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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007

Readers write

Life insurance options for retired teachers

In planning for my retirement, someone reminded me to check converting my group life insurance to individual life. Having no idea what this might mean, I asked around and have found out some information that seems unknown to most of my colleagues. This information needs to be made available to all teachers where group life insurance is in force.

Upon retirement, the group life insurance coverage ceases. Teachers may continue the coverage individually by paying the premiums. In my district, if a teacher wishes to go the conversion route, there are two options and no medical is required for:

1. Term to age 65, then it expires and there are 31 days to convert. For a $190,000 policy, the premiums are $161.68 a month.

2. Estate master is a whole-life policy. For a $190,000 policy, the premiums are $814.53 a month, fixed for a lifetime. This policy pays dividends annually either (a) by cash, (policy stays at $190,000) or (b) by keeping it in the policy (cash value of policy increases).

The most favourable of these options in the first and if it helped only a few ill, terminal, or poor-health teachers’ families, it would be worth it.

Teachers need to be made aware of the conversion option so that they can consider whether or not converting would benefit them. Information is available at Human Resources departments and at the Group Life office.

Olwen Harris, Howe Sound

Thanks to Olwen Harris for bringing up an important issue to consider prior to retiring. The life insurance options available to teachers upon retirement are discussed at all pension seminars. As well, information on life-insurance conversion is provided in the seminar reference book. Options vary depending on the local a teacher is in, but all locals have plans with conversion packages.

In addition to the options mentioned by Harris, there is also a conversion package for the optional-term life provided in most locals by Industrial Alliance Pacific, and this option is considerably cheaper for many members. The conversion information for both plans is available at either BCTF or local school board offices, and many teachers phone to ask for this information.

As well, the Retired Teachers’ Association offers three different life insurance options, which can be checked by contacting the RTA at 604-871-2265, toll free 1-877-683-2243, or online at www.bctf.bc.ca/rta

Arnie Lambert, BCTF Income Security Division

Cuba sends thanks

It’s been a bit more than three years since we first had teachers from BCTF in Villa Clara, Cuba, and ever since our relationship with you people has grown stronger.

Thanks to BCTF we were hosts twice of very fruitful courses with teachers from the English Department at ISP Fèlix Varela and from the schools all over our province, that were conducted by wonderful teachers from Vancouver.

Thanks to BCTF we established very heart-felt connections with teachers belonging to this Union who have helped us set up a great project with SFU, aimed at promoting the teaching of French here in variety of ways.

Thanks to BCTF, we have at our disposal in our department lots of great books and teaching materials both in English and in French, as well as a computer lab with a local net, with Internet available and everything, as well as printers, copiers, CD burner, and a lot of players.

In other words, our links with BCTF and especially with excellent people like Yom Shamash, Hilary Spicer, and Jacqui Birchall, just to mention a few of them, has been an invaluable gift that we have received here that has added quite a bit to the improvement of the quality of the teachers of foreign languages that we are forming here, and most important of all, this connection with you people has been an example of sincere human relationship between people from two different countries, one a developed country and the other one trying to devolop and trying to overcome a long blockade imposed by the USA.

For all I have said so far, would you pass our most sincere gratitude to the people from BCTF, and to make it more personal, would you thank professor Larry Kuehn, whom I met in Vancouver and had the kindness of attending the welcome gathering that you organized for me there last October?

Thank you, Yom, once more. And thank you, BCTF

Dr. Alfredo Camacho Delgado, Foreign Languages, Instituto Superior Pedagògico "Fèlix Varela," Villa Clara, Santa Clara, Cuba

Vanoc considers schools for dormitories

Here we go again! I find it simply astounding that after our provincial government has deemed our teachers and schools an essential service, Vanoc is again considering using four secondary schools as Olympic facilities.

Since the designation of essential service can be so easily dismissed I believe that it would be far better and cheaper to temporarily close a hospital. After all, these buildings are already equipped with rooms and beds.

Tammy Neuman, Richmond

All students should be able to access all programs

Although seniority doesn’t always equate with wisdom, I did spend 52 years teaching in two provinces and the NWT.

Through the years, I found some things didn’t work—for example, corporal punishment. I used it twice—both times it was a mistake that I made in my first three years of teaching.

I grew to distrust standard tests as well, as a high school student my "successful" teacher in Grade 12 at Stonewall Collegiate taught to the provincial exams, but, even worse, put enough pressure on marginal students, that they quit before the finals, which kept his success rate high. He threatened to block my entry to Normal School if I took a correspondence course, which I did over his objections and which gave me my best Grade 12 mark of 82%! (Yes, I did write the finals and got through his subjects in the low 50’s!)

But, it was the front page article in the March issue of Teacher that inspired me to comment on two related issues.

First, I totally agree with John Young’s campaign to make all school programs available to all students in our public schools. No one should have to beg for charity to participate in any school programs!

Second, I am not impressed by the obsession with homework in so many schools. If it can’t be taught during regular hours, then do what has to be done to publicly fund what has to be taught. Homework is discriminatory to students who have trouble finding a place and a time to sleep and enough to eat, never mind a place and time to do laid-on homework!

These are two issues that relate to poverty as far as I am concerned. Seniority doesn’t always give you wisdom, but it does give you perspective!

Don Olds, Retired, Fraser-Cascade

Data from FSA can be helpful

I often read the Teacher with interest, but was disappointed in the cover article in the March 2007 issue: "The accountability scheme: Penalizing poor children." I share reservations about the uses to which test scores are put (Ungerleider, 2003a; 2006), am opposed to ranking schools based upon such data, and in favour of social policies that eliminate inequalities to complement the work of public schools (Ungerleider, 2003b), but the article does a disservice to the poor, to teachers, and to public schooling.

