Teachers fought

Over a 15-year time span, tens of thousands of B.C. teachers stood up for what they knew was a malicious attack on the children of B.C., and indirectly, the larger social fabric of the province. As one of their first acts of governing, the B.C. Liberals, under education minister Christy Clark, illegally and unconstitutionally stripped B.C. teachers of their collective bargaining rights.

With an illegal stroke of her pen Jan. 26, 2002, Clark smugly justified her act as one of “flexibility” with the ‘Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act’. It created plenty of flexibility for government and management to cram more students in classrooms, to close more than 240 schools, to significantly reduce needed supports for students with special needs, and to reduce specialist teachers, severely affecting the delivery of library services, counselling, English language learning and aboriginal education.

B.C. teachers stood up to a belligerent government that put itself above the law, by forcing them to justify their actions to the highest court of the land. It took the Supreme Court of Canada less than 30 minutes to return with a ruling from the bench, validating the immense sacrifice that teachers and students endured over the past 15 years.

A generation of students were callously short-changed of a valued educational experience. When you look around, know that anyone 32-years-old and younger have been fully or partially affected by a version of flexibility that is perverse in nature. What makes B.C. students less entitled to the same educational funding afforded by nine other provincial governments to their students? B.C. children and youth from kindergarten to Grade 12 have their provincial government valuing their educational experience by $1,000 less than the national average. With more than 500,000 students in our rich province, that is more than $500,000,000 less for the imperative resources needed for quality education. The B.C. Liberals are balancing the books and creating surpluses on the backs of their war on education.

Clark had a choice to follow the law and properly fund education or to continue using bullying tactics. She chose the latter. That is not leadership; that is not a role model I want representing my own children. The B.C. Liberals and Clark had 15 years to make good on the ill they brought to the education system. Rather, they ignored Justice Griffin’s initial ruling in 2011 by bringing in more unconstitutional legislation and purposefully provoking teachers into striking in 2014. Following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, Clark once again responded by saying, “The court win is an opportunity to invest in kids.” Fifteen years too late Christy. We properly invest in kids because it is the right thing to do.

The reinstatement of what teachers and students were robbed of 15 years ago is a result of dedicated teachers who advocated unwaveringly for their students.

Please thank these teachers, active and retired, who took this stand, while they maintained some of the highest educational standards in the world in the face of unrelenting attacks and provocation from the Liberals. The Liberals should not be rewarded May 9 for such a deliberate attack on children, teachers and our valued and respected public education system.

Mike O’Brien