COLUMN: Someone has to stand up for education

With some summer strawberries in hand, I stopped by a few of the lines in our region to see how our teachers were doing.

MLA Michelle Mungall is the NDP's new Deputy House Leader.

With Canada Day celebrations at a close, summer is here. Another tradition often marks the beginning of summer – the beginning of holidays, time for relaxing on the beach, boating on Kootenay Lake and barbecuing with friends and family.

But one tradition didn’t happen this year. Instead of helping their students pack up desks and lockers, tidying up classrooms and enjoying last day of school celebrations on June 26, our teachers were on the picket lines.

With some summer strawberries in hand, I stopped by a few of the lines in our region to see how our teachers were doing.

Not surprisingly, they were feeling dejected. They would rather be in the classrooms than on the lines.

Each teacher told me that they missed having this last day to see their students off to the next stage of their lives.

At South Nelson School, a kindergarten teacher said she pulled together a graduation ceremony before the full-scale strike and lock-out so that her young students could celebrate as previous years’ classes have done.

Remembering my own kindergarten graduation, I knew that her students would be grateful well into their adulthoods.

Along with missing their students, they were feeling sad for education.

For 12 years, they have been doing the best they could with limited resources. Since their contracts for class size and composition were first illegally stripped by the Liberals when Christy Clark was Education Minister, teachers have not been able to teach to the best of their abilities and our kids have paid the price.

I can only imagine what it is like for our teachers — to know they are overstretched, to know more could be done for a student in need, but not have the time and resources to do it.

They know our community’s children and see everyday how we could be better meeting their needs. They know that they negotiated for those needed classroom resources more than 12 years ago and the reason we don’t have them now is because the Liberal government illegally and unconstitutionally took them away while also cutting $2 billion in tax revenue from the wealthiest and largest corporations.

It is enraging and clearly shows that Premier Clark’s slogans like “families first” are all talk.

And now the government is playing games at the bargaining table when it comes to class size and composition.

Like you, I can empathize with our teachers. We value education, we value educators, so why doesn’t our government?

With all its focus on resource development, it is as though the Liberal Premier, ministers and backbenchers forgot that children remain the most important investment. They can bend over backwards with tax breaks for multinational corporations but can’t negotiate a fair deal with teachers?

That’s not right. Someone has to stand up for education.

Someone is standing up for education. Each teacher on the line is standing up for education. They are educators; they know the system day in and day out, and they know improvements are overdue.

But it isn’t easy to take those stands. If you believe that our children should have the best education, keep supporting our teachers. The future of our province deserves no less.

 

— Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall writes a monthly column

for the Nelson Star.

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