The Communist Party of BC has issued a statement saying the present course of the NDP government on public education issues poses a serious threat to the interests of teachers, support staff, students and families across the province. The Party is demanding that Premier Horgan replace Education Minister Rob Fleming with someone who can act swiftly to help reach a new collective agreement, replacing the “Prevalence Model” with a funding system based on meeting the needs of all students.
During the sixteen difficult years of BC Liberal government, attacks against the public education system included the illegal act of tearing up collective bargaining agreements. Stressing that better teaching conditions equal better learning conditions, supporters of public education – teachers and support staff, students, families and progressive trustees – united to speak out against Liberal spending cuts which disproportionately impacted those who need the most support. Among the most severely affected were students with special learning needs, those living in poverty, Indigenous students, and those from homes where English is an additional language.
The Communist Party note, “When the Liberals were finally driven from office in 2017, teachers and other supporters of public education had every reason to expect that the Supreme Court ruling which restored the right of the BC Teachers Federation to negotiate classroom size and composition would be fully respected by the new NDP government, and that improving the public school system would be an urgent priority. Two years later, this government has only done the minimum to meet its legal obligations, without altering the destructive course of the Campbell and Clark governments.”
Bargaining for a new collective agreement has dragged on, with the deadline long past for a new contract which would have allowed a smooth start to the 2019-20 school year. A labour dispute now could disrupt the new school term. Salary levels in BC are below most other provinces and the cost of living is higher, which means school districts across the province are experiencing serious difficulties in hiring enough teachers to fill positions.
“While the Horgan government has acted on some other major demands raised by working people and anti-poverty groups, it stubbornly refuses to accept that public education requires spending increases much higher than the rate of inflation to catch up with the lost years of Liberal underfunding, said the Communist Party. “The NDP has even failed to access one relatively simple source of funds – cutting the millions of taxpayer dollars such as tuition subsidies provided for elite for-profit private and religious schools.”
The BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) continues to push for concessions in class size and composition, in direct contravention to the BCTF’s historic Supreme Court victory on this issue.
This is much more than a simple disagreement over spending levels, or salaries and benefits. Instead of adopting a progressive funding model based on the needs of individual students, the NDP government introduced the “Prevalence Model.” This approach which bases funding on the prevalence of learning disabilities across the broader student population, shifting from actual student needs to statistical projections. Progressives charge that this is a regressive and counter-productive model that will have immediate consequences for special education students, and long-term negative impacts on the wider population.
Since teachers and schools deal with multiple health, safety and other social issues, saving money by reducing funding for Special/Alternative Education programs actually increases the need for spending by the Ministries of Children and Family Development, Mental Health and Addictions, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
The Communist Party of BC supported public school teachers and support staff, and students and families, through every struggle against the anti-education and anti-union BC Liberals. “Today we express our full solidarity with the BCTF in their fight to win better salaries and benefits, and to adopt a funding model which prioritizes individual students, not “saving” the government the dollars it could easily raise by rolling back the enormous tax breaks given by the Liberals to the wealthy and the corporate sector.
“Education Minister Rob Fleming has clearly become a huge obstacle to achieving a collective agreement which meets the needs of teachers and students. We call upon Premier Horgan to appoint a new Education Minister who will treat teachers professionally and with respect; raise salary levels to match other provinces; and make funding for public education schools a priority over private, for-profit schools.”
(The above article is from the September 1-15, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)