Is there a solution to the teacher’s dispute?
The answer is YES. It requires some radical thinking and action, but the BC education system is stalled in the 1960’s. At the present point in time we see a lot of gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands by the 57 school boards in the province. In 1946 there were 650, in 1996 there were 79. Why do we still have so many, when they are so impotent? At one point in time they were empowered to bargain with the teachers they employed. Nowadays, they have virtually no useful role to perform. Their bargaining mandate has been usurped by BCPSEA. The provincial funding is all predetermined, they cannot raise local taxes, so why not do what Ontario has done and create 5 or 6 super districts, centralize the electronic payment of salaries from Victoria, do away with 50 superintendents, whose salaries are in excess of $100,000 per year, effect much greater economy of scale with purchasing, give employees much greater freedom of movement within the province, sell off all the expensive school board properties, and put the savings into the areas where the “rubber meets the road”, in the classroom. There is more than $500 million in savings right there.
The real empowerment should rest with the PAC groups in the schools, who could just as effectively metre out discipline, which is one remaining domain that school boards exercise. This is what has happened in New Zealand.
The savings in the dismantling of the little empires around the province, will more than cover the costs to reinstitute the teachers and educational assistants that have been cut from the system over the past ten years. Two successful court challenges by the BCTF should be a clarion call to the government of the day, that a contract IS a contract. Last time I checked, this was not a dictatorship, though many think it may be heading that way.
Back in 1975, when I first started employment with then SD #14, there were more students enrolled in just 4 schools ( Osoyoos K-10, SOSS, OES and OK falls), there was half a superintendent, one secretary treasurer, a couple of secretaries, all the payroll was done manually, and the board office was a couple of rooms at the end of the east wing of SOSS. Quite the little fiefdom that has been built since then.
So let’s move with the times and get into the 21st century. If the government can’t see the writing on the wall, students and parents will take their education into their own hands, abandon the public system and turn to the world wide web, where their kids will learn what THEY are interested in, and schools will become some anachronistic establishment, about as useful as 8 track tapes, or coachmen who used to drive around the idle rich in their horse and buggies.
The box is changing and if you can’t think outside it, take a serious look at how it is transforming, then schools, which I consider: “four walls with tomorrow inside”, will have failed in their mandate to empower and educate the youth of tomorrow.
If you have the political will, you will find the financial means to achieve the goals.