Fine line between teachers as professionals or labourers

Political advocacy seems more the goal of B.C. Teachers Federation

I taught junior high school in Duncan in the mid-70s for several years and that classroom experience has left me with nothing but respect for teachers.

It is a difficult, demanding profession that requires a great deal of energy to effectively create a positive learning environment from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

It has always been considered an important profession which necessitated planning and marking outside the classroom hours.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is another matter altogether. It is a union that is seemingly ill disposed to professional development, focusing rather on political advocacy. An incredible amount of union dues has been poured into advertising how horrible the education system has become in the last 10 years (note: after the departure of the NDP government).

They do not believe in grade-wide testing, refused to try to negotiate a new collective agreement over the summer, preferring to wait for the new school year to begin, and put forward a preposterous wage and benefits package, eventually reduced to a three-year demand for a 15-per-cent wage increase. This furthers their obvious political agenda, but does nothing to help the province’s educational system. Former BCTF president Jinny Sims is now a federal NDP MP.

Surely this desire for confrontation has severely damaged the classroom learning situation and the public educational system, evidenced by more parents simply giving up and removing their children.

Having received a 15-per-cent increase over the previous three years, perhaps it might be reasonable for BCTF to see how other professional vocations have fared. In many cases, architects, engineers, surveyors and lawyers have struggled to keep their doors open. Most private-sector professionals make less money today than three years ago.

All B.C. taxpayers pay half of all teachers’ pensions. Private-sector pensions are often completely self-financed and generous health-care plans are virtually non-existent.

The bulk of the present cost of the $5.5-billion B.C. education budget is teachers’ salaries. Would teachers want their desired salary increase to be funded by deficit borrowing that would have to be paid by their present students in their future working lives?

The NDP initiated a politically correct change in class composition that required special needs students to be integrated into all classrooms. This has been the single greatest stroke in making the present classroom situation untenable for many teachers. It must be changed to bring a good learning environment back to our public schools.

Patrick Skillings

Oak Bay

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