Look beyond numbers in education dispute

B.C.'s head school trustee makes her point about education dispute

With school’s start here, the bargaining impasse between the provincial government and the BC Teachers’ Federation hinges on numbers – numbers about wages, benefits and class size. But behind those numbers are over half a million students who are waiting anxiously to start their school year on time. Whether it is their very first day in kindergarten or the beginning of their last year as a high school student, they are the reason any of those other numbers matter. School trustees across BC want our schools open and ready for students on Sept. 2.

We have called on the government to immediately put strike savings back into schools to help address concerns regarding class size and composition. We have told the Ministers of Education and Finance that the money for the proposed $40-a-day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools. We continue our advocacy for improved education funding, and our trustee representatives at the bargaining table are calling for maintaining flexibility on class size and composition to improve the learning settings for students.

The two parties were approximately a percentage point apart on salary and one year apart on the proposed term of the contract – items that could be resolved through mediation. However, the proposed increases to benefits, the workload fund and the $5000 signing bonus request makes the full package well outside the affordability range. BC’s public education system ranks among the very best in the world, due in large part to our talented and dedicated teachers. Trustees believe that teachers deserve a fair wage increase, but the BCTF’s overall compensation proposal needs to be aligned with other BC public sector agreements.

The issues are complex. This is not just about money. Ultimately, we need an agreement that meets the needs of students and provides long-term stability for public education. A deal can be reached.

Teresa Rezansoff, BC School Trustees Association president

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