Parents and students joined teachers outside of Isabella Dicken Elementary School last week as they picketed in protest of B.C.’s public education system. Thursday was the second strike day to occur in School District 5 as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) continues rotating strikes in response to a year long stalemate in negotiations with the provincial government.
President of the Fernie District Teachers’ Association Kate Noakes was happy to see such a strong turnout of support from the community. She understands the strike has been tough on parents and students.
“When we’re on strike it is hard on children, and we 100 per cent get that, we’re the ones who work with them every day,” she commented.
The BCTF has been working towards a new collective agreement with the government since February 2013. They are asking for a wage increase, smaller class sizes, more one on one support for students who need it, as well as guaranteed levels of specialist teachers.
“We’re in a bad way in public education and it’s not going to get better,” remarked Noakes. “I know some people think we’re just thinking of ourselves here, but our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Where we work and how we work is where they learn and how they learn. You cannot separate the two.”
She went on to say, “We want a decent pay increase. We’re near the bottom in Canada for some of the best test results in Canada. No matter what they do to us, we work hard and we do a good job. I don’t think they should be treating a group of teachers this good that badly.”
The BCTF’s rotating strike action is now in its third week, with parents in School District 5 asked to keep their children at home again this Thursday. Teachers will spend Monday and Tuesday discussing whether or not to escalate the job action to a full walkout. Results of a strike vote are expected Tuesday night.
The union is required to give three days notice before members can walk off the job, meaning the earliest possible date for school closures would be Monday, June 16, impacting the last nine days of the school year.
The provincial government issued a statement Sunday emphasizing they will do their best to make sure report cards and final exams aren’t affected.
It states, “The Ministry of Education and the British Columbia Public School Employers Association want to assure parents that every effort is being made to ensure the strike does not disadvantage students, nor delay their transition to the next grade or on to post-secondary.”