||Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005
BCCPAC upset over court decision
The following letter was received in our office and printed in several local newspapers around the province. Two responses to the letter are also included here.
Recently considerable attention has been given to both the B.C. Court of Appeal decision to uphold an arbitrator’s ruling that allowed teachers to discuss politics during parent–teacher interviews and the ensuing possibility of labour action on behalf of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. As such, many parents are not confident that when their child returns to school this fall, the focus of public education in British Columbia is going to be on the student.
For many parents this is of considerable concern and there is a sense of helplessness to ensure that our schools do not become an arena for political dispute and retribution. BCTF has stated that students are the priority and have made strong statements concerning parents including, "We’ve never had a single complaint from a parent, that teachers have been lecturing them at parent teacher interviews," (CKNW interview with Irene Lanzinger, first vice-president of BCTF, August 4, 2005).
These comments are unsettling for BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) as they do not accurately reflect the concerns that we as an organization are hearing from our members. We would not presume to speak on behalf of teachers, as this is not our position in the education system. In turn, we would expect that the BCTF would not speak on behalf of parents. As the provincial voice of parents, we look forward to being consulted by the BCTF on concerns/ complaints that have been expressed by parents of British Columbia, thus ensuring that they are accurately aware of the sentiments of parents when they enter into any discussion that impacts public education in B.C.
Kim Howland, BCCPAC President
They don’t speak for parents, either
Re "Parents’ group, not teachers’ union, will speak for parents" (Letters, The Tri-City News, Aug. 17, 2005)
The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) president’s letter is a case of the pot calling the kettle black in claiming which group has the right to speak for B.C. parents.
The Ministry of Education-funded BCCPAC persists in its arrogant and false claim that it owns the parent voice in B.C. And while it may speak for a small fraction of parents in this province, it sure as heck doesn’t speak for me. (Considering its main funding source, the rigours of critical thought bring to mind the expression, "He who pays the piper calls the tune.")
As for the hundreds of thousands of parents for whom BCCPAC doesn’t speak, given the diversity of our pluralistic society, can any one organization really claim to be the collective voice of a group so wildly varied as parents? Most don’t even know BCCPAC exists and have no way to ensure their voice is included in the group’s statements.
Stoking fears of a strike or job action serve to turn up the heat and parent anxiety, and do little to encourage both the employer and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to reach a speedy, negotiated resolution.
As for the potential of kids losing a few days of school, where was the BCCPAC parent voice when so many districts were forced to shorten school weeks and lengthen school breaks due to underfunding?
Patti Bacchus, BC Society for Public Education, www.bcspe.ca
Letter unfair to teachers
Re "Parents do have concerns," Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Times, Aug. 19, 2005.
Kim Howland states in her letter that the BCTF has assured her that students will be its priority this fall. But she also insists that they lack confidence in teachers making students their priority. Teachers do not deserve this lack of confidence. Fortunately, indications from parents, to whom I have spoken, do not show that most parents share that lack of confidence in their child’s teacher.
I also wonder why the BCCPAC is so concerned about the court ruling giving teachers the right to discuss politics? Do they expect that teachers will not spend the time reporting about their child’s progress? I think that teachers have proven that they will indeed focus on the student at interviews. All that the ruling does is ensure that teachers are not totally gagged when it comes to explaining why some students are not getting the services that were once available to them. If I go into an interview, I want to know why my child’s services have been eliminated. Why is my child no longer receiving the learning assistance that was once available to her or him? Why is the library closed when my child needs access to it? Why does my child have to wait for 10 minutes with her/his hand up when she/he has a problem in math? I don’t call this politics and I don’t believe that most parents do either.
I am flabbergasted that the BCCPAC president accuses the BCTF of speaking on behalf of parents. Since when is it "speaking on behalf of parents" to state that the BCTF has not heard complaints about teachers talking politics? If the BCCPAC has heard a plethora of complaints (from other than diehard Liberal supporters) why haven’t they consulted the BCTF and tried to work together to come up with something that both gives teachers their human right to speak up and to make parents comfortable? Perhaps it is because the vast majority of the over one million parents in the province are interested to hearing from their child’s teacher about the problems with declining services in our schools. Perhaps the majority of over one million parents want to work with teachers, rather than to start the year off by being antagonistic toward the teachers who work with their children.
I feel sad for parents that the BCCPAC has chosen to start the year off in such a negative manner.
Kathy Couch, Nelson