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Chilliwack's shop safety concerns get provincial coverage

Chilliwack shop teacher Eric Munshaw is not going quietly in the night.

Three days shy of his last working day as an industrial education teacher in the Chilliwack school district, Munshaw was paraded out at the BC Teachers' Federation news conference Monday morning.

Standing before Vancouver media, he told reporters his story – how he felt he could no longer teach in a system he didn't feel confident had student safety at heart.

"Our focus has always been about student safety," said Munshaw. "We've never mentioned budgets, we've never mentioned working conditions. The issue is simply one of can we appropriately supervise numbers when it goes beyond a certain point?"

After years of listening to policy makers, both locally and provincially, "pass the buck" with regards to class size in shop classes, Munshaw tendered his resignation last month.

"Our provincial association (BC Technology Education Association) has done their risk assessment, we've done our due diligence, and we drew a line in the sand with the best practices guide, which hasn't been implemented," said Munshaw. "As a professional, it puts us in a real ethical problem.

"So, I've come to the end of my road."

The timing for the news conference was not a coincidence.

Monday marked the 12th anniversary of Bill 28, legislation that removed class size and composition from teachers' collective bargaining agreements in 2002.

The result of which BCTF president Jim Iker said is a generation of students who have been short-changed in education.

“Children who were in kindergarten in 2002, when government illegally stripped class-size and class-composition language from our collective agreements, are now in Grade 12,” said Iker. “An entire generation of B.C. kids, have spent their whole K–12 education in larger classes with less one-on-one-time, and less support from specialist teachers."

Several statistics were thrown out through the course of the conference:

B.C. is the second worst funded education system, at $1,000 less than the national average, next only to Prince Edward Island; B.C. has the country's worst student-educator ratio, meaning there are more students per educator than anywhere else in Canada; B.C. has lost 1,400 specialist teachers since 2002, most cut from the system, but some who have left for reasons similar to Munshaw's.

“After 12 years, with 2002’s kindergarten class now graduating, it’s time to recognize that government has not lived up to British Columbians’ expectations,” said Iker.

The BCTF and the provincial government are currently at the bargaining table. The teacher's contract expired June 30, 2013.

• Hours following this morning's press conference, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in the BCTF's favour, ordering the government to pay $2 million in damages to teachers' with regards to the class size battle that began in 2002.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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