Dear Minister De Jong

Dear Minister De Jong,

Thank you for your voicemail message expressing your regret that I was not home to share with you my priorities for a balanced budget. Perhaps it was a good thing that I was not available for your call because I have a feeling you don’t really want to hear what I have to say about your government’s fiscal management record.

Firstly, I don’t think we could even agree about the topic of our conversation since I see a balanced budget as an oxymoron, like fresh-frozen or pretty-ugly. A budget is a forecast, not a fixed entity. It’s a projection that is at best an estimation of what spending will be.

Remember when you budgeted $63 million for fighting forest fires in 2015 but ended up spending $198 million instead? Didn’t that “unbalance” your budget? I noticed the “unbalanced budget” did not end the world as we know it, for some reason.

Secondly, for a political party that continually boasts about its fiscal management, you have a really shoddy record when it comes to taking care of our public purse. How could good fiscal managers have ballooned the debt by 45%? What did the citizens of BC get for the extra $20 billion that’s been added to the debt since 2011?

http://bit.ly/2lw4emf
http://bit.ly/2lw4emf

I know what corporations have received: tax cuts that they don’t need because they can already defer the payment of their taxes, hide their money in tax havens, and use tax loopholes to avoid paying taxes altogether. So they don’t really need your help, do they?

Come to think of it, I actually do know what the citizens of BC got for the tax cuts: a shift to hidden taxes with increases in BC Hydro, ICBC and MSP rates, and more tolls to pay for crossing bridges on the way to work.

We also got longer waits for ambulances. We were turned away from medical clinics. We had to find money to spend on tutors for our children who were not getting learning support in overcrowded classrooms, courtesy of your gutting of public education funding.

Would a good fiscal manager have spent money  on lawyers for a 15-year fight over teachers’ constitutional rights, a fight that your government knew it would not win?

There are many examples that clearly show your government’s fiscal fumbling but I think the most perfect example of this is the recent car windshield repair issue.

When your party took power in 2001 you scrapped the NDP policy that ensured that ICBC would pay for windshields to be repaired.  Your BC Liberal government only wanted to pay for windshield replacements. And now, 15 years later, you discover that your policy actually cost more money than the NDP policy did.

I suspect that if we took a close look at the budgets of all BC government ministries, we would find multiple examples of the “windshields” that could have been “repaired” for a fraction of the cost of “replacement”.

Take the Ministry of Children and Family Development, for example. I’m sure a forensic audit of the ministry would reveal a lot of cracks that, had they been repaired, as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond suggested in 92 reports over 10 years,  the kind of calamities that no child should ever have to endure, could have been prevented.

But, the top priority in Minister Stephanie Cadieux’s 2015 mandate letter is to balance her budget.

When 120 children die while in government care and more than 740 receive critical injuries, I hope you can understand why what you see as a balanced budget, I see as a death sentence.

The moment you can explain how a balanced budget can prevent another Paige dying on the streets, then I would love to have a conversation with you about budgets and priorities.

Sincerely,

A. Taxpayer-Citizen

Where is your outrage, citizens of BC?

http://imcreator.com/free/people/rebel
http://imcreator.com/free/people/rebel

Yesterday it felt good to be one of thousands marching in BC to challenge the misogynist rhetoric of a narcissistic president. It was cathartic to walk with so many whose protest was displayed on signs philosophic and poetic all around the planet, from Alaska to Antarctica.

But today, when I think about what is happening in our own province, I wonder when we will see thousands take to the streets to protest the egregious actions of the BC Liberal government and Christy Clark?

While big money gets to feast at her table, children with learning disabilities struggle to keep up with lessons in mouldy portables, waiting for the crumbs she was so “excited” to promise.

While 914 dead bodies pile up in morgues, she ignores the health crisis in our streets, refusing the common sense solutions suggested. 

While people are turned away from clinics and waiting in emergency rooms starts at 3 hours, she flits around the province meeting with billionaires who benefit from tax cuts.

While youth who have aged-out of care die alone on the street, and while teens in government care  “fall” out of windows in hotel rooms, she grins at more funding-by-photo-op events.

And lets never forget that there is an entire generation of students who were subjected to overcrowded classrooms and decreasing resources while, for 15 years, her government spent millions in attacks on the constitutional rights of teachers. 

This list could go on and on. There are over a 146 examples of the  BC Liberals’ callous disregard for ordinary citizens in this province.

But, where is the outrage?

2015-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card-Summary-FirstCall-Page2-2015-11-1
http://still1in5.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card-WebSmall-FirstCall-2015-11.pdf

People around the planet are afraid that Trump will reverse all progress to mitigate the effects of climate change, while here in BC, alarm bells warning about increasing fossil fuel emissions with LNG are largely ignored.

