Marlene Rodgers: Christy Clark should heed BCTF’s very reasonable demands

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      Marlene Rodgers, cofounder of Protect Public Education Now, has issued this open letter to Premier Christy Clark:

      August 21, 2014

      An Open Letter to the Premier of British Columbia

      Dear Premier Clark,

      I am a BC parent who is deeply concerned about public education in our province. As such, I have joined with other parents to found a group called Protect Public Education Now.

      I am heartened that your government and the BCTF are in discussion, and that Mr. Fassbender has said your priority is a negotiated agreement, rather than back-to-work legislation. Many parents have lost faith in your government's understanding of the value of public education. Making a deal with the BCTF that is fair and in the interests of BC students will be a step in the direction of restoring confidence.

      There are many who wrongly believe that this dispute is primarily about what teachers are paid. Of course, you know otherwise -- salaries are not at the crux of the matter. The two parties are less than 1% apart on wages. What teachers are fighting for is a fund of $225 million to correct the problems caused by the illegal removal of class size and composition limits from their contract. While the courts have ruled against the government in this matter two times already, you are persisting in appealing their decision. Therefore, the teachers have asked for adequate resources to provide specialist teachers and aides, to address the currently problematic learning conditions.

      Today, over 12,000 classrooms have four or more children with special needs documented by an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Prior to 2002, there was a limit of three children with IEPs per class, and class sizes could also be adjusted downward by the administration to offset the time required by teachers to address the needs of these students. Today, teachers have reported classes in which up to 50% of the students in a given class have special needs; in such situations, educators are hard pressed to meet the needs of students with IEPs as well as the rest of their students. And these numbers don't even account for the thousands of children with special needs who have not been formally assessed, because of cuts to the number of educational psychologists working in the BC system.

      In BC, we have the second worst per student funding in Canada, and the worst ratio of educators to students. This is appalling. We have an excellent public education system, but for many years now, that quality has been maintained through the strenuous efforts of teachers, administrators and parents to compensate for chronically underfunded conditions. If BC is be a compassionate and democratic province, we need a robust public education system that meets the needs of children at all socio-economic levels, and gives them a shot at a prosperous and healthy future.

      Please heed the very reasonable demands of the BCTF. You cannot argue that their requests are outside of an "affordability zone" when the province is running a fiscal surplus, and your finance minister projects fiscal surpluses for the next three years. You have offered to pay parents $40 per student, per day for childcare, should school not resume in September. At 30 children per class, this means $1,200 per classroom, per day, that you are willing to pay to have our kids stay home instead of attending school! Instead of putting taxpayers' money towards this costly and cynical band-aid proposal, please agree now to give the teachers the resources they need to address the learning challenges of our kids.

      Let the teachers and the kids get back to class, and the parents and kids start planning now for a prompt start to the school year on September 2nd - please!

      Respectfully submitted,

      Marlene Rodgers
      Parent and Co-founder of Protect Public Education Now

      cc. All BC MLAs
      BC Media
      BC Conference of Parent Advisory Councils
      British Columbia Teachers' Federation
      Patti Bacchus, Vancouver School Board Chair



      Ex Teacher

      Aug 21, 2014 at 11:20am

      As an ex teacher I have been talking to many of my former employees. I left the teaching profession two years ago and opening a private office. Although my friend don't want me to say this its not 1% different in wages. Its 1 less year, $5000 signing bonus, and getting rid of Stage 1 and 2 on the pay scale. This affect around 3000-4000 teacher that are paid in the first two stages. They will instantly get a raise from 5% to 11% beyond the new raise that will come into affect once the strike is settle. This is not a small difference just getting rid of the first two stages on the pay scale and the $5000 signing bonus adds an additional $300-400 million dollars to the new pay. I believe in being honest and the government have played dirty pool but the BCTF have shown a lack of understanding and intelligence in this process. Most of my teacher friend are worried that not only they wont get a pay check that the money the lost will not be made up with the new raise, therefore the strike was pointless. It not about the kids because if it was they would have striked in September rather than put the most hurt on the kids. Many years ago I worked with Jim Iker, he was never considered a good teacher back then and now he is even worse.


      Aug 21, 2014 at 12:09pm

      For heavens sake, if BCTF doesn't want to make the issue about wages, don't put it as the no 2 item on the list. No 1 being the term of the agreement.

      As far as I'm concerned, just looking at the agreement, the first real issue is wages!

      Class size and composition comes in at no 12. Yeah, real high on their list of demands.

      don l

      Aug 21, 2014 at 1:13pm

      A few things to consider. BC teachers are currently close to the bottom in pay in the country. Add to that the fact that those working in Vancouver are living in what it's often considered one of the most unaffordable cities globally and you have Vancouver trackers enjoying the lowest standard of living off any teachers in the country.

      Secondly the BC govt might just get what they pay for. Currently at least 30% of some teachers work day goes into volunteer activities. The system is built on free labor from the generosity of teachers. How willing will these people be to give free work after they have been beaten down by the employer. Day goodbye to a lot of coaching field trips drama activities etc.


      Aug 21, 2014 at 1:22pm

      Great letter. As a parent (and a teacher - at university) I am appalled by the disdain with which the Liberal government treats our public school system. It really does appear to represent an intentional dismantling of our society's most important institution.


      Aug 21, 2014 at 1:39pm

      If we want to be like the US, a country whose education system is shoddy at best, then we will have school shootings, street violence, increased suicide rates, bullying, the list goes on. Shameful what this government is going to the public education system.

