Today was supposed to be the first day of school.
Instead, parents, teachers and children alike took to the streets for the Parents Etc. For Public Education March, after mediator Vince Ready walked away from talks between BC teachers and their employers on Saturday.
“To say the very least, I feel utter disappointment,” said Nelson District Teachers Association president Paul Boscariol. “The government isn’t willing to bargain in good faith.”
Boscariol said Premier Christy Clark and her government have a responsibility to tax payers to fund public education, but are failing to do so.
“They indicated some time ago that the money saved from the strike back in June and the walkout, that money is not going back into education,” he said. “Where is their commitment to education?”
Kootenay Lake school district superintendent Jeff Jones said he’s saddened that students have been unable to return to the classroom.
“Speaking on behalf of the district, we’re profoundly disappointed that both sides were unable to reach an agreement,” he said.
Jones said he empathizes with parents who feel frustrated.
“I certainly understand why the parents want to express their concerns and the situation. The march is being sponsored by the District Parent Advisory Council, and I’m curious to see the outcome. I suppose if both sides in this debate feel some pressure from parents there may be a stronger inclination to reach a settlement.”
Jones said he couldn’t guess how soon students might return.
“It’s hard to tell in these situations. I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past. But I’m completely unable to predict how long this is going to take.”
Boscariol said the grassroots march, which consisted of parents, teachers and students alike, shows how frustrated Nelsonites have become with the ongoing situation.
“It’s nice to see there’s quite a strong movement of parents saying ‘this is wrong, what’s happening here.’ They’re not necessarily taking sides, but they’re recognizing the damage being done to the system from underfunding.”
Boscariol urged the government to return to the bargaining table.
“Get in there and bargain in a reasonable fashion. We’re working hard to get a settlement so we can get back in the classrooms doing what we’re trained to do, what we’re paid to do, and what we want to be doing,” he said.
Boscariol said misinformation has been circulating, claiming the teachers didn’t want to bargain over the summer break.
“It’s utter nonsense. We’ve been ready to bargain and yet the government has not been there, or been prepared. We had eight weeks of summer and they should have been at the table,” he said.
Boscariol was incensed a Tweet released recently by the premier that laid blame for the breakdown in talks at the feet of the teachers’ union.
“The question needs to be asked: they’ve been through three court cases to date. How many millions of dollars have they spent there? They have a responsibility to the taxpayers that’s not being met.”