Yesterday, parents around the world marched with their children, future citizens,  who will inherit the world we leave them, while here in BC the fact that one in five children lives in poverty seems to not be enough to demand more of a government whose “families first” campaign slogan rang hollow.

We seem to be dazzled by the ads promising us a world of opportunities while all around us the suffering of the sick, the poor, the disabled and the elderly at the hands of Christy Clark’s crew barely registers acknowledgement.

The seed for yesterday’s march was planted by Teresa Shook, a grandmother who refused to allow her despair about Trump’s election victory to lull her into apathy. She wrote on her Facebook page: I think we should march.

What words will it take to shake the citizens of BC out of their apathy?

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Brilliant analogy !

gadflyonthewallblog

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Say your friend Sheila invites you over to her house.

Sheila has just made a fresh pumpkin pie.

She offers you a slice.

You politely refuse, but she insists. She hands you the knife so you can take as big a piece as you like.

You start to cut and then ask, “Does it matter where I cut from?”

Sheila says, “No. Take whatever you want.”

You don’t like crust, so you cut a perfect triangle piece from the middle of the pie.

Sheila’s face reddens.

This wasn’t exactly what she meant, but what is she going to do? You took your slice, and now the rest of the pie is ruined. No one else can take a whole piece. Your choice has limited everyone else’s.

That’s what school choice does to public education.

It privileges the choice of some and limits the choices of others.

Advocates…

View original post 1,471 more words

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.

http://www.portlandtherapycenter.com/blog/helping-children-deal-with-grief-and-loss
http://www.portlandtherapycenter.com/

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.

Can you see the big picture?

Dear Journalists,
Two years ago we asked for help to unravel the connections we uncovered between multinational technology corporations and our B.C. government. We hoped that an investigative journalist could dig below the surface of the story of education in BC and help us to connect the dots.

Because we believe that public school classrooms are no place for the promotion of the private profits of corporations, for a long time we have been vocal in our resistance to the creep of corporations into our schools. Now we are soliciting your help because it seems that corporations have an ally in their quest: the B.C. Ministry of Education.

The Ministry’s sudden promotion of coding in schools took us by surprise. We could not understand why or how coding zipped up the priority list of what is needed in schools ahead of seismic upgrades and repairs to leaky roofs. We had not seen it mentioned anywhere in the roll-out of BC’s new curriculum documents. And we tried hard to understand how we could teach coding without computers even while we were assured by the Minister that we didn’t need computers for the task.

But our confusion has recently ended. We now see that computer coding is the key that will provide an open door for corporations to enter public school classrooms and access what they see as a most valuable commodity: our students, their future consumers.  

school-privatization-cartoon1

Not only will our 500 000 public school students provide a motherlode of information for marketers through the data-mining of their online behaviours, but the sale of necessary technology to school districts will provide corporations with billions of public funds.

A big slice of that $5.5 trillion pie.

Take a look at the following “dots” and see if you come up with the same picture that we do:

The Learning Partnership has multiple corporate partners/funders:

All of these groups joined previous Minister of Education Fassbender at the Wosk Forum on K-12 Education in January 2015.

Can you see why alarms are ringing for teachers and for parents when we notice so many corporate links to our public classrooms?

What we see is a pattern emerging that looks very familiar. It’s a pattern we’ve seen unfold in other countries where the project to  privatize public education is more advanced.

We have also seen multiple examples of the failure of Milton Friedman’s injunction to ignore the pedagogical and democratic ideals of public education in the pursuit of private profit siphoned from the public purse.

We hope that you in the media will prove us wrong, that you will show us that our public education system will not go down the same path to privatization as the deteriorating public education systems in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

Please investigate these links so that you can assure us that our children’s future is not being sold to the highest corporate bidder.

Respectfully,

Public School Teachers

(This post is the result of  a collaboration with fellow teacher, Bruce McCloy,  who provided most of the research.)

Dropping the Ball

I always know when I’ve dropped one of the gajillion juggling balls that is my teaching job. It’s when my students’ faces have the kind of look a puppy has when it’s being blamed for something it didn’t do. They look at me all wide-eyed and wondering what just happened as they listen to me express frustration.

This frustration always happens when I temporarily forget what I know about what my students need. Last week, at a moment when I was exhausted and distressed, I forgot that lecturing after 1:00pm is an utter waste of time, completely out of sync with students’ circadian rhythms.

At the time, I was so caught up in my determination to move forward on a project, that I completely ignored the signs that it was not a good time to do so.  But when I noticed those puppy-eyed looks, in the midst of my complaints about their inattention, I realized that something was wrong, and so I asked.

