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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 3, November/December 2005

Who does BCCPAC speak for?

The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils claims to speak for parents. The president of the BC Council of Parent Advisory Committees (BCCPAC) held a news conference eight days into the teachers’ protest. The speaking notes from that conference are printed here.

Does this reflect what you heard from parents?

"Today is the eighth day that our children are not in their classrooms. Parent leaders and individual parents throughout the province have been in constant contact with us, keeping us updated on the events in their districts and sharing their concerns, challenges, and frustrations that have come about as a result of this job action. Parents recognize the diversity of our province with its many different educational challenges and concerns. BCCPAC members strongly agree that:

• Until October 7, there was no crisis in our public education system.

To parents:
• our children, not being in their classrooms is a crisis.

To parents:
• teachers participating in illegal job action is a crisis.

To parents:
• teachers defying the BC Supreme Court Order is a crisis.

Students need to be back in their classrooms now. Our members from around the province tell us there is only one crisis.

Our children are not in school!

On October 6, the Labour Relations Board declared the BCTF job action illegal. Recognizing that the Labour Relations Board had no power to enforce this order, the BC Public School Employers’ Association approached the Supreme Court for a ruling of contempt against the illegal job action of BCTF. On October 9, Supreme Court Justice Brown ruled that the strike was illegal, and that teachers were to return to classrooms. The decision by the BC Teachers’ Federation to ignore the contempt ruling on the basis that they believed it to be an unjust law is extremely concerning to parents. As parents, we raise our children to obey the law. Children are taught to respect and listen to their teachers. What message are the teachers in this province sending our students, when they choose which laws they will obey and which they will not? Our children are receiving very mixed messages.

Parents are receiving mixed messages as well. We hear reports of classrooms with too many students, not enough textbooks, and a lack of resources, yet we know that student achievement is rising, graduation rates are increasing, and aboriginal student success is improving. International testing tells us that our students are consistently rated among the top three in the world. Internationally, our public education is seen as one of the best. Province-wide, we know every child enrolled in public education is losing school time. That is the crisis.

• Students in the primary classes are losing precious reading and math instruction.

• Grade 6 and 7 students are losing academic instruction time to prepare them to enter high school.

• Students in Grades 10, 11, and 12 are losing important classroom instruction to prepare them for provincial exams.

• Grade 12 students are losing opportunities to apply for scholarships.

• Students planning to attend post-secondary institutions may be less prepared than students from other provinces.

• Students in the last two years of school are losing the opportunity to be scouted for college sports programs.

It is time for students to be back in class. It is time for schools to be back in operation. It is time for the adults to put aside their differences and begin to deal with the labour dispute in a way that does not break laws, does not put children in the middle of the adults’ dispute, and does not keep students out of class any longer. It is time for all parties involved in educating our youth to work together to affect positive change in our education system. Let’s talk about what each child needs to succeed to the best of their ability.

To government: we expect you to ensure that students are provided with the resources and support that they need to be successful.

To teachers: we expect you to put the best interests of the students first by returning to classrooms to teach.

Learning conditions are not the sole responsibility of teachers or government. Our members are encouraged that all education partners: teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, trustees, and government, will sit down together at one table—the provincial learning round table—where we can all share the responsibility for learning conditions for all children in public education. Parent leaders are encouraged that a similar model is already working in some districts demonstrating that decisions on learning conditions that are unique to their school communities (class sizes, composition, supports for students with special needs, school safety) are being effectively addressed at the district and school levels.

Let’s get students back into classrooms, teachers teaching, and school communities focused on the education of our students. Let’s put children first.

• Let’s make the 8th day the last day that schools are closed.

• Let’s make the 8th day the last day of this crisis.

• Let’s give the 9th day back to our children."

At the media conference, the BCCPAC president admitted that 40% of its funding comes from the BC Liberal government and most of the rest comes from gambling revenue—read government.

As you meet with parents and PACs to discuss ways to ensure the government makes good on its commitments, you may want to discuss how they view BCCPAC’s statement. The web address is www.bccpac.bc.ca.

A parent group that appears to represent the views of parents in our communities has a web site at www.bcspe.ca.

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