Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not Such A Winner After All...

I have debated with myself whether or not I should post my thoughts about this deal prior to the vote. I don't want in any way to disrespect the efforts required to secure it. Nor do I want to put added pressure on teachers who must now bear the weight of a decision that affects so many in this province who have been waiting so long for a conclusion to it all.

To be sure, I want this strike to end. I want my son back in school. I want teachers to start earning an income again. However, this deal is unworthy of everything teachers have been fighting for. I don't think the BCTF could have negotiated a better deal because the government has no intention of properly funding public education in this province. It's likely the best that could have been hammered out. But not a winner. Not to me. The salary increase is much less than the rate of inflation. (In the big picture, this point alone shows the Liberal Government will continue to widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this province. How can anyone keep up with the cost of living if their salary doesn't keep up with the rate of inflation?) Grievances awarded to teachers in court for Christy Clark's illegal and unconstitutional assault on education over the last twelve years would have likely been near the $3 billion mark. This deal offers teachers approximately $108 million for grievances instead and ensures they forfeit their right to pursue a larger settlement in court. So should teachers vote yes, it shows how much they continue to give up in order to get back to work and get students back in classrooms.

As a parent, one part of the agreement that particularly concerns me is the "right to reopen" clause. As I understand it, if the verdict in the appeal that takes place next month is upheld, it's likely that the government will then appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Should that court uphold the original ruling against the government/for the teachers, it means the teachers can at that point negotiate the pre-2002 language back into the contract. It's negotiating what was already won that concerns me. It feels somewhat like sending teachers back to square one in the Class Size and Composition battle because they would be negotiating getting language into a contract that should legally be in there anyway.  Moreover, they'd be negotiating with a government who is constantly negotiating in bad faith. I have a hard time believing this government will ever negotiate in good faith. Particularly given the provincially endorsed Cisco drafted Education Plan which specifically states the Liberal Government's plan to decategorize special needs in the interest of what they call "equalization" among students. This would obliterate the Class Size and Composition issue entirely. And it will continue to negatively impact students daily at school as a result.

Hopefully one day, the education system will be funded the way it needs to be. That day is not today, unfortunately. Not based on this deal. This doesn't feel like a win for education. Not based on the amount of money that will be allotted to each student in a national average comparison.  I continue to take my hat off to teachers in this struggle. And I continue to draw attention to the unconscionable conduct of the premier of this province.

Premier Clark made it clear in yesterday's press conference that she intends to pursue the appeal in the court case involving Class Size and Composition and ultimately against the "world class education system" she suddenly professes to champion in BC. She said she wants to heal the dysfunctional relationship between teachers and the government. She smiled when she said that pursuing the court case is a matter of disagreeing on some things while still working together to build a better relationship overall. But this isn't just a small thing. Class Size and Composition is a major factor in whether or not education suffers or thrives. To suggest CS&C is your main priority while you continue to fight against it in court is like claiming you want to rebuild your marriage after an infidelity while you continue to cheat on your spouse.

I want to be clear: I am in no way encouraging teachers to vote either way. I trust teachers to make that call for themselves. To me, there is no winner here.  And I think teachers, students and education in this province deserved a win.

Christy Clark, yesterday you delivered a great performance. What a shame you wouldn't deliver on public education.

Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ladies And Gentleman, Do We Have A Winner?

I genuinely hope this tentative deal is one that works best for teachers and students. Educators in this province really took a hit for us.

If you are a teacher and you're reading this, please know how much my family appreciates your sacrifice and your commitment to education.

Thank you teachers, for waking me up from my apathy. Over the last couple years, I've not been involved in my community the way I need to be as a citizen. You brought an important issue to the forefront of my awareness and showed us all what we can achieve when we stand together and work for the common good. Even though you weren't working for a pay cheque during this strike, you still managed to teach me an incredibly valuable lesson.

I hope this deal is worthy of you.

With tremendous gratitude and respect,

Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three Questions For Christy...

Parents rallied today at the Vancouver Art Gallery in answer to the Liberal Government's refusal to enter binding arbitration as a way to finally end the four months-long teachers' strike.  

Don't believe the CBC nonsense about it being violent and anti-union. It was fantastic.  The rally was pro-teachers, pro-education and pro-getting students back into classrooms. Approximately 2000 people joined together to speak up for our kids and the future of education in this province.

The organizer, Catherine, was kind enough to allow me a few moments on stage to ask three important questions of Christy Clark. Questions the media is just not asking. 
My being up there was totally unplanned and my comments were impromptu but I remember these questions clearly because I have been wanting answers to them. So have my friends. So have teachers. 

