Twelve years ago the B.C. government broke its contract with public school teachers by removing class size and composition language from their collective agreement.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled twice that this legislation violated teachers’ constitutional rights to negotiate working conditions.
The province has appealed, the third court decision is expected this fall.
If the province loses again it could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
That could take a year or two.
Meantime, contract talks between the province and teachers have broken down and public schools are closed, who knows for how long.
According to reports, the stumbling block may be the government’s attempt to scuttle the Appeal Court ruling by putting language in the proposed contract giving the province an escape clause (E80) for any future court decision on class size and composition.
In other words, Premier Clark & Co. want to be able to tear up the contract the BCTF agrees to in the current negotiations, thus scuttling the court decision before it even happens.
So much for the legal system. It isn’t surprising the BCTF is balking, given its two previous wins in court.
Many suspect the province’s intent is to break the union and promote private schools.
B.C. has the highest rate of child poverty and the second lowest rate of per-student funding in Canada.
Perhaps the premier believes a private school system would solve those problems.
Ms. Clark has several ways to end this dispute if she chooses.
If she truly believes families come first, she should do whatever she can ASAP to get the schools open.
Dropping E80 might be a good start.
Question (Again) Where are the local school trustees in all of this?
Why aren’t they speaking out?
They should know classroom situations better than most.
Aren’t they the people “trusted” by the public to deliver education to our children?
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.