Chilliwack teachers are hitting the streets Monday to raise awareness around their fight for public education.
They’re not the only ones.
After months of job action and ongoing clashes with the provincial government, teachers across the province will be rallying for public support.
“We need to do something now to make more public awareness of the fact we’re still in this fight,” said Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Katharin Midzain.
“We’ve tried really hard to bargain at the bargaining table and not in the media, and not in the public, and not use parents or students as pawns. But now, people need to know that public education is at a very critical point of dismantling.”
On Thursday, B.C. Education Minister George Abbott announced he was preparing legislation to end the dispute. The announcement followed a report by the government’s fact-finder Trevor Hughes who noted it “very unlikely” the BC Teachers’ Federation would reach a voluntary agreement with the BC School Employers’ Association.
However, Midzain said the public rally had been planned for weeks and was not a reaction to the report.
“In this budget [which was released Tuesday] the government has increased funding to private schools by 0.7 per cent, but public schools by only 0.4 per cent,” said Midzain. “That doesn’t even keep up with inflation, so really it’s a net decrease. They’re giving more funding to independent schools – what does that tell you about their priorities?”
[The way government funding to independent schools works is based on a classification scale that provides private schools with either 50 per cent less than what public schools receive per student or 65 per cent less.]
On Monday, teachers will be working a “bell to bell” day, where they will arrive at school just before the first bell and will leave school shortly after the last bell.
Any extracurricular activities that can be rescheduled, such as practices, rehearsals, and even games in some cases, will be rescheduled.
As well, during the lunch hour, teachers at all schools will be holding union meetings to get up-to-date information on what’s happening with negotiations.
“Things are changing every hour, and teachers need a chance to get together and get informed as to where we are at this moment,” said Midzain.
The meeting is also meant to be a visual display showing that teachers get full lunch hours too.
“The public needs to know that school teachers tend to be a quiet lot and we’re not willing to be contained anymore,” said Midzain.
Teachers will be gathering at Cottonwood Mall at 2:30 p.m on Monday and will be walking along Vedder Road and Luckakuck Road with signs until 5 or 6 p.m.