Now that members of the B.C. Teachers Federation have overwhelmingly voted to go on strike, the attention needs to turn to students —as indeed it should have been from the very beginning of this dispute.
BCTF members claim that their job actions are solely about making learning outcomes for students better, but that’s a bit rich when their bargaining position calls for raises that exceed those given to other public sector workers. They do have a good point in their relentless focus on class composition, because that does have a direct and dramatic effect on student outcomes — and not just the special needs kids who do get more attention in the classroom, but every other student.
As it is likely that teachers will be going on strike next week, the province and school districts must come up with a plan to ensure that Grade 12 students can write their exams and graduate, and head off to post-secondarey institutions in September. There also needs to be a plan in place so that students who need the extra assistance provided in summer school can receive it.
The union and the employers’ group must also bargain relentlessly — every single day of the summer if necessary — to ensure that there is a contract in place by the beginning of school in September. Students must have certainty about next year’s education.
It’s up to the province and the BCTF to focus on students, first and foremost.