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Special Election Issue April 2017

©iStock sources


Magazine of the BC Teachers’ Federation

Provincial Election May 9, 2017

Our students, our profession: Your vote matters!

For the record

Teacher BC Teachers’ Federation Toll free 1-800-663-9163 Email Web ISSN 0841-9574

I don’t believe

in ripping

up agreements.”

I am delighted to be able to stand in this House and speak in favour of the Public

—BC Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, May 2001.

Articles contained herein reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily express official policy of the BC Teachers’ Federation.

Education Flexibility and Choice Act. This bill … is about putting students first on the agenda.” —Education Minister Christy Clark introducing teachers’ contract-stripping legislation, Hansard, January 26, 2002.

The Court has concluded that the government did not We’re still talking negotiate in good faith with the about an extra day off union after the Bill 28 Decision….Their strategy was to put such pressure for high school teachers, we’re talking about unlimited on the union that it would massage, $150,000 in provoke a strike.” signing bonus.” —Justice Susan Griffin, January 28, 2014,

Authorized by BC Teachers’ Federation, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 1-800-663-9163.

BCSC 121, Summary.

—Christy Clark misinforms the media at a press conference,, September 3, 2014.

It’s low-hanging fruit and I know that they’ll be able to find it.” —Christy Clark on forcing school boards to find an additional $54 million in administrative cuts, sure February 2015.

I would ask that people judge us, judge me, based on our record, based on what we actually did.”

KSteel photo

—Christy Clark, National Post, February 13, 2014.

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We all want to make that classes are the right size for kids. So I’m excited about that possibility we’ve got ahead of us.” —Premier Christy Clark, reacting to news of her government’s humiliating defeat at the Supreme Court of Canada. Times Colonist, Nov 15, 2016.


X marks our future

Who is ELECTED in 2017 will determine who we will BARGAIN with in 2019 After 15 years of court battles, underfunding, and undermining public education, who do you trust to protect the working and learning conditions we just won back?

Teachers should be incredibly proud of our victory, but of course, it’s bittersweet. An entire generation of our students, BC kids, lost out because thenMinister of Education Christy Clark chose to unconstitutionally rip up our contracts so her government could underfund public education. Working conditions deteriorated, stress increased, learning conditions suffered, and parents were forced to start fundraising just for the basics. The gains we have made since our Supreme Court win must be protected. We made those gains through tenacity and solidarity. They are not the result of a suddenly caring and fair government. This government didn’t wake up the day after our win and decide to make public education a priority. They were forced, kicking and screaming, by the highest court in the land. We need to remember that when we vote. The new funding in this year’s budget isn’t because Premier Clark and her cabinet now value our work and our schools. It’s because they were forced by our efforts and by parent advocacy.

Our professional lives are intertwined with the politics of governing. We can’t sit this election out or be silent. This government had 15 years to reduce class sizes or increase supports for children with special needs. They didn’t. They could have hired back the specialist teachers Premier Clark’s legislation got rid of. They didn’t. They had 15 years to do something about their illegal legislation, but they chose to underfund and attack our rights time and time again. Let’s not forget too that our court victory, and the implementation of the restored language, will not solve all the budget issues facing our schools.

Now, with our rights restored and better learning conditions on the way, we must turn our minds to the 2019 bargaining table. What kind of government do we want to be sitting across the table from? One that truly respects our rights and freedoms? One that values public education and the work we do in our schools? Or one that will seek to undermine everything we just won back? That is the stark choice in front of teachers, parents, and supporters of public education leading up to the May 9 vote. Our professional lives are intertwined with the politics of governing. We can’t sit this election out or be silent. Teachers need to be involved in the election and make sure our issues are heard. We need to continue to work with parents and support their advocacy. We need to ensure that British Columbians ask all candidates running for election tough questions about where they stand on protecting learning condition, ensuring schools are seismically safe, and addressing child poverty. As I wrote in an article in the January/February issue of Teacher, campaigns are won or lost due to the direct work done in campaign offices, and significant participation by members directly in candidates’ campaigns can make a difference. Members are strongly encouraged to be involved in election-related activities of their locals and to get directly involved in the campaigns of candidates running in all ridings in BC. No riding should be taken for granted, and teachers’ participation is tremendously important to help ensure that our concerns are addressed for the betterment of teachers and students in BC schools.

On May 9, make sure you’ve worked to elect a candidate who supports our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.

© LoweStock/iStock

TEACHERS AND PARENTS must ask themselves this when they vote on May 9. We have spent years fighting for our rights and we won. The Supreme Court of Canada restored our language and the agreement we just ratified means the next school year will start with the smaller classes and support levels our students deserve.

BCTF President Glen Hansman

*Ce message sera traduit et distribué aux membres francophones.   Special Election issue 2017  TEACHER 3

After 15 years of cuts, leaders hold

Cautiously optimistic reflections from key PSA

Dave MacKenzie, President of the BC School Counsellors Association WITH THE LOSS of school counsellors, students with mental health issues haven’t received needed support. Ratios vary across the province, with caseloads for elementary counsellors as high as 1500:1. Secondary counsellors can be responsible for 500-plus students. Increasing pressures to do clerical and administrative work, brought on by new curriculum and demands of BCESIS and

MyEdBC, seriously decreased 1:1 counselling time for at-risk students. “Hiring more school counsellors will enable early interventions at the mild to moderate level, potentially preventing an escalation to more severe designations. With the restored language the next challenge is to encourage my colleagues who left school counselling to return to our profession.”

Rick Joe, Chairperson, BCTF Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee DESPITE RECENT federal initiatives supporting Aboriginal education, much remains to be done, especially in BC. Our provincial government has not demonstrated that they care. I recall being invited to the legislature years ago; our delegation of 25 Aboriginal teachers were told Minister of Education Christy Clark was too busy to meet with us to discuss support for Aboriginal education. Then, as we were being shown around like tourists, we saw her emerge from a birthday party, eating


“New curriculum changes are welcome, and the BCTF has been a leader in training and resource development, but we need core funding to hire Aboriginal teachers for all schools. We need adequate time and resources to help all teachers include Aboriginal content. “Above all, we need an attitude shift to build welcoming, nurturing environments in BC schools if we truly want all Aboriginal students to succeed.”

Gail Bailey, President, Learning Assistance Teachers’ Association AS A TEACHER for 18 years and mother of two, Gail has seen the erosion of education from both sides.

don’t know what the possibilities could be. It’s truly heartbreaking.

Teachers are overburdened, learning environments are impoverished. We’ve got too many students with diverse needs and our caseloads are unmanageable. What we’ve been doing in the past five to ten years has highly resembled triage. We have a whole generation of students who

“With the contract language restored, we’re going to see more qualified specialist teachers in supporting roles, but I’m concerned that it’s going to take a lot longer to rebuild our vision of the kind of schools we should have had all along.”

Joanna Larson, Chairperson, BCTF Professional Issues Advisory Committee WITH INCREASED WORKLOAD, and a minimally supported new curriculum, teachers feel the effects of the undermining of public education every day. It’s discouraging to witness increases in teacher stress and see good people leaving the profession. “Teachers sacrificed salary in the past for better working and learning conditions, only to have these

conditions stripped away in 2002. Meanwhile salaries haven’t even kept up to inflation. “Bill 11 threatens to erode professional autonomy through imposition of prescribed PD. I’ve seen pedagogy become more business- and job-oriented, and worry we are undermining the key role public education plays in creating broad, ethical thinkers and an educated electorate.”

Laura Barker, BCTF Adult Education Advisory Committee IT WAS EXTREMELY short-sighted of the government to cut funding for adult education (AE). The repeal of the Education Guarantee (i.e., funding for graduated adults to take courses) means thousands of students are unable to access senior level courses. In Vancouver, for example, this led to a mass layoff of 80 percent of AE teachers and the closure of three of six adult education centres. 4  TEACHER  Special Election issue 2017

With fees of up to $550 per course, many vulnerable adults, including new immigrants, refugees, and people needing only one or two courses to meet requirements for further education, have been abandoned, leaving them unable to qualify for postsecondary programs that would lead them out of poverty and into better paying jobs.”

government to account for losses

leaders and BCTF advisory committee chairs

Lizzie Midyette, Co-Chair, BCTF Committee for Action on Social Justice UNDERFUNDING IS the key social justice concern negatively impacting the children we teach. This government shows little concern for BC’s everyday working families. The gap between rich and poor is shocking. It is shameful that BC lacks a poverty reduction plan and that affordable childcare is not universally available. Underfunding directly affects physical, social, and emotional health and teachers see the results every day. The situation is especially

dire for the most vulnerable: students with special needs, rural children, and newcomers to Canada.