The assertion that the FSA tests do not accurately assess the learning ability of students living in poverty is insupportable and insulting to those learners and their teachers. The tests assess literal, critical, and inferential comprehension in reading, writing for a variety of purposes, and mathematical knowledge capacities that all parents want their children to acquire and capacities that teachers are adept in developing in all learners.

In the article, the claim that the impact of standardized testing on children living in poverty is more severe than it is on many other students is bolstered by the assertion that students living in poverty learn to write, plan, predict, and organize differently (than, presumably, students who are not poor). The article implies that the poor exhibit deficiencies in these areas that prevent them from performing well on standardized tests such as the FSA. Nonsense. That a significant number of poor students do well on the FSA and other similar assessments is a tribute to their teachers.

The promise of a democratic society is that the conditions into which children are born can be ameliorated, if not eliminated, by public schooling. The subtext of the article is that public schools and teachers do not make a difference, but they can and do. When used properly, data from FSA and other assessments can help identify schools that are consistently more successful in helping children learn. By identifying such schools, we can learn what they are doing to deliver on the promise of public schooling in a democracy.

Charles Ungerleider, Faculty of Education UBC

Sexual minority forgotten again

In the ongoing battle for human rights the sexual minorities are forgotten again. Opening our parachutes to diversity (Patrik Parkes, Teacher, March 2007) makes one more step in the noble cause against racism. It praises those who look past the superficial differences of race. However, the only prejudice the article sees is racism. I would like to add to the points made in "Opening our parachutes to diversity" that teachers also need to open their parachutes to a diversity that includes people who are not heterosexual. One of the difficulties of the gay rights movement is that heterosexuals look the same as everyone else. There are also a lot of heterosexuals. In fact, most people are heterosexual, so heterosexuals tend to speak, act, and think like everyone is heterosexual. This is not the case. To extend human rights to the forgotten members of the movement, we must remember to include them in all our discourses both in the classroom and out even though their presence might not be known.

Duane Lecky, Victoria

Parents can choose education

Murray Corren is correct to insist that all teachers in BC defend their right to professional autonomy over instructional strategies, against those few parents who might object to the choice of a novel for the classroom ("A censor? Who, me?" Jan./Feb. 2007, Teacher). However, Jim McMurtry (March 2007) cannot stand this on its head, to insist that parents have no right to remove their children from that classroom. Since 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has proclaimed, "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." That’s prior as in more important than the ambitions of government to choose for them. Our human rights were paid for with the blood of millions, against the malign ambitions of fascists to turn teachers and children into extensions of the state.

Glenn Bullard, New Westminster

I was surprised by Jim McMurtry’s statements in the March issue of Teacher, in response to my letter in the previous issue. As he defends the Corren agreement, McMurtry seems to be arguing that whatever governments and courts legislate is reflective of society’s views and ought therefore to be accepted by all Canadians. This is contrary not only to union history but also to common sense.

If McMurtry really holds such a position, I would have to assume he voted against the majority regarding the recent B CTF illegal job action, which was denounced by both government and court. Any student of history is aware that governments, courts, and societies have often erred greatly.

In reality, McMurtry knows this himself, since within the same letter he feels free to criticize any government that would legislate against his own view: "I think it is timorous for the same government and school boards to permit some parents to dispense with parts of the curriculum, particularly instruction that promotes sensitivity toward people with a different sexual orientation."

It is inappropriate for McMurtry to label the deeply and conscientiously held convictions of British Columbia parents as "bigotry and hate."

If the BCTF truly affirms diversity within a pluralistic society, as it professes to do, then the BCTF should be at the forefront of fighting for parents’ rights to preserve their children from teaching they deem morally objectionable. Anything less would be hypocrisy.

Richard Peachey, Abbotsford

Retirees struggle with tax bills

It was refreshing to read Marc Lee’s article on aging and the BC healthcare system but as a retiree, I am more concerned about age discrimination of working people who think that we elders are "troughers." The latter are actually those who are working teachers and striking—threatening for higher and higher wages (let’s not kid ourselves with talk about "working conditions") so that they can build their own retirements while retirees struggle and juggle to meet the demands of higher and higher tax bills. I hate to say it, but, "Just wait you guys."

Murrie Redman, Retired, Sunshine Coast

Boards of education spear catchers?

My friend, Ken Douglas, a teacher and municipal and regional politician, referred to school boards "as designated spear catchers for the provincial government." This description was based on the fact that unless a political body has the ability to control the financing of their responsibilities they have virtually no influence on the system.

The new provincial proposal to create "Boards of Education" appears to provide the possibility to meet their parochial desires to control teachers but no control to be able to improve the teachers’ ability to enable students to expand their abilities.

Each Board of Education may now have the ability to become narrower designated spear catchers of the partners involved in education.

John Ward, Retired, Cowichan Valley

Appalled and disgusted with union

As a rank and file BCTF member, I was appalled to hear that the costs of holding the AGM each year amount to $1,000,000 or more, and that it was cancelled at the last minute, which will cost us over $250,000 more to boot. This adds insult to injury! All this has come to my notice due to the information I received because of the present dispute the BCTF has with its office workers. Furthermore, I would like to see a break down of the per capita costs for delegates to attend this annual meeting. Does the union pay for air tickets for delegates as well as road costs and other travel expenses? If so, what can a delegate claim? What does it cost to accommodate and feed each delegate? As for the salaries that BCTF office workers get, I was also very disturbed by the "sweet deal" these folks have managed to glean for themselves, and their spouses. It is quite out of line in my opinion, and the BCTF needs to bring this "fat cat" mentality into line with what ordinary teachers earn in the trenches. I am disgusted!

Rupert Gruen, Kelowna

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