Wednesday April 16, 2014

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Time to get a deal done

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Wouldn’t it be nice to just see students in the classroom learning and teachers teaching?

It seems like forever that the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) have been in conflict.

Two weeks ago, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in the BCTF’s favour that legislation passed in 2012 was almost identical to a bill ruled unconstitutional in 2002 because it violated teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition.

The court ruled that the provincial government owed the BCTF $2 million. This might have brought an end to this contentious court challenge, but nope, last week Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced the government’s intention to appeal the decision, which means more court costs, more litigation, more costs to the taxpayers and more animosity between government and teachers.

Both sides think they are right in this dispute, but our children are caught in the middle, which isn’t right at all.

To make matters worse, Fassbender sent out an email to all teachers last Friday to try to explain the situation. (Note to Fassbender: less social media, more at-the-table discussion.)

Teachers were less than impressed and immediately took to social media to vent their frustrations. And we’re not surprised by that reaction. The BCTF is also not happy that the Minister is reaching out directly to teachers with its president Jim Iker calling for an apology from the premier.

Iker says the provincial government is simply in denial about the decision and that teachers, students and parents deserve better.

We agree with Iker that everyone involved does deserve better. For too long students and parents have been caught up in this dispute, through no fault of their own. 

The BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) is also worried and sharing the concerns of school districts and trustees across the province.

On Wednesday, the BCSTA hosted a series of regional conference calls where school board chairs and senior staff could discuss their concerns and share information to try to gauge what the impacts could be to school districts. At the top of their concerns: the school board’s inability to fund any costs related to the court ruling and now subsequent appeal by the provincial government.

To say that this situation is messy is an understatement.

The teachers’ contract expired on June 30, 2013. It’s time to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith, find some common ground on the issues and the resources needed to ensure that our children are receiving the best education possible.

Let’s get away from the court challenges and the infighting, the protests and the threat of job action. It’s time to concentrate on what really matters — education and teaching.

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