As spring break winds down this week, the battle over the future of public education continues to rage.
The war of words between the Liberal government and the BC Teachers’ Federation has been bubbling for many months. With the passing of Bill 22 in the Legislature, the intensity level has been cranked up a few more notches.
Looking at the stream of press releases arriving to the Nelson Star over the last few days, it’s hard to know what to believe.
Here’s what Minister of Education George Abbott had to say in a Monday morning statement: “Overall, Bill 22 takes a reasonable, respectful and responsible approach that provides all parties with a real opportunity to move beyond the challenges that have characterized this school year and work together to improve our education system.”
A few days earlier the BCTF issued their own press release which included: “Bill 22 has devastating implications for teachers’ bargaining rights and that’s not the worst of it. Bill 22 also enables government to further cut costs by eliminating effective class-size limits for Grades 4 to 12, protections for class composition and guarantees of services to students with special needs.”
Clearly the sides live in two different worlds, both of which seem far away from our reality here in the Nelson area. Yet even in our little plot of the province, the pitch has been dialed up. There has been an increase in letters to the editor as those with the strongest opinions can no longer hold back.
It’s become a perfect storm for public dialogue and in the coming weeks umbrellas will be mandatory. Public education is exactly that: public. It involves taxpayer money, the leaders of our future, the union movement and government direction. It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t have at least some thoughts on the saga.
As students and teachers head back to class next week, one thing educators on the front lines can’t do is take it personally. The large majority of teachers are doing a tremendous job. As the war of words gets even nastier, teachers need to weather the storm and keep focussed on what really matters: the students.