Here they are:
1) Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender, if you wanted a negotiated agreement and kids back in class as you say you do, why did you wait until the very end of summer to get back to the bargaining table with teachers?

2) You keep talking about affordability. Why is it okay for teachers in other provinces to make as much as $20 000 a year more and admittedly work less than teachers in British Columbia? Other public sector employees in this province have received 2%-3.2% salary increases (7.6% for your deputy ministers), yet B.C. teachers are fighting just to get 1.6%. That's not the affordability zone. That's the inequality zone.

3) Can you rule out that you are unilaterally setting the stage for a voucher system to privatize education in this province? (But really rule it out. Not HST rule it out.)

I also spoke about hovering around the poverty line for the first ten years of my childhood. But in the public school system, I was treated as an equal. And I was given the same opportunities as everyone else in spite of my socio economic background. I said that this current strike isn't just about education. It's also about worth. Our children are one of society's best resources and I challenged Christy Clark to start valuing them.

I may have said some other things but by then I realized I was standing in front of 2000 people with Grizelda hair and not a stitch of make-up on. What I won't do for my kids... Hope the pink pants made up for it. 

In the end, I think I said that our kids and our teachers deserved better. And I genuinely believe that.

Thanks again to everyone who organized and attended. What an incredible turn out.

Public education is a right. But being a part of this community is a privilege.

Yours truly,
Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Speaking at the rally in Vancouver.

2000 parents, students and teachers attend rally.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bad Gas

Oh the deep, dark rabbit hole that is this provincial Liberal Government...

How did I miss this announcement in April? It appears Christy Clark wants to reconfigure the education system to prepare a generation of students to become employees for the Liquified Natural Gas industry she is currently building.

I must admit, sometimes the state of the world overwhelms the shit out of me. In the last couple years, for the first time in my adult life, I've had to bury my head in the sand to keep from being swallowed up by it all.

I've missed an awful lot going on in my own backyard.

Many of you probably know about this new education plan. But it's news to me.
Directly from Education Minister Fassbender regarding the future of this province: "Poets are still welcome in British Columbia's plan to re-tool the education system from Kindergarten to post-secondary institutions, but more welders would be nice."

Give the articles below a read when you can. The new education plan is clearly related to the Cisco drafted education case study previously released. But last April's education announcement spells out Clark's Machiavellian agenda quite clearly. And it's ugly.

There are obvious concerns about investing in the LNG industry (another fossil fuel) that will release "millions of tonnes of harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the sky" (CP). But catching children early to entice them to want to work in this industry and then changing the entire education system to train them to do so is deeply unsettling to me.

I am in support of presenting a wide variety of employment options for school age children, trades included. But I don't want my seven year old to be a cog in the government's LNG assembly line training program. I don't want him to receive a corporate driven education which trains him to work in one industry. I want him to change his mind a million times a school year about what he wants to be when he grows up. Because he's seven. 

In this new plan, particularly if Christy Clark announces a voucher system to privatize education in this province, children in public school will be trained to fit the corporate worker bee bill while private school students will receive the education that prepares them for a wider variety of choices in life.  All kids in this province should be educated to access those options.  Not just the families who can afford to pay for it.

How did I miss this? If you have too, please read this and circulate. Widely.

Yours truly,
Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mark Your Calendar...

I just read a superbly written letter from Naomi Lazarus to Christy Clark.  Please see below.

It seems September 23rd is the rumored date for an introduction to private education in this province.  I've heard this date mentioned a few times in the last week. It could be why Christy Clark is unwilling to consider any option the BCTF presents. Why would she when she's so close to the big reveal?

This strike has been tough on many in this province.

A friend of mine on Facebook is asking that we stay focused on solutions. My first solution, always, in a democracy is to use my voice to speak up for those I feel have been treated unfairly. I've spoken up on behalf of my son, who has missed his first week of school. I have spoken up on behalf of other families and on behalf of teachers across this province. Many of us have spoken up. But the Premier is not listening.

Premier Clark and her government just rejected an offer from the BCTF to settle this nearly four month long strike via binding arbitration. Clark's Education Minister, Peter Fassbender, called it "another empty effort" by the union to give us all "false hope".

Now, I understand some people have mixed feelings about the teachers' union.  But from my point of view, the union and its teachers are the only parties in this dispute who are willing to negotiate. They're the only ones moving. Christy Clark has not offered any new money or any new solutions. She has not moved a single step in the direction of solving this problem. Not once. Because she doesn't want to. She wants to privatize the school system. It's seems incredibly clear that this is her agenda.  And it appears that September 23rd could be the date that agenda is made public.

