Once again, parents across the Elk Valley were forced to make last minute arrangements for their children who will not be going to school today. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation continued their rotating strikes this week, withdrawing services from School District 5 today.
With the school year just weeks away from finishing, School District 5 students are out of school not only today for strike action, but tomorrow as well for a Professional Development Day. This continues to be an inconvenience for parents and is hard on students, causing frustration for everyone involved. However, it’s important to remember the real issue at hand. The Teacher’s Federation is in search of a new contract that would not only benefit well-deserving teachers, but the students they devote their lives to.
While money seems to be the first, and sometimes only, topic that comes up when discussing and debating the ongoing strike action, it is just one of the requests teachers are making. Yes, they are asking for a wage and cost of living package increase of 13.75 per cent over four years – not unreasonable, considering their last three year contract, which expired in June 2013, did not include a wage increase. But, teachers are also trying to resolve issues with class size, composition, staffing levels, and specialist ratios.
Teachers face challenges every day that have nothing to do with their wage. Look at it this way, an elementary teacher with an average class of 30 students could have his or her classroom made up of the following: students with learning difficulties, students who are using English as their second language, students who are ‘off task’ and need extra attention, and ‘gifted’ students who need to be challenged. How can one person be expected to handle 30 children who all learn, interact, and behave in different ways?
With teacher aide support and smaller classrooms, teachers are able to give each child the individual attention they need. If we want our children to receive the best schooling possible and have a well-rounded next generation, we need to understand that money spent on education is not just important, but essential.
If it were firefighters or the RCMP asking for the same contract, would the wage demand seem so unreasonable? It’s time to start considering public education an essential service as well. Teachers are educated and trained professionals, and they deserve our support and respect. After all, it is our children who will reap the benefits