“I fear that if the Liberals are re-elected they will stall on adequate funding for education, and in 2019 will attempt to bargain away our recent gains from the Supreme Court ruling.”

Debra Swain, President, Teachers of Inclusive Education, BC SPECIAL EDUCATION funding, based on numbers and types of designations, drives the full time equivalent (FTE). We’ve lost many learning support teachers; many others have been placed in insecure situations, often part-time. I’m angry that so many kids have lost out over the last 15 years, especially the less visible students with learning disabilities who have suffered silently.

“I expect a return to school-based team contract language will support meaningful inclusion of students with diverse needs. Staff committee language that includes the right to consult on resources, including education assistants, will also make a difference in support for students with special needs.”

Ross Powell, President, BC Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages THE STEADY DECLINE in English language specialists has resulted in fewer pull-out services to beginners and less support for integration of English language learners (ELL) into regular classes. Meanwhile, classroom teachers have faced greater demands to adapt curriculum and instruction to meet ELL student needs.

“It’s frustrating that so many of these learners spent their entire school lives with less service than they deserved. Sadly, we can’t reach back and help those who dropped out or missed post-secondary opportunities. I worry that newer teachers will think the chaos of constant unstable service levels and cuts is normal. In time, I’m hoping to regain my optimism.”

Moira Ekdahl, Vice-President, BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association WITH A 39% DROP in teacher-librarian positions over 15 years, teachers are demoralized and libraries devastated. The Learning Commons model was initially a progressive concept offering a full range of services when introduced to K–12 years ago. Cuts resulted in restructuring that saw up to eight different teachers assigned a block each, and libraries were often reduced to technology and faux-leather couches, with books becoming marginal.

“A teacher-librarian renaissance is now possible. Inquirybased learning, championed by teacher-librarians for over 20 years, aligns perfectly with the new curriculum. In the current political climate, skilled teacherlibrarians can collaborate with classroom teachers to advance essential skills for students in media literacy, including how to analyze bias and check facts using credible sources. The UBC TL diploma supports the new curriculum and promises an infusion of talented, skilled, and enthusiastic new teacher-librarians.”

Yole Prosperi-Porta, Chairperson, BCTF Heath and Safety Advisory Committee IT’S NO SURPRISE that stress has risen dramatically in schools. Exhausted teachers have been coping with larger, more complex classes, fewer supports, and increased workplace violence, including students scratching, biting, hitting, kicking, and threatening teachers and other workers. Teachers have the right to know if students placed in their classes have a history of violent behaviour. We should not be afraid in our classrooms.

“Physical conditions in schools have deteriorated. Portables are particularly susceptible to leaks and mould. BCTF has advocated for safe working and learning conditions though radon testing, seismic upgrading, and testing for air quality, asbestos, and lead. It would be great to have the needed

funding, support, and co-operation of the government to ensure our schools are safe and healthy for students and staff.”   Special Election issue 2017  TEACHER 5

The NUMBERS tell the story For information and source material for all the stats, go to

Estimated loss in

education funding

$4.5 billion

1694 specialist teachers cut



total teaching

positions lost

15 years of lost specialist teachers Change 2001–02 to 2015–16

FTE specialist teachers

2001–02 2015–16



Library services










Special education





English language learning





Aboriginal education










© bluebearry/iStock

$300 million x 15 years

*FTE figures are rounded

92% increase

in public funds going to

private schools

Average childcare costs:

Public schools

forced to close

BC $1,325, Winnipeg $451, Montreal $164

400% increase since 2001 in government revenue from post-secondary tuition

Average debt of BC

grads with a Bachelor’s degree is $32,300, an increase of 56% over 10 years

since 2005

Every year parents subsidize schools:

$92 million $40 million

School supplies PAC fundraising

6  TEACHER  Special Election issue 2017

Time it took

the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse 15 years of unconstitutional cuts to BC schools:



Many schools are in a state of disrepair, with lead in the drinking water, asbestos in the walls, inadequate maintenance and are not seismically safe.

