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Saturday 24 May 2014

Excellent Letter from a 'very very annoyed parent'

The Honorable Peter Fassbender, Min Ed
The Honorable Christy Clark, Premier
Mr Douglas Horne, MLA Coquitlam-Burke Mountain
Dear Sirs and Madam,
I write today to convey my extreme disgust with the manner in which the education system is being treated by your government. The conduct you have displayed with regards to the future of our children’s education is reprehensible. You claim to put “Families First” and to hold the needs of the children above all else, and yet there are children in our system who have challenges and special needs who are being lost because you won’t fund the help that they so desperately need. Your condescension toward teachers is easily traceable back to 2002 when, as Education Minister, Premier Clark removed the teacher’s right to bargain about learning and working conditions by enacting Bills 27 and 28 - action which has since been deemed by the Supreme Court of BC to have been a violation of Charter rights. Undaunted by the illegality of your position, your government enacted Bill 22, once again removing class composition, amongst other things, as an issue about which teachers have any say. Your government is clearly hoping that we are stupid enough to have forgotten that only 3 months ago Madam Justice Susan Griffin ruled that Bill 22 was also unconstitutional, found you guilty of bargaining in bad faith, and accused you of attempting to provoke a strike for political gain. Clearly the children are merely pawns in your political game of chess, and I am nauseated by the cynicism and Machiavellian ideals permeating your caucus.
When a government requires a School District to submit a balanced budget, but makes no budgetary allowance for increases in fuel costs, electricity costs, or tax increases, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government announces new schools, but does not actually provide capital funding or build them, resulting in the school district having to use millions of dollars from their operating budget to purchase, maintain, and service portable classrooms, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government knows that enrolment is declining, funds schools on a “per student” basis, and it costs virtually the same amount in fuel, electricity, and staffing to have 480 kids in a school vs 500 kids in a school, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
When a government abruptly changes policy for funding of school seismic upgrading and announces that School Districts will have to pay for up to half the costs of putting our children in safe structures, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children’s education services.
Your government would have us believe that teachers are demanding too high of a wage increase, and yet in the past dozen years teachers saw a 7.5% increase from their 2002 contract, a 0% increase from their 2005 contract, and a 16% increase from their 2006 contract. In those same dozen years, the benchmark price of real estate has increased 100-200% (depending on the region), BCHydro rates have increased by 40% (from an average of $70/mo to an average of $98/mo, after correction for inflation), gasoline prices have increased by 80-100% (from fluctuating around $0.70-0.80/L to fluctuating around $1.35-1.50/L), and the cost of feeding a family of 4 in BC has gone up 38.7% (from $626 to $868 per month). Clearly the increases in a teacher’s pay are not keeping up with the increases in the cost of living.
The BCPSEA and BCTF have failed to reach an agreement (which is hardly a surprise considering that Carole Taylor’s 2006 deal has been the only freely negotiated contract that the two sides have reached in the 27 years since Mr VanderZalm’s SoCreds gave teachers the right to strike) and so the teachers have escalated their action to a rotating strike. The lockout notice that the government has countered with is shocking and its logical underpinnings are convoluted, to say the least. While maintaining that children should not be put in the middle, the government has done exactly that by ensuring that teachers can not provide before- or after-school preparation or assistance to children. This does nothing BUT penalize the children, and once again lays bare the viciousness of this government’s intention to provoke action by the teachers for it’s own political gain - leaving our children as collateral damage along the way.
Your government claims that LNG industry development will “build a prosperous economic future for British Columbia”. I disagree. What will build a prosperous economic future for British Columbia is adequate funding for the education of our future generation. Provide us with education for all children, instead of having so many kids in a class that the teacher can’t properly assess and supervise everyone. Provide specialist teachers and education assistants for kids with special needs, so that they can learn and progress with their peers, rather than disengaging and becoming lost. Provide School Districts with budget increases to cover utility rate increases, so that our children won’t suffer because the District has to pay BC Hydro and Fortis an extra $625,000. Currently, between not negotiating in good faith, and not providing the School Districts with an adequate annual budget, you are failing us; you are failing our children.
A few weeks ago when the Coquitlam Board of Education was having its last few public meetings before finalizing what cuts to make, my children became aware that their library was in jeopardy. My seven-year-old summed it up with “Mum, you said that you pay taxes so that the government gives us hospitals and schools to help us learn, but how can we learn without books and a LIBRARY? The government doesn’t care about us; the government is an asshole” And while I chastised him for using an inappropriate word, I cannot disagree with his opinion or fail to marvel at how astutely a child can assess a complicated situation and distill it down to its core.
Kristina Lee, Coquitlam
Post Script:
I am not a teacher. I am not married to a teacher. My parents were not teachers. I have no direct financial interest in this dispute other than being a very, very annoyed parent.
Vancouver Sun
The Province
British Columbia’s Liquified Natural Gas Strategy One year update , gov.ca.ca


  1. I'am at the understanding that teachers starting wages is 40 thousand and around 10 years the wage is around 89 thousand.I think the wages they get is enough.I'am on a pension I don't don't get 20 thousand a year.Every increase they get my taxes go up and I don't get a cost of living.In the my spending amount is less.There is a lot of people in the same boat.I think they are after there needs not the kids needs.I was taught in class size of 30-35 and so did many others.Most of us did alright.I agree Special Needs do need more help.If the teachers are not happy they can leave and do something else and see what wages the would get.Just my thought.

    1. You probably don't have kids to raise on your pension.

  2. Wayne, the top teacher's salary in most districts is about $81,000, but to do that you must have a master's degree (after already doing 5 years of university), and gotten to year 10 on the salary scale. The scale starts at year 0, so that is 11 years. Also, to even get a salary on the scale you need a continuing contract. It takes most of us several years of working as a Teacher Teaching on Call (that is, substitute teacher)--often making $20K-30K/year, just to get that starting wage. So the road to the top is pretty long. There is no doubt that $81K is a good salary, compared to what many people make, but in other provinces, it is even higher. Teachers are not asking to match pay in other provinces, but just to lessen the gap. And we are not only asking for a pay increase, but for the government to restore money for special needs that it has taken out of the education budge over the past 12 years. The classroom of today includes students who probably would never even have been in your classroom as a child.

    1. Agreed! Wayne, you are clearly out of touch with the times.

      I have been teaching 5 years, and I have a permanent placement. I am leaving as you suggested Wayne, at the end of this year in fact. Partly because so many people are out of touch with the profession and simply do not respect it. It is a thankless job.