is an extraordinary one, as promised, to discuss the cuts to staffing and programs relating to the low enrollment.

Phase 1 is planned to be implemented in January, phase 2 next fall.
Here’s Phase 1:

1. Savings from vacant positions
vacant PASA and CUPE 15 positions (july – October) savings $228,000

additional savings if new PASA positions remain vacant for the remainder of the year. (Supervisor-LIT; Systems Audit Coordinator savings $97,650

2. Eliminate 1.0 FTE elementary school Vice-Principal effective Jan 1, 2007
Champlain Heights is targeted to lose a vp, as they have under 400 students this year savings $47,500

3. Eliminate 1.0 FTE secondary school Vice-Principal effective Jan 1, 2007
Britannia and Tupper will share a vice-principal savings $35,000

4. Reduced Learning Enquiry activity for 2006/2007
A reduction of $200,000 means that no new sites would be added for this year, and next. The funds remaining would allow for the sites from last year to be supported in their implementation phase, and allow for an Aboriginal Learners’ Inquiry to be undertaken. savings $200,000

5. Transfer of remaining GVDES Special Purpose Fund balance from 2005/06 to operating fund
Beginning in 2006/07, the MOE will be funding Distributed Learning students through the operating grant. Balances remaining in the GVDES fund on June 30,06 to be transferred to the operating fund.savings $540,000

6. Transfer from Local Capital Reserve
One time funds would be transferred from the Capital Reserve to the operating fund.savings $523,850

total savings for phase 1 is $1,672,000

VSB Document on cutting plan, November 9, 2006: Download file

BCTF Conference on Accountability

October 27, 28, 2006
Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel and Conference Centre

The BCTF is pleased to sponsor the public education conference, “What really counts! Rethinking accountability.”

This conference will examine the bureaucratic accountability mandate imposed on BC’s public schools and its impact on learning, teaching, and the principles of public education. The conference will feature keynote speaker, Paul Shaker, Dean of Education at Simon Fraser University, and a wide range of workshop presentations providing delegates with a choice of topics to pursue in detail.

The delegates invited to this conference include parents, teachers, school support staff union reps, trustees, superintendents, MLAs, and representatives from organizations and groups. The BCTF is looking forward to this opportunity to discuss the issues, strategies, and positive alternatives. It’s certainly time to rethink accountability and talk about what really counts in BC’s public schools.

Conference Program.
Workshop descriptions.

Test Scores and Social Compliance

The issue of lost time due to bathroom, coffee, or lunch breaks is one that many industrial work places combat on a daily basis. From a management perspective breaks to meet human bodily needs represents lost time and money. In schools, the testing mania has taken this same concern down to our children’s classrooms. As reported on “Where the Blog Has No Name,” some Washington D.C. area students are earning grades for holding it in. They are able to redeem their unused bathroom passes for extra credit to bump their grades up (read the full entry here).

Want to see who else blogged the Washington Post story on bathroom breaks vs grades? Take a look here

Students aren’t the only people in schools who are forced to forego bathroom breaks. Teachers’ working conditions often make it difficult –if not impossible- for them to take a break in the course of the day (see, for example, article in Vancouver Courier). Reports from accross North America document the problems in working condidtions for teachers. In a recent (May 9, 2006) Dayton Daily News commentary it was reported that 50% of new teachers quite the profession within 5 years. A related Washington Post article describes the situation that confrounts the teaching profession. For a list of links discussing the Washinton Post article look here.

Previous Testing Mania Enteries

Foundational Skills. May 9, 2006
Testing as mechanism of social control. March 17, 2006
Article on the ‘Promise and Peril of High Stakes testing.’ February 10, 2006

Bill 33 [Education (Learning Enhancement) Statute Amendment] Passes 2nd Reading on May 4th, 2006

The class size and class composition legislation passed 2nd reading yesterday afternoon (May 4th, 2006). Rising to close debate on 2nd reading Minister Bond made the following remarks:

” I do appreciate many of the comments that were made by the members opposite, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that education is important on both sides of this House. What the debate often centres around is actually how we get to the outcomes. None of us want anything different than the absolute best for the students of British Columbia.

However, I do want to say, and I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this government has always believed that class size is important. We believed it was so important, we enshrined it in legislation and took it out of contract negotiations, where often students became pawns at that table. We said: “It’s so important, we’re going to make it law in British Columbia, and we know that’s important.”

As we move forward, the debate about class size and composition doesn’t end with Bill 33. In fact, Bill 33 brings a clause that says we will be required to review these amendments and other issues. The issues are not simple. It’s been interesting, as I’ve listened to speaker after speaker bring the same issues to the floor of this House, and remarkably, they’re very similar to one of the other voices that we hear in this debate regularly.

I would urge the members opposite to go back to the Roundtable minutes, to go back to the speakers that spoke on behalf of education across the sector. There wasn’t unanimous agreement about class sizes. In fact, the grade eight-to-12 classes actually brought much debate and discussion.

It’s not one voice we need to listen to. It’s all of the people who are important in public education. That includes parents. It includes those people who are involved in meaningful discussion. This bill tries to bring to the floor of this House a balanced and reasonable approach based on all the voices we’ve heard at the provincial Learning Roundtable and as I’ve travelled across this province.

I move second reading of this bill.”

The full copy of the 2nd reading debate can be downloaded here as a pdf file. Please note this is a copy of the draft Hansard reccord for May 4, 2006.

Vancouver School Board cuts teaching positions

For the sake of preserving a reserve fund NPA dominated Vancouver School Board cut another small piece of the ground from under the feet of special needs students. Suggesting that their action was fiscally responsible and noting that staffing levels were just the same as at the start of 2005-2006 NPA trustees seem confident that cutting resource teachers and learning assistance teachers is okay.

