Hundreds of Chilliwack teachers walked in solidarity against the government Monday.
The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association organized a voluntary demonstration walk, at the Landing Sports Centre, to conclude its “study session” leading into the start of full-strike action Tuesday. An estimated 800 teachers participated, which included representation from both Chilliwack and Fraser-Cascade school districts.
A smaller rally was also held at Chilliwack Mall that had approximately 200 teachers in attendance.
Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Clint Johnston wasn’t surprised by the turnout.
“The line of people walking by and by is exactly what we had hoped for,” said Johnston. “It shows how important what’s going on is to teachers right now.”
The walk was not mandatory, but voluntary.
The large turnout was proof, said Johnston, that it’s not just the union wanting a fair deal, it’s teachers.
Johnston listed off issues specifically occurring in the Chilliwack school district.
Several full-time teacher-librarian positions have been cut, he said, most glaringly at inner-city schools where there are high numbers of struggling readers.
Other specialty teaching positions have also suffered budgetary cutbacks.
Johnston blames the “stripping” of specialist teacher ratios from the contract in 2002, when services, including teacher-librarians and educational assistants, were bundled into the same funding pie.
The result, he said, is that administrators have to decide whether it’s more important for whole schools to have supported access to libraries, or for individual children to get the supports they require.
“These are not decisions that should have to be made,” said Johnston. “Our children deserve both.”
Several communities throughout the province held similar walks and rallies Monday.