With the announcement that Vince Ready, the mediator, declared an impasse in today’s talks between the BCTF and BCSPEA, emotions are high – on both sides.
But here’s the thing. I really only understand one side: the side of public education.
On this side, we want smaller class sizes.
Does that mean that those who support the government think that having 30+ kids in a classroom built for 28 is a good thing? By supporting the government, are they saying that having 30 seats in a class of 32 students is no big deal – that it’s okay when students have to share desks or hope that a peer is absent so they can have their own space?
And no. I’m not exaggerating.
On public education’s side, we want manageable class composition.
By supporting the government, are people saying that the make-up of people in a room doesn’t matter? That there’s no impact on typical students if a quarter of the class has special needs, and another quarter is still learning English? That there’s no impact on the quality of teaching and learning that can happen in these environments?
Or, worse, are people just remembering their own school days and assuming that classes are the same? Because they aren’t. If you graduated prior to the early-2000s, you had very different classes; schools weren’t fully integrated yet. Special needs students still attended separate classes in most areas.
They don’t anymore.
On this side, we want specialist teachers.
If people don’t support this, does it mean that people don’t think that ELL (ESL) teachers are necessary? That it’s okay when ELL students are placed into mainstream classes that they aren’t ready for, just because there are no ELL blocks available for them?
Do those who support the government think that schools don’t need counselors? Do they think that kids don’t deal with some pretty heavy emotional things, or just that they don’t need help with them? Are they really okay with counselors being shared between elementary schools, and with high school counselors having upward of 400 students on their caseload?
Supporters of public education want below cost of living salary increases for teachers.
Does this mean that people who support the government approve of increasing workload while decreasing salary? That the people to whom hundreds of thousands of children are entrusted each day don’t deserve to keep their buying power? Does it mean that folks have so little value for the more than full-time hours that teachers put into their work that they think a four-year wage freeze and a less than cost of living increase for the next five years is honestly “greedy”?
On this side, we want a government that respects the rule of law.
Do people think that two Supreme Court rulings don’t matter? Do they not care that their tax dollars are being spent to fight against the rights of kids to have a reasonable learning environment, and for teachers to have a manageable workload? Yes, there’s an appeal process, and that’s perfectly legal, but do people actually support having an undisclosed amount of public funds spent to fight against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and against the rights of children in BC?
So, you can see why I’m puzzled. I can’t fathom how people in an industrialized province like BC are okay with kids having to share desks. I can’t wrap my head around why people think that it’s okay to send kids to school, but not give them the help they need to learn. I can’t understand why people think that kids who need counseling shouldn’t have access to it. And I definitely can’t understand how teachers are greedy by wanting to keep up with the cost of inflation that’s set (in large part) by their employer.
If the argument is that there’s no money for these things, I don’t understand that either. Funding is a matter of priorities.
And education matters.