Teachers cast eye to next round of talks

B.C. Teachers’ Federation continues talks with its employer, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association

There’s good news and bad news for teachers in the Vernon School District this year.

Vernon Teachers’ Association president Kevin Bader said while last year’s job action has led to the current collective agreement, bargaining will resume in the spring.

“The good news is we have a new agreement, the bad news is that there is nothing in the new agreement that addresses class size and composition,” said Bader.

“The new agreement is retroactive to the last school year and goes to the end of this school year, so no job action this year, but bargaining will resume again in the spring.”

Bader said the B.C. Teachers’ Federation continues talks with its employer, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

“Last year was difficult for teachers for many reasons,” said Bader. “Teachers have mixed feelings about this year, although the beginning of the year is always an exciting time, a time to build new relationships and will I be able to meet the needs of my students.”

The choice to volunteer for extracurricular activities is an individual choice, said Bader, and not one that is a yes or no situation.

“Volunteerism is a very sensitive issue. We have always had drama teachers and coaches who are all over this and maybe that’s why they got into teaching, but last year our employer took us to the Labour Relations Board and said volunteer activity should be part of my job.

“The common denominator is wellness and balance, to try and balance the school life with other areas of their life, such as health and family.”

Bader said teachers would like to see trustee representation at the bargaining table and to lend their voice in the provincial election next May.

With the issue of class size and composition not addressed and the imposition of Bill 22, teachers are unhappy with what they call “cash for kids,” which compensates teachers who have more than 30 students in the classroom.

B.C. teachers have long advocated for smaller classes so they can give all students the individual attention they need. Bill 22 proposes to pay some teachers more for taking classes with more students than are allowed under the School Act.

“Teachers are extremely opposed to the idea of cash for kids, it puts teachers in an impossible position and violates our collective agreement.

“But we have a brand new minister of education  and I want to encourage you to write to him not to enact this piece of legislation. I invite you to please work with the VTA in lobbying for change.”

Teachers want to see an end to cuts to education and investing more in kids and schools.

“Teacher-librarians have decreased 37 1/2 per cent and I find this ironic especially when you contrast it with the ministry’s initiative to strengthen our kids’ reading skills.

“There is a decrease in special needs teachers and teachers are concerned about the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), which is inadequate to address the decreasing support for our most vulnerable students.

“I encourage the board to invite me into consultations with the LIF, and I encourage you to visit the web site, Better Schools for B.C., as it outlines a plan for quality public education because with better resources a district like ours can focus on three priorities: restore class size limits; provide more support for all kids with special needs; place learning specialist teachers in each school so all students can benefit from counselling, teacher-librarians and other learning supports.”