Putting children first means supporting the teachers

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      A hundred North Vancouver elementary school parents are patting themselves on the back today because they volunteered to ensure an end-of-year track meet took place at Swangard Stadium.

      Normally run by teachers, the event almost didn’t happen today due to rotating strikes across the province.

      While this track meet could have been rescheduled, the school district opted to cancel it outright, making it look like striking teachers were big mean villains who didn’t want students to enjoy a day of athleticism for which they’d trained for months.

      In an interview with the CBC, parent Mathew Young, who rounding up volunteers for the event, said, “We're not here to make a political statement at all. We're here to say it's unacceptable to us as parents that the kids are not being put first."

      If this is really about putting kids first, like Young said, every single parent in this province should be supporting the teachers 100 percent.

      A parent stepped up and found a solution to the problem, and it was a lot of work, right?

      Now think about it from a teacher’s perspective: they do this all year long. Hours upon hours are spent coaching sports teams, providing school trips, marking your child’s homework, drafting lesson plans, supervising recess, running track meets, conducting after-class music programs, ensuring school plays takes place, et cetera, ad nauseum.

      And they do this for free.

      If parents want to put kids first, they wouldn’t be blaming the teachers for striking.

      No, they would be joining them on the picket lines—and they would be demanding that Premier Christy Clark give the teachers a fair wage increase as well as increasing education funding in general.

      The 2014/2015 budget froze K-12 spending for three years, while last year’s budget only increased education funding by $22 million—which was a whole .44 percent of the province’s $5 billion budget.

      To be clear: I’m not a parent. I am not a student. I graduated from high school 15 years ago, so it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with the day to day experience of public education.

      However, I started elementary school in 1987—the same year that B.C. teachers gained the right to strike and full collective bargaining abilities. There were 48 strikes in B.C. between then and 1994, which was the year the NDP government imposed provincial bargaining legislation on teachers. By the time I graduated high school in 1999, I had been through so many teachers’ strikes I couldn’t count them all.

      Through all that, my teachers worked hard to make sure their students had a positive educational experience and graduated on time, even when class sizes were growing and wages were frozen.

      Teachers are moulding a new generation of people—your children. Why wouldn’t you want the absolute best possible education for your kids? Don’t you care about them? So, why wouldn’t you want teachers paid a reasonable wage for the hours they work?

      Students from Rockridge secondary in West Vancouver stand in solidarity with teachers.

      You know what else teachers are? Free childcare so you can go to work. If you don’t want teachers to make more money, why aren’t you lobbying the provincial government for universal daycare?

      Yes, there are problems, and not every teacher is a saint. It can be difficult to get rid of problematic teachers. But do you think that if maybe you compensated teachers better, you would attract better quality candidates? Did you ever consider that highly educated people don’t want to work for shit pay and contribute unpaid hours on top of that? And do you suppose that maybe if class sizes were a little smaller, teachers wouldn’t be so burnt out?

      Let’s be clear: the average minimum salary for a B.C. teacher is $48,000, while the average maximum salary is $74,000. That works out to $23 to $35 an hour—provided a teacher only works 40 hours a week. If they work even 20 more hours a week than that, that turns into $15 to $23 an hour before taxes.

      Teachers are not getting fat off the provincial teat. They are getting by just like the rest of us in this province.

      According to Stats Canada, B.C. spends less than $12,000 per student per year. Maybe if education was funded the way it needs to be, adequate numbers of teachers and support staff could be hired, which would lead to healthier, happier teachers, staff members, and students.

      Why aren’t you mad at your MLA? Why not stop calling teachers lazy and hold your elected officials accountable? When you have to take a day off work because you can’t find childcare (because, hey, B.C. doesn’t have a universal childcare program), you should march them down to your MLA’s office and ask them to baby sit. An MLA’s base salary is $101,859. Why aren’t you mad about that?

      Christy Clark—who makes over $193,000 a year—and her government are bullying teachers and they are bullying you. By locking teachers out from their workplaces, the government is the one that is causing your scheduling headaches, sporting event cancellations, and inconveniencing students.

      It’s great that the 100 parents from North Vancouver found enough community spirit to come through for their children today, but what about the other 364 days of the year? Why do parents let these sorts of events fall solely on the shoulders of these damn lazy teachers you keep moaning about?

      In 2001, the B.C. Liberal government declared teachers to be an essential service, but nothing the government has done since then reflects that classification. If teachers are essential to the operation of the province, treat them as such.

      Support the teachers. Right now, they’re the only ones putting your children first.




      Jun 3, 2014 at 6:04pm

      Thank you!!!


      Jun 3, 2014 at 6:31pm

      "If this is really about putting kids first, like Young said, every single parent in this province should be supporting the teachers 100 percent."

      As a parent who volunteers many, many hours every year, I find this statement to be pretty offensive. If I don't support teachers 100%, I'm not putting kids first?

      It's fine if you think the teachers deserve your complete support, but for you to diminish the efforts of others because they don't see things the same way as you seems pretty narrow-minded. Some of your points are good, and I agree that the fantastic teachers in this province need more support from government. But that doesn't mean we can't at the same time find some fault on the BCTF side of things for the constant disruption to classrooms.

      It's pretty disappointing that you've taken a great effort on the part of a lot of parents and tried to turn it into a negative.


