The second half of August is the time for back-to-school sales. Parents are busy buying clothes, pens, pencils, backpacks, note paper, binders, running shoes and gym outfits for their children. All of this money is being spent prior to having to pay for school trips, school fundraisers, etc. It’s also a time for teachers to decorate classrooms, discover which students and how many of them will be in their home room, planning for the opening day of school, and discovering how many students in their home room class will require special education.
It is also a time when labour disputes between teachers and the BC Ministry of Education seem to arise. This year is no different, with one exception. Although teachers are dissatisfied with the policies of the Ministry of Education, no teacher strike is planned. Teachers have stated that they will not do administrative duties until current issues are resolved.
Despite what some newspaper articles may have printed about teachers asking for 10 days paid leave for bereavement of any family member or “friend” or 26 weeks paid leave for compassionate care “to any person,” let’s examine the real facts.
The teachers’ contract calls for one-half day off for local funerals. They are asking for a longer leave for funerals for a family member, not for “friends.”
Teachers want wage parity with other provinces. Why shouldn’t they get it? Are they not as qualified? Are they not as dedicated? How much do you pay your babysitter? $2.50 an hour? If teachers who are well qualified educators received the $2.50 per hour per child, in a class of 22 children, that teacher would earn $66,000 per year. With their knowledge, training, experience, dedication and taking upgrading courses, being in charge of your child’s educational needs, are they not worth more than that?
The BC government has told them not to expect an increase in salary. Are the members of BC Hydro, the Legislative Assembly, and BC Ferries executives having their exorbitant salaries fixed at zero increase? Hardly likely! BC teachers have seen their salaries go from third place in Canada to their present level of eighth place.
Class size continues to be an issue and parents should be very concerned about the size of class their children are in. At present, from Grades 1 to 3, the maximum is 23 children. In Grades 4 to 7 it goes up to a maximum of 30 and Grades 8 to 12 can have more than 30 students. How much assistance is your child receiving?
Special needs children are integrated into the classrooms. Teachers do not receive training for students suffering from epilepsy, or students exhibiting intense behaviour problems or students requiring a wheelchair.
The public assumes that those teachers are helped by teacher assistants but, surprise, the Ministry of Education does not provide adequate funding for teacher assistants. Does your class teacher have one?
Teachers need time during the day to correct assignments, telephone or email parents, prepare tests, review upcoming lesson plans, or just to have a break from a job which is very stressful.
Visit your teacher for a day or two and see what I mean. Currently, elementary teachers receive 100 minutes per week to do the above tasks. Ontario teachers receive 200 minutes per week. In some BC high schools, some teachers teach four blocks of subjects with absolutely no preparation time.
The next time you read about teachers asking for changes to their existing contract, don’t automatically think they don’t deserve it. Don’t believe everything that is printed when the source is a school board and/or the Minister of Education.