COLUMN: Our kids deserve a lot better

No official statement to media, no statement to parents and teachers. Nothing to the 500,000 kids who are missing out on their education.

On Tuesday, September 2, I was reading my Facebook news feed, keeping up with the daily posts from many of those whom I represent.

Several posts were from parents talking about how that day was supposed to be the first day of school for their children.

One parent posted the photo that should have been the annual memory for heading back to class. Her daughter was wearing her backpack, new school clothes and a big smile. The only thing missing was a classroom to step into.

The next day, the headlines in most of BC’s local and provincial news focused on parents taking action to support teachers. In Maple Ridge, parents wanted to speak with their MLA, but were locked out of the office.

Similar scenes took place across the province at Liberal MLA offices. Meanwhile, the Premier has posted four tweets and one Facebook messages about the dispute this week.

No official statement to media, no statement to parents and teachers. Nothing to the 500,000 kids who are missing out on their education.

Such absence is ridiculous and irresponsible. The minister of education has shown that he cannot be trusted at the bargaining table, failing to respect the basic premises of fair bargaining and the agreed-upon rules to hammer out a deal.

Meanwhile, the premier and her Liberal MLAs are MIA. The public deserves more than this.

The public deserves more than a government that took six weeks to respond to the teachers’ request for mediation over the summer, then saying they’d meet for only one day.

Our kids deserve classrooms with the resources they need to succeed. Two months ago, I wrote in the Nelson Star about how kids are missing out because teachers are overstretched and under-resourced in classrooms with too many kids, more of whom require the special attention that they just can’t get.

Over 12 years ago, teachers thought they fixed this problem when they negotiated a deal that recognized the importance of class size and composition. Then, enter the Liberals with Christy Clark as education minister, and those provisions were illegally stripped.

Who lost out by this decision?

Our kids.

Today, teachers continue to press for those resources. At the top of the list of resources they need to do the best job they can is their time and attention for each student. If all the research and pedagogical analysis isn’t good enough to persuade Christy Clark that class size and composition are critical issues for the success of our students, I suggest she use some common sense.

Kids do better when they can ask their questions, seek one-on-one help, talk out their ideas and challenges, and feel understood by the person instructing them.

Smaller class sizes allow for that to happen. Enough educational assistants facilitate the one-on-one time needed for all kids, especially children with special needs.

These resources are essential, and our 500,000 kids in the public system deserve them. The Liberal government’s suggestion that they don’t by originally stripping these provisions from teachers’ contracts and now fighting in the courts to keep them away is simply 19th century thinking.

A good education should not be the reserve of the rich.

Teachers and parents who want an excellent education for our kids, I’m with you. So is every New Democrat MLA and our leader, John Horgan.

For months, we’ve been calling on Christy Clark to stop tweeting and start meeting; to put class size and composition on the table and get a deal for our kids.

With the first day of school come and gone without students enlivening school halls, let’s hope we can get to the table soon, negotiate in good faith and get a deal for the future kids deserve.

 

— Michelle Mungall is MLA for Nelson-Creston. Her column appears monthly.

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