Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Response to Warner's Corner

In response to Warner's Corner and the article titled, 'Education in BC; A Militant Union, an Incompetent Government; Both Ways Students Lose,' we received this from Dean Chatterson.

I’d like to persuade you to take a second look at some of the perspectives you shared in your article.
I’m a retired teacher and I see things quite differently than you.
You begin with a “bigger plague on the house of the BCTF, which has to bear the brunt of the blame for the dysfunctional education system we have in the province now.”
Gerry, it’s not the BCTF who designed the system – it’s this government who has been systematically tearing down the very fabric of public education in this province.  If you had been in a classroom for even a few of the last ten years you would have seen firsthand the devastating impacts on kids the of the Campbell government funding cuts. And those cuts occurred in the “good years”!
You describe kids as being the big losers as a result of job action.  How can you not have noticed the cruel effects of the elimination of literally thousands of specialist teachers like Librarians, Special Ed teachers, and counsellors? Have you not heard the stories of no textbooks, school closures, large classes and no resources? Have you actually bought the government line about increasing per student funding when they cooked the figures by tossing into the general formula any funds for special ed that was previously accounted for under a separate designation? Ask any trustee who’s been around for a while and they will be able to outline the dreadful decline. Or better yet Gerry, talk to a teacher and ask them what it’s like to live the frustration of not having the time or resources to provide the service with the honourable intent that led you to enter the profession in the first place.
You go on to talk about the “rogue union” and claim that “what they want is always gussied up in talk about class size and composition, but it always boils down to the same thing – money.” Have you not heard the heart wrenching stories Gerry? Teachers telling about how it breaks their hearts not being able to meet the needs of the kids they love because of a system that has been so dramatically underfunded and diminished. “Gussied up” Gerry? What’s  gussying about a class of 30 grade 7 kids including one with multiple handicaps in a wheelchair, one with severe behaviour issues, 3 more with attention deficit disorder, one with fetal alcohol syndrome and four who come to school not having eaten breakfast. Guess what – that’s not a farfetched situation at all and under Bill 22, any consultation with the teacher or parents about gussying up the class size and composition will be eliminated.  Decisions will be made by administrators and superintendents based on – guess what – financial considerations. Is that about teacher salaries Gerry, or about adequate services for kids? Of course teachers are advocating to make their working conditions better Gerry, but that’s not a crime or a transgression against society. It’s only fair to expect teachers to work in an educational system where they get satisfaction through providing the best education experience they know they are capable of providing for their students. They are not advocating better learning conditions for kids so they can sit at the back of the class and do nothing, they are advocates so they can do more for kids. Another question – who else is advocating for better learning conditions? School boards – silent; administrators – silent; superintendents – silent except for the retaining the right to make things worse; Parent Advisory provincial group – government cheerleaders!
Gerry, did you really write, “And many of us would be damn glad to have a job that pays what teachers get.”?  It sounds like you have bought the government spin designed to demonize teachers as lazy, greedy, self interested, and overpaid public servants. Any government can vilify public servants to gain popular support, but citizens should be wary of piling on as you seem to have done. The rush to diminish the value and salaries of people who work in public service gives us the results we are seeing now – lower wages for all people who actually do productive work, but a dreadful decline in the services that should be our top priorities – health education and the general welfare of all.  I wonder if you, as a City councillor, will be advocating reductions in the salaries of Cranbrook civic employees. I bet taxpayers would love you for it.
I believe teachers deserve a fair, negotiated salary, not the rigid legislated less than zero that the government will be imposing. Paying my wife, who is a teacher $20,000 less than a teacher with the same qualifications and experience working  just across the border in Blairmore sends a powerful message to all BC citizens about what we value. You might argue that we should move to Alberta but guess what – we’re staying here to fight for public education in BC. Gerry if you want to be outraged about salaries of public employees, consider the hefty raises MLA’s gave themselves along with annual costs of living allowances, or check out the gigantic increases paid to senior government (friends) bureaucrats here:
When you talk about kids “being shamelessly exploited by their teachers” I wonder why you have not been paying attention for the last 10 years as public education has been systematically dismantled by this government. You complain when teachers stand up for public education, but where were you for the last five years as administrators argued before arbitration panels that classes of 35 kids with special needs kids included were “acceptable learning situations” because of a shortage of resources and/or personnel.  The effects of a three day strike are miniscule in comparison to ten years of government attacks.
Gerry – you speak of people “participating in illegal demonstrations against a stupid, incompetent and apparently somewhat leaderless government.” Isn’t that an honourable thing to do? I believe you campaigned for civic office claiming to be an independent thinker. Are you actually advocating that teachers should sit down, shut up, accept with gratitude whatever the government decrees, and not complain?  What happened to the hard fought rights to free collective bargaining? I urge you to look closely at the harsh “essential service” designation – a term that has historically been used only for life and death situations. I urge you to look again at Bill 22 which can only be viewed as a ruthless attack on teachers and education. Also, check out a description of neoliberal attacks on public education here:
I’m puzzled that you, as former journalist who I think prided himself on balanced journalism, haven’t taken a closer look at government actions in this dispute – far worse than being “leaderless” they have been nothing short of ruthlessly antagonistic. You also seem to have swallowed Kevin Falcon’s rhetoric when you say, “with most of the globe still in recession, the European economy collapsing and Israel and the U.S. engaging in ominous war rhetoric with Iran… most of us are just glad to hold onto the jobs we have.” He tries to tell us that BC is “the best place on earth” and that his government has made us one of the most prosperous.  Have you not noticed how the Liberals have set priorities? Stadium roof – yes! Tax breaks for multinationals – yes! Claiming the whole HST repayment in one year when it will actually be paid in three – yes! Child poverty the highest in Canada for 10 years – yes. Raises for teachers – No! Oh – and don’t be fooled by the claimed $165 million they say they are putting into education – that’s about ½ of what the cut in each year by illegally eliminating class and composition language. Check out more on BC’s economy here:
I personally know at least couple of hundred teachers Gerry and as a former BCTF local leader, I know that it’s impossible to convince them or fool them into  protesting  publicly or gong to the extreme step of withdrawing services. Teachers didn’t go into the profession to become activists, they wanted to teach kids and it takes a lot (extreme government attacks) to get them to step outside their classrooms into the political arena. Far from being the evil instigator you portray it to be, the BCTF leadership can only follow the wishes of its members. Teachers know the importance of what they are standing up for now and they deserve credit for doing it. Public education, fair labour practices and yes – even a fairly negotiated salary agreement are at stake.


