Don’t rush off to do your back to school shopping just yet, folks.
Months after British Columbia teachers escalated their job action to a full strike, the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Ministry of Education returned to the bargaining table empty handed. Teachers originally walked off the job in June, in protest of issues like lack of resources to address class composition. What British Columbians likely figured would have been a summer of planning and re-evaluation, now seems more likely to have been filled with thumb-twiddling and brainstorming witty Facebook posts. As the first designated school week goes by without striking a deal, and the school year continues to be postponed indefinitely, many questions remain unanswered. How long will the BC strike go on? What can I do with my whining kids? Where have the teachers been living now that there’s no school? (They do live in their classrooms, don’t they?)
Ignoring the potential humanitarian disaster of having tens of thousands of teachers displaced from their workplaces (homes), BC Premier Christy Clark has been busy racking up brownie points with all of the techno-hip kids on their iBerries and BlackPhones. Her social media posts seem to be more anti-teacher and anti-union than pro-student:
“Unfortunately, the BCTF rejected our offer to reopen schools while the two sides enter mediation to reach an agreement. Instead, the BCTF is sticking to its strike and demanding twice as much money as everyone else in the public service has received.”
Whoa Christy, are you for real? Those greedy beggars. This isn’t some home makeover show. We will not sit idly by and pay their renovation fees! What could the teachers possibly need more money for?
In an interview with CBC news, President of the BCTF, Jim Iker, had this to add:
“It’s not a question of whether [the BC Government] can afford it, it’s a question of priorities….what we’re actually talking about is $3 a day, per student, over 5 years. This Government underfunds to the tune of $1000 less per student than the Canadian average, second worst funding across Canada…it’s time to go up to the average.”
Damn it Jim, you had me with your comforting 80’s mullet and your smooth talking, Layton-esque mustachio.
With an estimated $100 million plus separating the rigid offers by the BCTF and the Clark Administration, both sides are left with blank stares comparable to those of Canadians looking at Toronto’s mayoral election projections.
Still, as long as Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender beat around the class composition bush and refuse to give in to the requested funding, they will maintain true classroom equality. Christy Clark’s egalitarian attitude towards the public school system in BC is commendable; every student, regardless of special needs, will be given the same treatment! Survival of the fittest. At this rate, Clark is well on her way to reaching the same humanitarian heights as the likes of Stephen Harper and Vladamir Putin—both up for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
In all seriousness, this debate has spanned decades. If not properly settled this time—that is to say, if the BCTF and the Clark Government don’t walk away from the table with a plan for a sustainable partnership— we could see the feud continue for decades into the future. The current battle is the result of open wounds that never sealed during the time that Clark served as Minister of Education under Gordon Campbell, where she legislated teachers to go back to work and banned collective bargaining.
With both sides steadfastly holding their ground, it can be weeks until we see any resolution to this conflict. As with any good political strife, the two parties have shown an unwillingness to co-operate. The scenario mirrors Canada’s promise to meet its Copenhagen Accord targets; both are simultaneously easily attainable while still highly unlikely.
This war has quickly devolved into a battle of attrition, where both sides senselessly slander each other over social media. Presumably, the victor will be the side left with followers who remain willing to receive notifications on Twitter and Facebook. At least the belligerents make the debacle accessible to the youth pushed out of school–all those kids can get a good Social Studies lesson on how not to resolve political conflict.