I found it astounding to read the Jan. 31 editorial in the Mirror: “Lots of Politics in judge’s ruling on class size.”
There were certainly a lot of politics at the bargaining table when teachers were attempting to negotiate a collective agreement. The unidentified Black Press writers state that there is nothing that offers any proof in the ruling “other than a suggestion that cabinet documents back up the assertion” that the government’s strategy was to provoke a strike by the BCTF and that they were not bargaining in good faith.
Are the editorial writers questioning the Supreme Court judge’s credibility? Do they think the judge just pulled this ruling out of thin air? The findings of fact in the decision aren’t going to change. Both parties agreed to most of the facts prior to the case commencing, which the judge commended them for. In addition to the cabinet documents, the evidence given in court by Paul Straszak and James Gorman also speak to what was happening behind the scenes with cabinet’s blessing, i.e. that the government was trying to force teachers to go on strike to win political support for legislation, and that they were trying to drive a wedge between the BCTF and its own members.
The most telling evidence that the government acted illegally and immorally is the fact that they have refused to release the cabinet documents. They do not want the public to know the extent of their culpability. The media is able to and should be pushing for the release of those documents so they can see for themselves what was shared in open court. There is also a misleading statement that the class size and composition provisions were inserted in a “contract imposed by the former NDP government on school boards.” It is far more complicated than that. Almost all of the class size/composition and staffing ratio language was negotiated directly between locals and their school boards between 1988 and 1993.
In 1998, a deal was negotiated between the BCTF and the NDP government, which included provincial K-3 class size language. In exchange for that language teachers took 0%, 0%, and 2%. BCPSEA, at the behest of school boards, wouldn’t ratify that deal at the time, so the NDP government imposed it in legislation. But a couple years later, BCPSEA and the BCTF agreed to roll it into the collective agreement. So teachers bought that class size language by giving up reasonable salary increases, which is still affecting our salaries and pensions to this day. But the worst part is that after giving up salary increases to get those class sizes, they were illegally stripped from our contracts, along with our local language.
Another misleading part of the editorial states that some classes were split in two which benefited teachers but had a questionable impact on students. Imagine the extra one-on-one attention that students got in those smaller classes. One-on-one time with teachers is one of the strongest influences on student outcomes. And in the original court case in 2011, it was discovered that in order to make their case about the detrimental effect of class size guidelines, some of the government testimony included imaginary scenarios in schools that did not even exist. That too is in the court records.
How can anyone trust a government that would fabricate evidence to win their case, or one that truly puts politics ahead of the interests of students?
Campbell River District Teachers’ Association