Parents may have different views about the labour feud that’s hurting B.C. public schools, but those attending the BCCPAC conference appeared united Friday in their anger and frustration.
They’re fed up, BCCPAC president Terry Berting told the media, adding that his group is considering what action it might take to pressure the parties to reach a negotiated settlement.
Parents want to take the high road but they’re troubled by the ongoing bitterness between government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), The Canadian Press quoted him as saying.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender spoke to conference delegates Friday morning and was later peppered with questions, starting with this one: “How does class size not matter?”
Parents also wanted to know what his government is doing to help with complex classes, how it will protect schools threatened with permanent closure, whether the labour dispute will upset graduation activities and final exams and whether negotiations will continue throughout the summer.
There were no surprises in his answers: Class size is important up to a point, but not as important as class composition and teacher quality, given limited tax dollars, he said. Government has provided additional dollars to help with class composition challenges but it’s an issue that needs more attention, after a contract is signed, he added.
Regarding permanent school closures, he replied: “The reality is, there’s only so much that we have in our bank account to fund education.” But a new approach to working with school boards – which will include a re-examination of the funding formula and more shared services – should make more money available to spend on instruction. (This wasn’t explained, but it undoubtedly has to do with the assignment recently given to former Surrey superintendent Mike McKay.)
In response to worries about graduation ceremonies and final exams, Fassbender insisted that government is not trying to provoke a full-scale teacher strike. Furthermore, he said every single grad ceremony can go ahead, with teachers free to participate if they so desire.
Government doesn’t intend to legislate an end to the strike and is prepared to bargain 24/7, including through the summer months, to get a deal, he said.
Other questions from parents will be forwarded to the minister for answers and then posted on this website, Berting told the gathering of about 100 representatives from PACs and DPACs around the province.
BCTF vice-president Glen Hansman will address the conference on Sunday. (This is a correction – I previously stated that president Jim Iker would be attending.).
Follow developments on Twitter using the hashtag #bccpac2014
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization