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.
AKA, The Happiness Detective