One in five BC children (163,000) are living in poverty

Election prep 101 Party websites Conservative Party of BC BC Green Party Liberal Party of BC

Nancy Knickerbocker photo

BC New Democratic Party

BC is the

only province

without a poverty reduction

Seniors issues for the 2017 BC election An excellent summary of seniors’ issues, facts, and questions for candidates compiled by the BC Retired Teachers’ Association.


CCPA Policy Note Tax Fairness in BC? Hardly!

914 children died between 2007 and 2016

Aboriginal children are disproportionately represented amongst kids in care


in care suffered

critical injuries

from 2007–16

support for students who need extra help has decreased Since 2002



special needs

special needs



It is always good to see research and numbers to put things in context about underfunding. I wish every parent in BC could have been there.” —Comment from a parent invited by one of locals attending the the BCTF Advocacy Works! Conference, February 2017


Student Vote photo

While in the care of this government

Student Vote offers teachers free non-partisan resources to hold mock elections. The Parent

Advocacy Network for Public Education (PAN) is a non-partisan grassroots collective of parents and community members working to address the chronic underfunding and devaluing of public education in Vancouver and across British Columbia. Declaration, press releases, and events at

It’s time for change Special Election issue 2017  TEACHER 7

Standing up and speaking out for PUBLIC EDUCATION Research consistently tells us the public trusts teachers most on education issues. Heading into the May 9, 2017 election, teachers will be advocating for public education at every opportunity, including at meetings with candidates, at the doorstep, in the grocery lineup, over coffee, and on social media.

• Will you commit additional funding and resources to the education budget necessary to support teachers and their students as they transition to the revised curriculum, in all regions of the province? • Teachers have been asking the Ministry of Education to fund an implementation plan to infuse mandated Aboriginal education into all K–12 classes. What will you do to make this happen?

We need a fully funded education system

We need the best support for students with special needs

• The all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services identified insufficient funding and downloaded costs for school districts as a major public education issue. What specific measures will you support to address the committee’s recommendation to provide “adequate, stable, and predictable funding” for K–12 public education? • The repeal of the Education Guarantee presents a huge barrier for adults who can least afford fees of up to $550 per course. Will you commit to restoring funding to allow graduated students to take adult education programs free of charge? • Teacher recruitment and retention is becoming a huge issue in many school districts. What steps will you take to address shortages?

• Providing proper support for students with special needs depends on early identification. What specific commitments will you make to help reduce the wait-lists for psycho-educational, speech and language, and other mandated testing? • How will you ensure that appropriate programs and adequate resources are available to meet recommendations for students with Individual Education Plans?

We need to stop unnecessary standardized tests • What is your position on the renewed Foundation Skills Assessments, which will continue to be used for inappropriate and unscientific school rankings?

We need to stop closing schools

We need our schools to be safe and healthy places to teach and learn

• What is your specific commitment to ensure that no more schools will be shut down, and that closed schools will be reopened?

• What specific supports would you put in place to address the mental well-being of everyone involved in the education system—students, teachers, and other school staff? • Many students come to school hungry every day. What plan do you have to reduce child poverty in BC? • What specific measures do you favour to address major health and safety issues in BC’s schools, including seismic safety, water, and air quality? • What will you do to ensure schools are safe and free from violence?

We need technology and privacy issues to be addressed

We need fully funded curriculum implementation • What role do you see for schools in building a democratic society? • How would you support teachers in helping develop a more informed electorate?

Canada Post Corp. Agreement No. 40062724 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to BCTF, 100–550 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4P2 email:

• Student privacy and teacher workload are critical issues associated with the development of MyEducation BC, Fresh Grade, and other digital tools in the education sector. What safeguards and limits do you support for the protection of student, staff, and family data, and to make sure that teachers aren’t burdened with unreasonable expectations by using these programs?

We need fair bargaining practices • The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision restored language illegally stripped from collective agreements between teachers and their employers. What assurances will you give that you will not unilaterally strip fairly negotiated provisions in collective agreements?

Profile for BC Teachers' Federation

Teacher Magazine April 2017  

Special election issue of the BC Teachers’ Federation

Teacher Magazine April 2017  

Special election issue of the BC Teachers’ Federation