The introduction of The Teachers Act could be a distraction, according to Campbell River District Teachers’ Association president Neil Thompson.
“What we should be concentrating on is the bargaining process and getting bargaining underway and I’m worried that this is a distraction,” said Thompson.
Education Minister George Abbott announced the new legislation last Wednesday in response to a fact-finders report by former education deputy minister Don Avison.
The report, called A College Divided, was issued last year and said that the College of Teachers no longer had the confidence of the education community in B.C.
“The goal of this legislation is to raise the stature of the teaching profession and increase public confidence in the profession’s disciplinary processes,” said Abbott in a news release. “These changes will strengthen the teaching profession, as well as increase accountability and transparency.”
While Thompson acknowledges the need for change within the organization, he said the report pointed to BCTF’s involvement as the problem, and he said this is not true.
“We understand that there’s needs for changes within the college, that was clear. It wasn’t functioning properly at all but it’s not because of BCTF’s involvement,” said Thompson.
“I’m concerned about the perception that it was based on the fact that BCTF was doing something it shouldn’t be.
“That was never clarified from the government that that in fact, was not true.”
If passed, the new legislation will replace the college with a council made up of three teachers from BCTF, five teachers elected on a regional basis, and seven members based on nominations from education sector partners like the B.C. School Trustees Association and the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
Currently, the college is made up of 20 members, with 12 members elected from the profession and eight appointed by the provincial government.
The new structure would also have a Discipline and Professional Conduct Board to hear complaints made against teachers, which will have nine members total, but only three per hearing and only one of those will be from BCTF, meaning the BCTF will not have majority vote in these cases.
Thompson is said he is not concerned about a loss of power for teachers.
“It’s not about power, it’s about protecting our profession and making sure that we are in fact professionals,” said Thompson.
However, he did mention he is concerned about fees. According to Thompson, teachers are each paying about $80 per year in fees towards the college and he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for teachers to continue paying the fees if the regulatory body goes back under government control.
“I feel that if the government is going to take control of the college then they should be forking the money out to pay for it, not teachers,” said Thompson.