The eliminated positions were added in January 2006 during the frenzy of the one-time funding dropped on school boards as a result of the October Strike. In early budget papers the School Board was planning to cut even deeper than the 26 FTE (full time equivalent positions) that they have cut at this time. To partially cushion the blow the board has created full-time teacher on call positions from the regular TOC budget to keep the laid-off teachers in the system. As an aside, the TOC issue is a major one that is affecting districts across the province and while it has disappeared from the news it remains a major difficulty in the everyday lives of our schools.

From CBC News
The Vancouver School Board voted Wednesday to boost its reserve budget for the upcoming school year by cutting at least 25 teaching positions.

By a 5-3 vote, the board eliminated jobs for librarians, English-as-a-second-language instructors and special-needs teachers. The cuts will allow the board to add $1.5 million to its reserve budget.

Board member Eleanor Gregory said the reserve fund must be topped up to cover expenses arising from the deal that ended last year’s teacher’s strike. “We know we will have immediate needs in our next budget year … in the order of several million dollars,” Gregory said.

B.C. teachers ended a bitter two-week strike in 2005 after they approved a settlement proposed by mediator Vince Ready to get them through this school year.

* FROM APRIL 21, 2006: Teachers ready to talk money

* LINK: Facilitator Vince Ready’s report (.pdf) External site

Board member Allen Wong voted against the cuts. He says the reserve budget has historically been in the $3-million to $4-million range, and didn’t need to be topped up to nearly $6 million.

“We’re taking money away from educating our vulnerable students and just socking it into the reserve,” Wong said.

He adds that it will be more difficult to ask the province for additional funding when the board’s reserve fund is sitting at record levels.

Gregory says about $2.5 million of the reserve budget will go toward increasing the pay of on-call teachers.

Sacrificing Public Education

Across British Columbia School Boards are busy finalizing budget plans for next year. As part of that process they are making decisions about the educational services that tehy will offer for the following year. Some of the districts, like New Westminster, for example, are struggling with their attempts to enter the foray of venture capitalism (see earlier comment for details). Others, like Vancouver, are planning not to rehire teaches hired with the so-called ‘one-time-funds‘ money. Yet other districts are simply closing schools to make up for the problems of rising costs and insufficient educational funding.

However, parents rarely take this sitting down. From the early Wells school closure to Forest Grove and now the impending Tsolum School closure parent groups have made a strong case that even in the face of the cold arithmetic of the provincial government, school districts need to place the learning needs of students, families, and their communities first.

As struggles in places for the Forest Grove and Tsolum Schools show schools are more than simply factories for producing students. They very often play a role in the heart of communities; especially for rural communities. Typically people charged with the task of closing schools see opposition as merely the expression of unreasonable people who have put their own personal interests first. I would suggest that while this may play a part of the process, the key issues are typically far more important and fundamental than individual self-interest. As noted above, schools take on a role of community centre and in so doing very often act as important nodal points in human interaction. As a parent waiting outside a school to pick up one’s children we will meet and great other parents building a network of solidarity and connection that, however fleeting, plays an important role in the fabric of a civil society.

Closing schools is part of a process of closing society and reducing social connections to abstract fiscal relations. Rather than considering how to close schools we really should be trying to figure out how to open more, smaller schools. That would really be putting education first.

Information on Budget Cuts and School Closures

BCTF Data Page
BCCPAC School Closure Page
Commox Valley School District page on school closures
CBC New Stories on School Closures

Research Presentations on Public Education and Natural Resources

You are cordially invited to a UBC applied anthropology (RMES500Q /ANTH 409A) student research project presentation (project descriptions below).

These presentations will take place Wednesday, April 5 2006 from 6:30 – 9:30. Each project presentation will last from 20-25 minutes with an opportunity for discussion, questions, and feedback and then a short break to transition to the next project presentation.

Light refreshments will be served from 6:15 pm.

Presentations in room 205 of the Anthropology/Sociology Building, 6303 NW Marine Drive. Parking is available in the metered lot in front of the AnSo Building and the Museum of Anthropology or across the street in the rose Garden Parkade.

For more information email charles.menzies@ubc.ca. RSVPs appreciated

Presentation Order:

6:30 pm. Urban seed histories. Partnered with Farm Folk/City Folk.
In collaboration with FarmFolk/CityFolk­a local non-profit organization committed to environmentally beneficial agricultural practices­students will investigate the propagation of seeds in urban gardens.

7:15 pm. Social impact assessment of fisheries quota management systems. Partnered with T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. The objective of this project is to identify the social impact of fisheries quota systems on small-scale commercial fishermen and their communities. Conducted in collaboration with the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the student researchers will interview small-scale fishermen to identify their concerns with respect to fisheries quota management systems.

8:00 Grade ten exams and graduation rates. Partnered with BC Society for Public Education. The aim of the project is to examine the effect of BC’s new Grade 10 provincial examinations on secondary school enrollment and completion. Research will include reference to data provided by Statistics Canada on graduation rates; research undertaken in other jurisdictions about factors affecting graduation rates; Grade 10 exam results provided by BC’s Ministry of Education; information obtained through interviews with secondary school guidance counselors; and if feasible, interviews with secondary school drop-outs who are over the age of 19. The researchers will make a particular effort to determine whether provincial examinations, including the new Grade 10 provincial examinations, are having, or are likely to have, a disproportionate effect on the enrollment and graduation rates of aboriginal students or other at-risk group of students.

8:45 pm. Gobalization and teaching in public schools. Partnered with BC Teachers Federation.
Working in cooperation with the B.C.T.F. student researchers aim to explore the impact of globalization on elementary school teachers and classroom settings. The students will participating in and observing groups of teachers discussing the issue of globalization. Students will also conduct interviews with interested elementary level teachers