      The truth hurts

      Aug 21, 2014 at 1:47pm

      I am told that the government isn't even negotiating this week, the most crucial one if they really want children to be back at school on the 2nd of September.
      Where are the parents screaming about that little item?

      Doesn't the government realize that a ton of parents don't have the cash to pay for childcare come Sept. as well? As we all know, there will be a lot of people "gouging" parents for a whole pile more cash than $40 a day. Suppose a parent is lucky enough to find daycare for $80 a day and that is cheap for BC, now times this by 5 and then by 4 and you are paying almost $2000 a month when your child is supposed to be back at school like children in the other provinces of Canada. Now what if you have more than one kid to pay out the dough for? That is now $4000 to front.

      Now add this little comment from the government website:

      "The primary caregiver may receive $40 per eligible child for each day the child is not in school as a result of the labour disruption.''

      Now that comment alone should send shivers down parents' backs. Note that it does not state that parents will receive the money for sure but "may'' receive. A nice way of saying "HA HA" we get to keep it all if we want to and you all get screwed.

      My prediction: a ton of kids left at home on their own without any supervision or a ton of parents will not be going to work because of this situation.

      What kind of a crazy government would do that to people?

      Now the next item to concern us is that we have the high school kids with nothing to do. The generous government has provided a web site with "fake academic courses" with no teachers that they can get help from. What high school kid will do a course on his/ her own without some sort of help? No they will be playing video games all day long instead again frustrating to the parents who want their kids back at school. Or they will be getting into trouble on the streets and at the malls because they have nothing to do.

      Then we have the high school kids looking to graduate this year. What are they supposed to do while their counterparts in other parts of Canada get ahead of them for scholarships at prestigious universities. Again angry kids and angry parents.

      As for the big increase at private school, that is a joke in itself. First of all they don't have the space to accommodate the kids. Second most parents can't afford the tuition. Third


      Aug 21, 2014 at 2:05pm

      Wow, I am shocked at 'Article B' in the BCTF proposal to eliminate the first two stages of the salary scale. Why is hardly anyone talking about this, as it will clearly put greater strain on funds? Doing the math on the starting salary of a teacher in the Vancouver school district (the bump from $43790 to $48172 from eliminating the first two scales, + 3.5% salary increase) translates to an immediate increase in yearly income of about $6000 (ignoring the one-time signing bonus of $5000). Consider that according to the 2012 census data, a single parent family in Vancouver earns $40 340 per year (taken to be a proxy for individual salary). Sorry, this kind of raise is hard to sympathize with. Here is a solution to this impasse: if you want that $225 million dollar fund to cover the class size and composition of classrooms which seems to be the stumbling block, eliminate the salary grid reduction demand, which would cover most of this expense. Teachers would still get a nice $5000 signing bonus, great benefits, the yearly increases in salary, while the students would be able to go back to school.

      Just sayin'

      Aug 21, 2014 at 2:37pm

      First off, move to Ontario or Alberta if you want higher pay and lower living expenses. People in other professions do it all the time.

      Second, teachers are top percentile earners and have a benefit package that is second to none.

      Third, there's an infinite amount of trained teachers waiting to enter the profession.

      Forth, the BCTF is broke due to perpetual strikes, fiscal mismanagement and political activism.

      The simple fact is the BCTF is on the verge of total collapse and have next to zero negotiating power. However, they're playing hardball like it's 1982. It doesn't make sense. Once the BCTF breaks themselves the old guard can be removed and newer younger less extreme voices can start a new more realistic relationship between the taxpayer, government and students.

      Young BC Teacher

      Aug 21, 2014 at 3:52pm

      Firstly, thank you to the author of this letter. It is indeed evident that you are passionate for a strong public education system. Thank you to those who are supporting BC teachers while in negotiations with the government, or rather BCPSEA. To those who feel that teachers should work in continually degrading conditions or to work for less and less, what is in it for you? Do you believe you will see a tax reduction? You think life will go on as if nothing has happened? Do you have job envy and anyone who you deem to have a better benefits package than you must be axed? You believe unions are the bane of society? Why? Are you not a union employee? Many franchises have some form of a union. Or is it that you hate taxes or paying for anything you believe is not your responsibility? Let me tell you...I will be paying for the many seniors and retirees as they access healthcare. Do you believe that it isn't your responsibility? Some of you suggested there is an unlimited number of teachers to replace those employed or to move to other provinces for work. Ontario is a 10 year wait to get a part time contract. Alberta is better...yes...but lets look at it another way. If all the teachers moved out of BC what is left? A daycare school system. Is that what you want? You can't ask for high quality with bargain prices. I pay $2 for a burger...I get a very unhealthy McDonald's burger. I pay $15 I get a handmade burger with fresh cut fries or a fresh salad. I strive for quality education here in BC! I don't want to have to move to Ontario just so my future children can have a quality education! If you believe quality education is wrong then move to the United States of America. They have cheap education, cheap healthcare (just don't hurt yourself), and the ability to make a business out of anything. I love my home in BC! I will not back down from what is clear to me an extortionist government willing to do anything at greater cost to the taxpayer to ruin public education for future generations of kids. This government has already ruined one generation of kids...and we can see the results that you all have painstakingly pointed out...arithmetic, literacy, arts, PE, and so on. Personally, I would love to teach without using technology that is 10 years old or older. As a taxpayer I want a fair deal between teachers and the government!

      Concerned Citizen

      Aug 21, 2014 at 4:53pm

      Is anyone else concerned about the quality of writing, rhetorical style or lack of self awareness shown by commentators who claim to be teachers?