I never wanted this blog to be anything other than a place to review and talk about literature and show off the work done by students here at Dickens. But I’m fed up with the media response, and it's lack of critical literacy, in what is going on with regards to negotiations between the BCTF and BCPSEA. (aka the BC Liberals) When media report on the existing negotiations between public school teachers and their employer, the BC Liberals, I'd like journalists to please attempt to put it into a larger context. I'd be happy just for them to ask some critical questions.
What we have here in British Columbia is a government that has made a political decision to deliberately underfund public education. They want citizens to see this as good fiscal management. They want teachers to be seen as greedy. However, governments have the power, and the responsibility, to collect taxes to pay for those programs and institutions that support the public good. It would be helpful it media would point out that if there is indeed no money for public education, this is the consequence of political decision making by the existing government to reduce corporate taxes. To enable them achieve this underfunding, they broke the law by illegally stripping the teacher’s contract in 2002. I could go into a spiel about the neoliberal agenda to privatize everything, including education, but if you don’t know what it is, you can look it up for yourself here.
If wanting public education funded to at least the national average is a political act, then teachers, and a whole lot of other people concerned about public education, are thinking politically.
I have been a teacher for 25 years. In this time I have seen conditions in public schools deteriorate unbearably. We have larger class sizes and more special needs children in them. This creates untenable working conditions for us, and more challenging learning conditions for children. More heartbreaking has been the constant erosion of support for special needs learners. Counselors, school psychologists, teacher librarians, and speech and language therapists are endangered species. Essential supplies are scarce, and we have no technology to speak of. Teachers and parents are expected to fund the basics of public education to a greater and greater extent. As a teacher librarian, I personally spend at least $500 a year to support our school library. I don't get to claim it as a deduction either. The consequence of this expectation has been the inevitable evolution of have and have-not schools. Public education is a significant tool to achieve democratic equality and this government’s actions serve to decimate it. This is a highly political act on their part.
I’m also getting tired of people calling me a greedy teacher. I haven’t had a raise in 3 years and quite frankly, I want one. I want one that is the equivalent of what other public sector workers got, and I don’t want it to come out of support for kids.
I want a return of school libraries across the province. I want school counselors and psychologists returned. I want speech and language professionals who have time to work with kids in a meaningful way. I want all kids to have the chance to be successful.
Let's get this straight. Funding public education adequately is a political act. It's not negotiations that put children at risk, it's a political decision to whittle away funding that does it.