Cuts to education funding over the last five years have severely impacted teachers workload and the kind of work teachers can do.
The last agreement teachers had was brought in through legislation. That agreement raised teachers salaries over three years. The government gave the school districts money for the first year raise but not for subsequent years. This created a huge hole in the school districts budgets. They had to make cuts. The cuts came by closing over 100 schools, laying off school librarians, 2,000 teachers cut and the number school counselors reduced.
Added to the cuts were school support staff, funds for alternative programs for children, teacher assistants, special needs assistants and slashing of funds for purchases of supplies including learning aids, text books and paper.
Everyone of these cuts has had a direct impact on teachers and their workload and the learning environment for children. New curriculum's brought in without the text books to support it, industrial ed classes of 35 with tool for 21, kindergarten classes with no materials at all except what the teacher can scronge from other teachers or from garage sales she collects on her days off.
Other often missed costs the school districts have had to absorb without corresponding funding increase were the increased BC Medical care premiums, the new 3.5 cents per litre tax on fuel and increased cost of heating and cooling due to rising fuel costs.
All of these items would normally be funded as a practical measure in the provincial budget in years before the Liberals came to government by the NDP and before them the Social Credit government.
When teachers claim they went on strike for education they are sincere. They have seen what the lack of resources has meant to their ability to do their job and the effect it has on all the children. When a teacher has two or three special needs children in a class of 25 to 30 it takes hew away from the others. When she has an assistant she has the time to assist all of the children. A disruption from a special needs child is a disruption for every child in that class.
Our schools are under a severe cash strap.
One of the ironies in all this has Premier Campbell championing literacy at time when he has cut access to school and community libraries through budget cuts or simply not funding these services.
Education funding has not kept up. When you stop funding the basics, it is not long before important aspects of education suffer.
The Ready recommendations addresses some of these items directly, in putting more money directly into the system. That is what teachers said they had to have and that is what they got.
Premier Campbell and the government are trying to claim victory saying they will fund the Ready recommendations with savings from the strike. Basically indicating the teachers have paid the cost. That is where he is wrong again. The government can do so this year but next year and the year after that and forward that increased funding comes from the government. The teachers have made a huge investment in future of public education.
Thank you Jinny Sims and teachers.