At the end of June I wrote a piece thanking the many thousands of British Columbia teachers. I congratulated them for working hard with our children over the school year providing them an education ranked among the best in Canada and envied around the world.
I am grateful for teachers who go the extra 1.6 kilometres. I am thankful that they help me identify areas that my child needs help and highlight areas where he excels. I recognize that they do their very best to provide an environment for all our children to succeed.
As the summer months passed since that post, neither the government nor the BC Teachers Federation were at the table bargaining a new agreement. As the middle of August rolled around British Columbians began worrying about the fate of the looming school year. The government promised $40 a day if the strike went on, but families weren’t looking for cash we were looking for certainty.
When respected mediator Vince Ready entered the scene it appeared things would be worked out at the eleventh hour and B.C. kids would be back in their desks in September. After exploratory talks, even Ready walked away frustrated.
It is clear that both sides are firmly entrenched, hardened by twelve years (and more) of labour strife, and neither will budge an inch.
Premier Christy Clark has assured us that Minister of Education Peter Fassbender has her full confidence. What really matters is if Mr. Fassbender has the confidence of the people of British Columbia and I am sure there are polls rolling through our neighbourhoods right now to see what you and I think.
In the end this is about government choices and priorities. Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver and I have consistently said that we believe public education is the foundation that our society is built on. Our support for public education and our ideas about how to fund the system will reflect that.
On Sunday Andrew called for binding arbitration. I fully support his call. Allowing the current stand-off to continue is irresponsible because it is draining our teachers of their savings, stressing families and hurting students.
An arbitrator will have to address an impending decision from the Appeals Court over Justice Griffin’s initial ruling on returning class size and composition language to the collective agreement.
Getting an arbitrator into this process sooner than later is imperative, as the longer the strike continues the more difficult it will be to get to a resolution.
Teachers should know that parents and students understand that it is our shared responsibility to defend a high quality, well-funded public education system. It is the responsibility of our government to deliver it and our collective duty to ensure they make it a priority.
Andrew Weaver on Public Education
VIDEO - Sept. 2, 2014 - Speech at the Legislature - “Christy’s Classroom”