They reminded me that I was expecting them to focus on listening at a time when they’d normally be napping. I had forgotten that the schedule for that day had been moved forward an hour and that on any other day, they’d be on their yoga mats, listening to a recording of the sound of rain, while focusing on their breathing.

And, once again, embarrassed, I apologized.

Splotched on the tapestry that is my relationship with my students, are apologies of all kinds. Regrets for lapses in judgement, feelings of remorse for slips of anger, anguish over my inability to keep all those gajillion balls floating in sequence throughout my teaching day.

I wish I didn’t have those splotches. I wish I could always be mindful of what I say and do in my classroom. I wish I could always be attuned to my students’ energy.

But I know that would take superhuman effort of which I’m incapable.

dropping-the-ball

What I am capable of is being aware of when I mess up, and then gathering the courage to clean up.

I clean up by apologizing, of course, and then by taking inventory of what I did and didn’t do leading up to the point when the balls were dropped.

Usually there’s a missed yoga class, a missed meditation session, many missed walks, and a long list of things to do on my desk.

As a teacher, I know that I’m never going to get to zero on my to-do list but I can certainly move up from zero on my well-being list.

I love that well-being is getting lots of buzz lately now that education reform has taken a turn away from standardization and toward the critical importance of emotions and relationships in learning.

We teachers have always known this but it’s nice to have the powers-that-be elevate its importance to being a core competency in the new curriculum.

I just wish the Ministry would realize that expecting teachers to be effective models for personal and social competency while we are experiencing stress due to the effects of 15 years of deep cuts to education funding, and while we are reeling from the turmoil of a massive system change, is asking for too much.

You would think the Ministry would know that, given the fact that personal and social competency is just another way of talking about relationships, it would be motivated to change its relationship with teachers.

It would be nice to have a healthier relationship with our government, a relationship in which there was a demonstration of respect for our professional expertise.

Instead, we teachers are not only regularly maligned in the media, but we also have gone to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend our constitutional rights.

What we have here in British Columbia is the ironic situation of a government rolling out a new curriculum that situates social and emotional well-being at the centre of learning while it simultaneously undermines teachers and underfunds public education.

I bet there’d be barely any dropped balls in my classroom if I had the kind of support and respect that teachers in Finland and other countries have. This is not to say that I don’t accept the responsibility to take care of myself so that I am prepared to take care of my students.

It’s just that the BC Liberals certainly don’t make that task any easier.

Having dropped the ball on public education in 2002, there is no indication that they have any intention of ever picking it up again, funding-by-photo-op in an election year notwithstanding.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to ignore that pile of marking on my desk while I take myself for a well-being walk on this beautiful Sunday.

What Politicians Teach

Did you catch the question from a teacher at the start of the second U. S. presidential debate?

The last presidential debate could’ve been rated as MA – mature audiences – per TV parental guidelines. Knowing that educators are tying the presidential debates to student’s homework, do you feel you are modelling appropriate and positive behaviour for today’s youth?

Trust a teacher to pack an entire lesson into just one question. The lesson topic: the role of politicians in our children’s lives. The big idea: politicians are teachers too.

Politicians teach our children what power can do. They teach our youth what kind of behaviour is actually rewarded in society.

When Trumpism, the Americanized version of Fascism, has millions of adults displaying all the behaviours we teach students to avoid, what is a teacher to do?

When our 24-hour media cycle continues to focus its full attention on loutish, boorish behaviour, what impact can lessons that last 60 minutes have?

Like many teachers, I am often overwhelmed by the expectations that classrooms be wombs for the genesis of a world rid of all social ills.

But while we teach tolerance and empathy in our classrooms, bullying and bigotry dominate media daily.

While we encourage civic responsibility and promote human rights in our schools, racism and prejudice is on full display at massive political rallies.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027447970
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027447970

It’s hard not to sink into utter despair.

I scour the media daily for signs that the cult of Trump will be exposed for what it is – the marketing of a myth, the selling of snake oil. But there is no indication the end will come any time soon.

Now that crude and callous behaviour has been accorded relevance, it will take more than Trump’s defeat to end the Trump effect (the increase in racist bullying schools).

It will certainly take more than what is possible in our underfunded, overcrowded schools despite teachers’ best intentions.

It will take politicians seeing Patrice Brock’s question as a call to model the kind of behaviour worth emulating.

And it will be up to every ethical adult, not just teachers, to remind politicians of the responsibility of their power.

We teachers will continue to teach lessons about a different kind of power, the kind of power that pushes back the darkness: the kind that fuelled the civil rights movement, the kind of power that put a black man into a White House built by slaves.

It will take the harnessing this force more powerful, to turn Trumpism into a disgraced footnote in the textbooks of tomorrow.