Teacher’s point of view on education dispute

As a teacher, I can't believe how much of my time is spent fighting the government in support of education.

I love school and I work hard, usually between 50 and 60 hours a week.

I am enamored of the process of learning and educating. I have an amazing profession and I get to begin every day by walking into my classroom at 7 a.m. thinking, “What can I do today to make a difference?”

This may sound a tad ideological to some, but my job is really about others and giving all that I can.

This is my eighth year as a teacher, so I’ve officially beaten the seven years that the average new teacher lasts and I’m still excited about the next twenty.

What I am NOT excited about, however, is the constant struggle.

As a teacher, I can’t believe how much of my time is spent fighting the government in support of education.

I’d always thought that making our public education system the best in the world was the government’s job. It seems so ridiculous and counter-productive as the students of B.C. are our most precious resource and the government continues to cut funding in this area.

I have spoken to many teachers, not just in this valley, but also from around the province.

A common message is that teachers will accept net zero; for most of us, this job action is not about our salaries.

A three per cent cost of living raise would really help in our economy and I’m looking forward to a more competitive wage, but please DON’T strip any more language from our collective agreement.

A “collective agreement” is exactly what it sounds like, a binding document created and agreed upon by both B.C. teachers and the government. And this is not the first time that language has been legislated out of this document.

In 2002, class size and composition language (limits to the number students requiring additional resources who can be placed in a single classroom) was stripped and the results of the past decade were horrific: there are now 3,500 fewer teachers across the province, 100,000 overcrowded classes have been taught, 200 schools have been closed, and special needs students have been neglected.

This amounts to $2 billion in cuts to education over the past years. This is what our job action is really about.

A year ago, I was sure that it was coming to an end.

After fighting the stripping of our collective agreement in the courts for nine years, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, last April, that it was unconstitutional and gave the BC Liberal government one year to fix it.

That deadline is fast approaching and their only proposal to date is, “not consistent with what was removed from the system,” said Norm Macdonald in an interview with me last week.

In fact, they continue to under-fund education and use the media to make teachers look like greedy villains.

Here is a link to some data compiled by the BCTF about the money that has gone into education in B.C.: bctf.ca/IssuesInEducation.aspx?id=10718

Here is what you can do. Support your local teachers and keep in touch with us about how your children are doing in school.

Ask us questions about the issues in education, the negotiation process, how education cuts have affected us in our own classrooms — anything you’re curious about.

Robyn Oliver

Invermere