FACE TO FACE: Are B.C. public school teachers' contract demands too demanding?
The first day of school is imminent. Dewy mornings. Late summer coolness. Leaves are turning colour and metaphorical new leaves are being turned over. There is a sense of foreboding and excitement, of something ending and something beginning.
Unfortunately, teachers must feel more discouraged than usual at the start of this school year. Educators are accustomed to the annual spectre of education cuts with little prospect of salary increase. This year, however, the 300 lb. HST gorilla plonked in classrooms by the recent referendum must dampen the enthusiasm of educators as they return to school.
Patronizing and petulant pundits are explaining to us how poor, uneducated and ill-informed B.C. voters have voted us into a $3 billion budget hole, from which the only way out is a U.S. Republican-style slashing of government programs.
In these rants, which group is always mentioned in the first sentence? Teachers.
It's a perfect storm for an anti-education BC Liberal government, especially one led by an ex- education minister whose tenure in that job was marked by a disdain for public educators. Post referendum, the Christy Clark government can, with impunity, continue to starve public education and teachers in the name of thriftiness.
Diabolically, educators are thus doomed to be the first and favourite scapegoats for the economic uncertainty surrounding the rejection of the HST. The prognosis is not good for their contract negotiations, which have already been stonewalled to zero.
My, new, learned (welcome) colleague will have little difficulty explaining why this is a "bad time" for government spending, what with the economy the way it is. It's "not a good time" for a salary increase for teachers, not like all those other times, you know, the many times over the years when we thought it was a great time to give teachers a reasonable salary increase.
It wasn't a "bad time" for the HST to give $2 billion annually to business. It wasn't a "bad time" for Premier Clark to find $1.2 billion overnight to bribe us into accepting the HST. It wasn't a "bad time" to replace the BC Place roof, cut corporate taxes or raise the salaries of political support staffs and MLAs.
Let's be clear. It's not a "bad time" to invest in education. It's just a low priority.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.