It’s been a week of disappointing news for those anxiously waiting for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and government to negotiate a new collective agreement.
A second attempt to engage a mediator failed, the two sides remained miles apart on several key issues and most summer school classes* were cancelled.
“Sadly, I don’t expect there will be any kind of bargaining now for some time,” Silas White, a member of the Sunshine Coast board of education and one of two trustees at the bargaining table, tweeted Friday.
Now some pundits are speculating that the dispute won’t be settled over the summer and, as a result, schools won’t re-open on schedule in September. If that were to happen, the ramifications could be serious and long-lasting. Here are some examples (leaving aside the obvious negative effects for students, teachers and parents):
1. The B.C. Education Plan. The government has spent a lot of time and money during the past three years developing and promoting education reform, known as the BC Ed Plan. It includes significant revisions to the K-12 curriculum, the graduation program and assessment practices (much of which is still in the works). The BCTF has been closely involved– especially with curriculum development – but some teachers are now calling on their colleagues to disengage. Tweeted one teacher: “First thing on agenda after strike is settled is for the BCTF to withdraw from BCEdPlan.”
2. International students. Some families have already been burned by the cancellation of summer school. It is unlikely parents overseas will make plans to send their children to B.C. for the next school year if the contract dispute continues. The loss of tuition revenue would leave many urban school districts in a financial pinch.
3. Boards of education. A lingering dispute could make trustee elections in November all about labour relations rather than education.
4. Education options. Even though B.C. public school students perform exceptionally well on international tests, a growing number of parents will seek other options to escape the labour turmoil – including independent schools, online education and even home schooling.
A side note: The BCTF’s 2014-15 executive committee – elected during the AGM in March – took office July 1. The group that has held power for the last 15 years – known as the Coalition – no longer has a majority because six members are independents. They have been described as moderates, but whether that will make a difference at the bargaining table remains to be seen.
(For some relevant BCTF history, click here.)
* The B.C. Labour Relations Board declared that remedial summer school – for Grade 10, 11 and 12 students who had failed a course and could not take that failed course during the next school year – was an essential service. But most school districts cancelled it. Only a small number of students who take summer school do so because they failed a class. Many more take a course during the summer (often math, science or social studies, according to my informal survey) to improve their grades for post-secondary or to lighten their September-June load.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.