“Court orders B.C. to restore class sizes and pay $2 million in damages to teachers” proclaims the Vancouver Sun’s headline.
It’s a good day.
After more than a decade and two prolonged battles in court, the BCTF (the BC teachers’ union) has won their fight against a contract that was imposed by the Liberal government in 2002. This contract stripped teachers of many contractual benefits that they had negotiated for in previous years.
And by negotiation I mean compromise. You know, give and take. The teachers accepted many years of wage freezes in exchange for improvements in working and learning conditions, namely manageable class sizes and support for students who needed it.
But in 2002 class size caps were removed, as were limits to how many special needs students could be in each class. This then led to fewer special ed. teachers, larger class sizes with more students who needed help, but without support to give and trickle, trickle down…
I’m not going to get into the whole history here because that would be a massive post (and I’m half-watching the Canucks – I’d like to whole-watch them soon), but I’m going to say that I’m happy today. And you should be too.
Of course, not everyone is. There are plenty of comments to be found about how this is a bad thing. Comments that tax payers are the real losers here, or that there’s nothing wrong with the school system as it stands, or that back in the day classes had 45 students and teachers today are being whiney, or that teachers should (again) be giving up salary as a result of this decision.
I could easily write a full post on each of these comments, refuting the bias and explaining the facts, but these things really don’t matter.
What matters is that the government of BC broke the law. The Liberals broke the law. And, for the second time, the courts have told them that they can’t do that.
This is huge for British Columbians, and for Canadians on the whole. It says that the government is not above the law, that they are expected to abide by the same laws they create, that we live in a democracy and not an autocracy.
And this is important. It’s massively important for restoring and maintaining faith in the rule of law (meaning that laws constrain the actions of all members of society) and keeping politicians accountable.
I don’t know what this decision will mean for me as a teacher, but I know what it means for me as a British Columbian; that I might be waiting a few more years before trying to talk the hubs into setting up an anarchist colony on a private island.
Good work, democracy. You get a sticker.