After the win, counting the losses

She’s excited about our Supreme Court win. Premier Christy Clark, who as Minister of Education in 2002, introduced legislation that violated teachers’ constitutional rights, and set in motion 14 years of students’ suffering, is excited that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that she was wrong.

What I wish she would feel is remorse.

What I feel is grief.

My elation at hearing the news of the end of a very long struggle for teachers, was followed by anger and then sadness about all that has been lost over the past 14 years.

Because of the B.C. Liberal government’s legislation in 2002 and again in 2012,  thousands of students lost the opportunity to have a school psychologist assess their learning disabilities as well as the opportunity to have their learning needs supported by education assistants.

Thousands more did not have opportunities to learn the skills for a trade in a safe, well-equipped shop class or to learn science in an actual science classroom instead of a mouldy portable.

There were no opportunities for a generation of students to pursue interests in art or music when so many of these classes were cancelled in the pursuit of balanced budgets in school districts.

We will have no idea how many people could have been prevented from joining the 77% of the inmate population with learning disabilities if they had had the support they needed while still children in a public school.

We also will have no idea how many students with mental health issues could have been helped before they became one more statistic.

I won’t speak for the losses experienced by parents. I’m sure they will. What I do know is that when fundraising activities increased dramatically in an attempt to compensate for the drastic funding cuts, parents had to adjust their household budgets. They also found themselves purchasing more fundraiser chocolate, wrapping paper and calendars than they really needed. After more than a decade of family time spent on fundraising, I know they are exhausted but I wonder how they feel about Christy Clark blaming them for the legislation that created the situation?

As for us teachers, we were in the invidious position of having to pay for both sides of the battle to restore our rights. We paid for our defence through our union dues, and we also paid for the government’s attack on those rights through our taxes.

In addition, since 2002, we have lost significant amounts of salary whenever we engaged in actions to alert the public about what the government was doing to our students. During the most bitter of these in 2014, some of us lost our homes as a result of five weeks of holding the line for public education in this province.

So many losses.

None of them exciting.

2 thoughts on “After the win, counting the losses”

  1. Thank you, as ever for your thoughtful analysis of education matters in BC.

    One cost to add for teachers is loss of life-long earnings. When the BCTF agreed to 0.0.2% over 3 years in the late 90’s (1998?), the trade-off was the inclusion of the working and learning conditions clauses in our collective agreement that Christy and the so-called Liberals took away in 2002. It is one of the ways BC teachers ended up some of the lowest paid in Canada.

    That is how we used to get anything but cost items into our contract before we were unionized in 1988 and finally won the right to bargain those clauses. Consequently, we started out behind and had to have some significant catch up during the 90’s. By the end of the 90’s we were back to making expensive trade-offs again. At least that is how I remember it. I was a bargaining for many contracts from the late 70’s until the most recent one. But I know you are an inveterate fact checker, so please feel free to check. My memory is not what it used to be (was ever?).

    Long and the short of it? We are always being asked to buy our students’ learning conditions. If they actually receive the benefits of those negotiations, everyone does relatively fine. But when Christy robbed our contracts, she robbed teachers directly.

    As for the union dues, that is what a union does. It is not the first time we have had to pay to go to the SCC and it won’t be the last. It is the price of being a leading edge union and I think that is a good thing.



    1. Thank you for this Kate. I’ve been teaching here since 1996 and don’t know much about the history of our struggles before then but your comment has made me curious so I’ll certainly look into it.


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