Well said! Parent writes critique of BC Government’s Education file

Posted on Facebook… Open letter from a BC parent:

Kristina Barnett Lee
Yesterday at 12:06am
The Honorable Peter Fassbender, Min Ed
The Honorable Christy Clark, Premier
Mr Douglas Horne, MLA Coquitlam-Burke Mountain

Dear Sirs and Madam,

I write today to convey my extreme disgust with the manner in which the education system is being treated by your government. The conduct you have displayed with regards to the future of our children’s education is reprehensible. You claim to put “Families First” and to hold the needs of the children above all else, and yet there are children in our system who have challenges and special needs who are being lost because you won’t fund the help that they so desperately need. Your condescension toward teachers is easily traceable back to 2002 when, as Education Minister, Premier Clark removed the teacher’s right to bargain about learning and working conditions by enacting Bills 27 and 28 – action which has since been deemed by the Supreme Court of BC to have been a violation of Charter rights. Undaunted by the illegality of your position, your government enacted Bill 22, once again removing class composition, amongst other things, as an issue about which teachers have any say. Your government is clearly hoping that we are stupid enough to have forgotten that only 3 months ago Madam Justice Susan Griffin ruled that Bill 22 was also unconstitutional, found you guilty of bargaining in bad faith, and accused you of attempting to provoke a strike for political gain. Clearly the children are merely pawns in your political game of chess, and I am nauseated by the cynicism and Machiavellian ideals permeating your caucus.

When a government requires a School District to submit a balanced budget, but makes no budgetary allowance for increases in fuel costs, electricity costs, or tax increases, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government announces new schools, but does not actually provide capital funding or build them, resulting in the school district having to use millions of dollars from their operating budget to purchase, maintain, and service portable classrooms, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government knows that enrolment is declining, funds schools on a “per student” basis, and it costs virtually the same amount in fuel, electricity, and staffing to have 480 kids in a school vs 500 kids in a school, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government abruptly changes policy for funding of school seismic upgrading and announces that School Districts will have to pay for up to half the costs of putting our children in safe structures, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.

Your government would have us believe that teachers are demanding too high of a wage increase, and yet in the past dozen years teachers saw a 7.5% increase from their 2002 contract, a 0% increase from their 2005 contract, and a 16% increase from their 2006 contract. In those same dozen years, the benchmark price of real estate has increased 100-200% (depending on the region), BCHydro rates have increased by 40% (from an average of $70/mo to an average of $98/mo, after correction for inflation), gasoline prices have increased by 80-100% (from fluctuating around $0.70-0.80/L to fluctuating around $1.35-1.50/L), and the cost of feeding a family of 4 in BC has gone up 38.7% (from $626 to $868 per month). Clearly the increases in a teacher’s pay are not keeping up with the increases in the cost of living.

The BCPSEA and BCTF have failed to reach an agreement (which is hardly a surprise considering that Carole Taylor’s 2006 deal has been the only freely negotiated contract that the two sides have reached in the 27 years since Mr VanderZalm’s SoCreds gave teachers the right to strike) and so the teachers have escalated their action to a rotating strike. The lockout notice that the government has countered with is shocking and its logical underpinnings are convoluted, to say the least. While maintaining that children should not be put in the middle, the government has done exactly that by ensuring that teachers can not provide before- or after-school preparation or assistance to children. This does nothing BUT penalize the children, and once again lays bare the viciousness of this government’s intention to provoke action by the teachers for it’s own political gain – leaving our children as collateral damage along the way.

Your government claims that LNG industry development will “build a prosperous economic future for British Columbia”. I disagree. What will build a prosperous economic future for British Columbia is adequate funding for the education of our future generation. Provide us with education for all children, instead of having so many kids in a class that the teacher can’t properly assess and supervise everyone. Provide specialist teachers and education assistants for kids with special needs, so that they can learn and progress with their peers, rather than disengaging and becoming lost. Provide School Districts with budget increases to cover utility rate increases, so that our children won’t suffer because the District has to pay BC Hydro and Fortis an extra $625,000. Currently, between not negotiating in good faith, and not providing the School Districts with an adequate annual budget, you are failing us; you are failing our children.

A few weeks ago when the Coquitlam Board of Education was having its last few public meetings before finalizing what cuts to make, my children became aware that their library was in jeopardy. My seven-year-old summed it up with “Mum, you said that you pay taxes so that the government gives us hospitals and schools to help us learn, but how can we learn without books and a LIBRARY? The government doesn’t care about us; the government is an asshole” And while I chastised him for using an inappropriate word, I cannot disagree with his opinion or fail to marvel at how astutely a child can assess a complicated situation and distill it down to its core.

Kristina Lee, Coquitlam
Post Script:
I am not a teacher. I am not married to a teacher. My parents were not teachers. I have no direct financial interest in this dispute other than being a very, very annoyed parent.

Vancouver Sun
The Province
British Columbia’s Liquified Natural Gas Strategy One year update , gov.ca.ca
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4 Responses to Well said! Parent writes critique of BC Government’s Education file

  1. sass says:

    i was a BC Teacher for 32 years, and working conditions only got worse. because i was so dedicated, and my children had grown, i had the time to volunteer after hours to do the job right. i can say with certainty, that off-clock work had tripled by the end of my career.

    i was also reminded by your FAMILIES FIRST paragraph about a recent chapter in my life: getting care for my father-in-law in his 90s. while this is the other end of the spectrum, i would have to say that in the process of family dealing with an aging parent who needed skills beyond family capacity, the resources simple were not there. it was a game of chicken: leave this old man and see if he dies by the time his caregiver or family care-giver comes for the next shift. all levels of government were unresponsive to letters about this issue. we were placed on a list, and about a month after this person died, we finally got a spot.

    it takes a village to raise children and care for elders. that’s the way it’s supposed to be. i am at a loss about how to sensitize some of these decision makers. a couple of them were previously students on my register while they passed thru high school. obviously, i did not sensitize these students sufficiently.

    thank you for such a well crafted letter. wish there were more citizens like yourself.

  2. Sharleen Montemurro says:

    Is be curious to know if the BC government has considered the future costs of the decisions they are making today. Does it cost more to invest in the children now or to put out the funds needed in the future when they don’t have the skills needed to be successful or end up in the correctional system? I believe in setting our children up for success. It’s time to start being proactive and invest in our future!

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  4. Judith says:

    I agree completely and add that this is not new by any means as my son being one of those requiring the help for special needs back in the 90’s would not have made it through grade school if it hadn’t been for the advocacy of some of his teachers. High school on the other hand was a whole other ball game and they failed him miserably!

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