Many parents were probably hopeful that last week’s B.C. Court of Appeal decision was the last they’d hear about the provincial government’s seemingly never-ending battle with the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) over the removal of class size and special-needs support formulas from classrooms.
In a judgment Thursday, four of five appeal court judges found that the province did not infringe on the constitutional rights of teachers to bargain working conditions.
It was a stinging rebuke to the teachers’ union, finding that the government has the authority to set class sizes and special needs support in public schools, and that it didn’t bargain in bad faith.
Regardless, the BCTF said it will try to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the historical shoving match between Victoria and the BCTF will see yet another chapter.
While no one would argue that class sizes should be left to expand without limits, and while support for special-needs children is vital to give those kids the tools they need to become healthy adults, both issues should not be decided by unions, contract negotiators, and subsequently, lawyers and courts.
These issues are at the core of education policy and the type of learning environments provided for our children – in context of what is reasonable, affordable and sustainable over the long-term.
To take this out of the hands of the public’s elected representatives – whatever their political stripes – and expect the courts to be the champions of kids through an interpretation of law, isn’t good for anyone.
The public has the ability to express and test its education values as a priority at the ballot box.
It’s how democracy should work.