Today almost 700 delegates to the BCTF’s 96th Annual General Meeting will gather for the first full day of debate on how best to respond to Bill 22 and its attacks on teachers’ rights and students’ learning. At the same time, Education Minister George Abbott is in China “to promote the BC education brand” at an international student recruitment fair.
“It’s a stunning contradiction,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “George Abbott is off in Shanghai praising our public education system with the goal of luring more fee-paying foreign students to study here. Meanwhile, he’s actively undermining the quality of education with the legislation he brought in last Thursday. On top of that, he’s spending millions of tax dollars on a major ad campaign attacking the very teachers who are the heart and soul of public education.”
Lambert emphasized that while Bill 22 has devastating implications for teachers’ bargaining rights, that’s not the worst of it. Bill 22 is also enables government to further cut costs by eliminating effective class- size limits for Grades 4 to 12, protections for class composition and guarantees of services to students with special needs.
“Ten years ago this government planned to cut $275 million a year from education funding to pay for their 25% tax cut. In current dollars, that’s over $3.3 billion stolen from our public schools in the last decade,” Lambert said.
A new BCTF research report released today reveals that deeper cuts are to come next year. In this year’s budget the paltry $4 million increase (for full-day Kindergarten) to the 2012–13 operating grants is set against the $112 million needed for school districts just to keep pace with inflation. For details see: http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Publications/Research_reports/2012-EF-01.pdf
Furthermore, in recent days an increasing number of school boards have written to Abbott expressing serious concerns about Bill 22 and the damage it will cause to the working relationships within school communities. The imposition of severe limitations on the mediation process is seen as a major obstacle. As one example, see this letter from the Sunshine Coast Board of Education: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=238604796235375
Bill 22 is the 20th piece of BC Liberal legislation since 2001 that targets teachers. “What kind of government so persistently attacks the public school teachers who are dedicated to passing on knowledge and skills to the next generation? Clearly, we have no option but to resist this unjust legislation in every way possible,” Lambert said.