Side with the people, choose our teachers

BwNy_EKCIAErTEIBy Crystal Warner (Metro Vancouver coordinator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada) and Olivier Belisle (Parent and supporter of the B.C. teachers)

Crime, unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, preventable diseases, teen pregnancy, and a slew of other problems could be greatly reduced by making a long-term investment in public education. What better way to inoculate our nation against the ills listed above than by investing in its future—the kids who will one day form the backbone of its economy and government?

Make no mistake: the initial investment will require careful planning and foresight. The return on our investment will not be immediate, so we the people will need to exercise patience and, more importantly, faith. Faith in the plan and those who we task with seeing it though: the policy-makers that we have elected to office.

Sadly, we have lowered the bar when it comes to our expectations of elected officials in British Columbia. Public services keep getting hit, and we are all affected by the cuts. Whenever a group of people—be they veterans, postal workers, unions, researchers, or teachers—come into conflict with the government, we must not hesitate and side with the people.

This line of thinking may sound less rash after considering some facts.

Remember when the B.C. Liberals, poised to take power back in 2001, promised public sector workers that they would not roll back contracts signed by the outgoing NDP government? And remember how only a year after making that promise, they did?

Are you aware that the Supreme Court of B.C. has twice declared the dissolution of the teachers’ contract at the hands of the Liberals illegal? And that our Liberal government is using your tax dollars to continue appealing these decisions in higher courts?

The public is being asked to choose between a government that treats our public servants, our children’s teachers, with no respect—or with union members who put the needs of those they serve first.

B.C. teachers fought hard and willingly traded wage increases in exchange for a say in the size and composition of their classrooms. The government agreed to the terms and then when the Liberals took power in 2002, they illegally tore up the agreement.

To reiterate: teachers were willing to forgo a raise in order to improve classroom conditions. They literally put the kids first.

B.C.’s teachers are trying to get back what was unjustly taken from them over a decade ago. But some people are not really talking about that. Some people seem to be fixated on the money. So we should discuss the money.

Teachers should be making good money. No one seems overly concerned that MPs make over $120,000 a year, but when we hear of teachers making $80,000 a year after 10 years on the job, we start getting uncomfortable.

Why are we uncomfortable with the people who are tasked with molding the minds of tomorrow being paid well? Never mind how many of them buy their own school supplies, or put in countless hours helping kids with special needs. Even so, B.C. teacher’s rank fourth among the provinces with regard to salary. Add to this B.C.’s cost of living and housing market and you start to see how they really compare to their counterparts across Canada.

In the end, it comes down to this: our teachers are telling us that they do not have the resources necessary to do a good job. Their classrooms are too full, they have too many special needs students, and they lack the resources to cope.

And since their job is to educate the next generation of Canadians—the very people who are going to drive the economy and potentially govern the rest of us in the near future—I say we listen to them and tell the government to make good on the promises it broke (illegally, I might add again, in case you forgot) over 10 years ago.

Our government squanders tax dollars without our permission. Maybe if we hold them accountable for their actions we can free up some cash for the kids. Until then, I’ll continue to side with the teachers.

This piece was first published on the Straight.com

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2 thoughts on “Side with the people, choose our teachers

  1. Thank you for this article just one correction teachers do not automatically make $80 000 after 10 years. They need a masters degree to earn that much.

  2. Great and thoughtful article! However, BC teachers are ranked nowhere near 4th in salary. The best that they do is 9th out of 13, and that is at maximum salary without a Masters degree. In other categories (minimum salary and maximum with a Masters), BC is ranked 12th.

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