As I've said previously, I am entirely opposed to a voucher system. It will undo many families, financially, as they struggle to provide the best education they can afford. And it will leave the poorest families among us, who couldn't even begin to consider shopping around for that education, to settle for substandard underfunded schooling for their children.

I am entirely in support of a thriving, properly funded public education for all. Because the kid who goes to school hungry deserves the same access to a great education as the kid who is well fed. Given that British Columbia has the highest child poverty rate in Canada, you can believe teachers in this province educate a lot of hungry kids. We need to put our focus back on feeding them - not on stripping away the last remaining nutrients in their schooling.

So I will continue to speak up. I will continue to celebrate those I know who can afford to send their children to private school and I will also continue to point out what many of us are saying repeatedly: Most families in this province cannot shoulder that financial burden. We need a well educated populace. All children in this province deserve access to a great education regardless of their socioeconomic status. And it affects us all if they don't get it.

So here's my solution: If the Liberals don't get back to the table; if they do indeed release plans for a voucher system instead, then it's time for a recall. Christy Clark's riding is Westside-Kelowna. According to the Recall and Initiative Act, 18 months must pass from voting day before a recall application can be made. Only a registered voter in her riding can begin this process.

The government is not working for us. They're not even listening. And we cannot be ignored for another three years. So we need to make some changes.

If you're a parent affected by this strike, mark down September 23rd on your calendar. And if you're a registered voter in Westside-Kelowna, get out your pen and flip ahead to November 17th, 2014.

Write down RECALL.

It's time for Christy Clark to go.

Yours Truly,
Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Letter to Christy Clark from Naomi Lazarus:
To Christy Clark,
This is another futile attempt at communication with your office. So far I've received form letters that say nothing of import, and a woman who answers your phone only to tell me to write more emails that result in form letters that say nothing of import.
There's a rumour going around that you plan on introducing a three tiered education plan on September 23rd, with more of an emphasis on private education.
I think this shows a profound disconnect with the lives of the vast majority of people in BC. The percentage of British Columbians who can afford private schools for their children is vanishingly small.
More relevantly, we, as taxpayers and voters rely on you, our government, to provide us with essential services.
One of the things I think politicians (particularly right wing politicians; and, no, the name of your party does not fool me) forget, when prioritizing the budget in terms of education, is that absolutely every aspect of our society, our economy and our way of life is built upon the education of children. There is no service more essential.
Making education lower quality, and harder to access (which is what privatization would inexorably do) threatens our economy, our democracy and the quality of life of every person who lives in this province.
You ran on the platform of "Families First". You have cut funding to every single public service that the families of BC rely on, from healthcare to legal aid, family courts, domestic violence support, special needs assessment and support, autism support, support for single mothers and aboriginal parents, and, of course, education.
My family pays around $2000 a year less in income tax, thanks to you. Do you imagine that $2000 can possibly cover the range of services you have cut? I assure you, it cannot. And my family doesn't need legal services, domestic violence relief or special education for my child. We're low-maintenance, healthy, stable, middle class people. For those families dealing with autism, violence, poverty and children's special needs, your poor decisions with our budget have cost them painfully. Take back my $2000 and use it to pay for the services every family needs.
You have twice been found guilty of trampling the rights of the teachers. You are, without really any subtlety, trying to break their union. You made a big mistake, and, instead of fixing it, you have doubled down and made it worse. You have put Families Last.
If this rumour is true, if you are planning to take even more money out of public education, if you are trying to privatize education, if you are declaring war on the poor and middle class families of this province, I promise there will be a recall in November.
You lied to the people of this province and you have betrayed our trust. You do not deserve your lofty position and will be removed from it.
Do your job. Raise high income and corporate taxes, give the teachers the pathetically small amount they are asking for, and serve your province. Or we, the voters, will replace you with someone who will.
Naomi Lazarus
ps Please do not bother responding to this letter unless you actually have something to say.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Benefit Of Fact Over Fiction

Here's a little perspective on the benefits issue in the teachers strike:

Christy Clark keeps saying the teachers are asking for $125 million in benefits. I think it's important to be accurate here. The teachers have asked for an increase in medical and dental benefits which, in order to cover all 40,000 members, works out to about $11 million.

$11 million is not $125 million.

And as an FYI, teachers last received an increase in medical and dental coverage in 1993. So that's 21 years since their last increase in extended coverage. Do you think medical and dental costs have gone up since then? I think the teachers are due.

The remaining $114 million of the $125 million in the proposed benefits package we keep hearing about would cover Cupe workers for special needs children, prep time for teachers, teacher librarians and resource teachers for special education and ESL students. So the remaining $114 million doesn't cover things like 'unlimited massage' as Christy Clark likes to call it in the press.
To me the $114 million actually benefits the students in our classrooms who deserve a good education in the public school system.
(FYI, prep days are not 'days off' either. The last time the teachers received a prep time increase was in 1994. Again, I think they're due.)