  1. Hi Dean: I have no problem with your impassioned views and defence of teachers. Having been a teacher myself, I agree with much that you say. What I don't agree with, however, is your support for a union that made a wage demand so far off the Richter Scale it killed any opportunity for bargaining in good faith yet wouldn't budge from it or offer any other strategy to break the impasse. Contrast this with the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) which began bargaining yesterday by telling the government its primary interest wasn't a wage increase, but asked for the hiring of 2,000 new nurses to improve working conditions and patient care.
    Perhaps we should ask the nurses to teach too.

  2. Hi Gerry
    I don’t understand your antipathy toward the BCTF. The salary demand was a BARGAINING proposal! And the BCTF did present a much reduced proposal to which BCPSEA gave the same unchanged “net zero” response they had from before bargaining started. Why not pillory the government for their rigid stance, always threatening with the legislative hammer in their back pocket? And Nurses – did you know they already got this:– 3% for 2009, 3% for 2010, 3% for 2011? – looks like at least 9% to me even after the 2008 crash. I bet even the BCTF would have settled for that! Now nurses seem to be strongly advocating better working conditions so they can serve their patients better much as we gave up salary for better conditions in past rounds.
    Another question: Why should only some of the employees (teachers, not superintendents nor administrators) of a public service be asked to subsidize that public service by forgoing even cost of living allowances? Do lawyers take cuts to support the legal system. Or foresters for the ministry of forests? Look again at the government revenue side – remember Campbell’s 25% tax cut – maybe we could all share a bit of the burden of providing adequate levels of public service by giving up some of that ill advised vote buying scheme.

  3. Average nurse salary approx $72,276.
    Nurse union proposal to add 2000 members.
    Cost = $144,552,000. Not including benefits and other costs.
    Yes, perhaps the teachers can learn from the nurses.
    Or columnists can look beyond how government chooses to frame the debate.