      Jun 3, 2014 at 7:23pm

      "Let’s be clear: the average minimum salary for a B.C. teacher is $48,000, while the average maximum salary is $74,000. That works out to $23 to $35 an hour—provided a teacher only works 40 hours a wee."

      How many weeks per year does a teacher actually work? It appears your math is based on working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks per year.

      Teachers have job security, benefits, pensions, and from what I can tell a decent amount of time off. Those things also have value.

      What I find interesting is that I was in school long before they started diagnosing kids with ADD and handing out all kinds labels to children who are "problematic" or "struggling" in school. Maybe some of them are simply uninterested? I know I was at times and my grades suffered at times. My point is, somehow my graduating class got through school in classes with 25-30 kids with all our undiagnosed issues and most of us succeeded in life. I use the term success very broadly...decent hard working members of society.

      On the subject of fair pay, and I realize the issue is more complex than this, this is (PARTLY) how this taxpayer without kids hears teachers demands:

      1) Smaller class sizes (less work).
      2) Different class composition (less work).
      3) More money (for less work - points 1 and 2).

      Again, that is PARTLY how I hear their demands. So, before anyone jumps all over me and assumes I don't understand the issues entirely let me be the first to say you're partly correct..partly. Regardless, I can't afford to give the education system more of my personal pay in the form of tax.

      Healthcare has needs, public infrastructure has needs, police, fire, and so on...AND I HAVE NEEDS! I don't know what a fair wage for a teacher is, but I do know that cannot afford to pay more taxes. If education costs go up, healthcare costs go up, and everything else keeps going up more tax is what I will be paying.

      Consequently, I am not in favour.


      Jun 3, 2014 at 7:25pm

      Miranda, it's unfortunate that you missed so many Math classes because of BCTF strikes. But surely you realize that teachers work 38 weeks a year, not the 53 that your calculation suggests! So a typical $74,000 salary works out to $49 per hour for the teachers who work 40 hours a week. But wait, you repeat their claim that much of what they do is 'volunteer'! So let's make their official work week 30 hours, which gives them an hourly rate of $65.
      Don't forget that what they held out for last time was the right to teach even if not competent. That's what you call 'putting the children first'!

      Martin Dunphy

      Jun 3, 2014 at 7:37pm


      A $74,000 salary for a teacher is not "typical". It is the <em>maximum</em>--as Miranda stated in the article above.
      Back to math class with you (or remedial reading).


      Jun 3, 2014 at 8:13pm

      As much as I'm not a Liberal fan, I don't think you can place the blame for today's education system solely on them. As you pointed out Miranda, there were numerous strikes under both the So-creds and NDP.

      As far as teachers deserving more money, well, maybe when their bar is set a little higher. The majority of those pursuing teaching degrees are "C" students who fail to grapple their own subject area without a textbook in hand. Consider what an entry level reporter makes- that's at least as much education as a teacher. $30,000-$35,000. Or if you work at CKNW, $12/hr. Teachers' salaries are quite generous when you start comparing them to other industries.


      Jun 4, 2014 at 7:10am

      Sticky, whenever anyone talks about wages, benefits, pensions, etc. are not part of the calculation. Politicians, ferry workers, nurses, postal workers, et al. are contribute to pension programs & we don't hear some members of the public trot out that tired argument. As to your point about teachers doing "just fine" when you were in school, I can tell you because of my age and my job as one who is a specialist in working with learning disabled kids that it's a different world now. To compare classrooms in the 21st century to those of the 60s, 70s, and 80s is like comparing apples & oranges. Have you stepped in an average elementary, middle, or high school in the last 10 years? It's as vastly different as the t.v. programs we see now: Happy Days & Good Times it ain't for a good number of students. Teaching today means having to deal with many children whose behaviour and congenital learning problems are the product of family & societal dysfunction. Any serious discussion of teaching today cannot ignore this factor.


      Jun 4, 2014 at 7:13am

      Teachers get a failing grade.


      Jun 4, 2014 at 9:23am

      Curious, that teachers work 52 weeks per year, according to your calculations. I always thought that teachers get public and summer holidays amounting to almost 3 months each year free from work, yet still make a minimum of $48,000 per year. By this calculation the minimum salary starts at almost $31 per hour, while the top salary is a bit over $47 per hour, for a 40 hour work week.

      Compare this to other professions, such as new PhDs that earn an average of $21 per hour in academia, where they might be researching new medical applications or important health conditions.

      And I also thought that teachers only make the minimum salary during their first year, after which it increases every year for 12 years based on seniority.

      I'm all for teachers having smaller class sizes and less extra-curricular commitments, but the salaries are quite reasonable, and have kept up with inflation better than most other professions.

      Look at the Collective Agreement, not spin

      Jun 4, 2014 at 9:38am

      The Collective agreement specifies 184 days/yr. Most people work 250 days/yr. The CA specifies a 30 hr week, of which only 20 are spent in direct classroom instruction. The article notes AVERAGE salaries. Teachers work half as much and are paid twice as much as the average BC taxpayer. Raises must be accompanied by increased productivity, but the union demands amount to feather-bedding and gold-bricking, not "fairness".
      The first priority of BCTF, BCPSEA, CUPE and school boards is jobs for adults, not improving outcomes for students.