Unfortunately, Christy Clark will lie in the press and spin facts until they're fiction as she dismantles the public school system in this province (which is what she's been doing since 2002) for one reason: She is setting the stage for a voucher system for private schooling in this province.

I have friends and colleagues who have their children in private school. And I genuinely celebrate their financial ability to school their children in this way. But MOST people in this province cannot shoulder these costs. As a forward thinking society, we all benefit when all children (and future leaders) in this province get access to the best education we, as a people, can provide them. Let's not allow Christy Clark to turn this into a class system, further widening the gap between the wealthy and those doing their best to provide for their families who may not have the income to pay for a great education.

The provincial government is legally bound to provide that great education. The Liberals have operated ILLEGALLY in providing for education for 12 years. This was the verdict of two courts. But Christy Clark doesn't care what the courts say. She will keep going until she destroys public education in this province once and for all. Don't let her. Keep calling your MLAs. Write letters to the editor.

And, if you can, come down to a huge rally in support of our public teachers this Friday, September 5th at 5pm at Canada Place.

Don't let Christy Clark and the Liberals get away with this. Let's make our voices heard. If we speak consistently in tandem with the legal system, she will have no choice but to listen.

Yours Truly,

Enid-Raye Adams
AKA, The Happiness Detective

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The School Strike, Christy Clark And The Power Of A Good Joke

Should you get frustrated during this strike (and you will) give this a read and remember what the Liberal agenda has been all along. They wanted this strike. They want to change the legislation and they don't care how it affects B.C. families.

Remember when Christy Clark ran with the mandate, "Families First"?  Well, from my family's perspective, that was a lie.

My seven year-old son thrives in the public school system. He loves it. In the two years or so leading up to kindergarten, we were concerned he might have been on the spectrum. He wasn't making eye contact with us. He couldn't maintain focus. It seemed he wasn't listening to us and couldn't repeat back to us what we had just said. (He had a hearing test which he passed.) He couldn't hold a pencil correctly. We were worried.

But then he started kindergarten and my boy blossomed. He had two teachers through the year due to mat leave. They both noticed the things that concerned us and not only helped him to overcome those challenges in school but also gave us ideas to use at home to help him as well.

When my boy started school, he couldn't hold a pencil. Now our dining room wall is filled with his glorious artwork. When my boy started school, he couldn't make eye contact, either frequently or for long periods of time. He couldn't remember what you had just said. By the end of the year, as a five year-old, he was doing stand up comedy for an audience of 80 people at a benefit where he began with a physical comedy bit and ended with a joke he crafted ON THE SPOT which killed and had people laughing harder than anytime I ever did stand up myself.

In that moment, my worries about my son faded and they were replaced with a quietly humble yet ferocious, extraordinary pride.

His grade one teacher fostered in him his love for math and science and reading. Before my son went to school, we worried about his development. Now, I'll walk by his room to find him snuggled in to bed reading stories to his younger brother.
This is what my son has learned in only two years. If the public education system is properly funded imagine what my boy could become?

I love you Zachary Wyatt. I love you Maxwell George (starting Kindergarten next year). Your education is important to me and to your Dad. We believe in you and we will do everything we can to ensure the system that is in place is supported for your highest good.
What you will give back to your community and this province as a result, I have no doubt, will continue to blow our minds.

To his teachers: Thank you for everything you have done to help my son realize his talents, skills and interests. What you have given us is invaluable. Unlike our premier, you have actually put our family (and countless other families) first. You do so now at the risk of financial peril to your own families.
And for this, you have my continued support in this provoked strike.

Christy Clark, you are misrepresenting the people of British Columbia. Should you and the Liberal government continue to disrespect and economically devastate the families of this province by digging your heels in in your grotesque battle against public education in this province, I will be calling for your resignation.

The mark of a great leader is to admit when they have made a mistake. The mark of a mediocre, self-interested politician is to rail against the people he or she represents, at all costs, while claiming it is in the best interests of those against whom he or she rails.

I know there is greatness in my sons. They are worthy of a world class investment in public education. And they need you to evolve on the subject. You can be proud that your investment in them is one that will reap many returns.

It's true, you can't afford to pay the teachers what they're worth. But you can pay them what they're asking. You can honor class size and composition. You can be a part of helping to move this great collective human story of ours forward. Or you can attempt to set it back.

Choose well Premier Clark.  The future of the children in this province depends on it.

Enid-Raye Adams

AKA, The Happiness Detective