Teacher union wary of Clark’s leadership win

Christy Clark’s history with public education has the president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association frightened.With just a day to go before teachers start negotiating a new contract, CTA president Katharin Midzain fears the impact B.C.’s new premier designate could have on public education.“It’s no secret that she has issues with the [BC Teachers’ Federation] and with the College of Teachers and with public school teachers in general, she made that clear when she was education minister,” said Midzain.“We’re entering bargaining, it’s a really critical time for public school teachers and public education and now we have a premier who doesn’t have a history of showing us a lot of regard.”Clark was education minister from 2001 to 2004, a tenure that was plagued by school closures, budget cutbacks and union turmoil. She was responsible for passing laws that rolled back teacher contracts signed with the previous NDP government; she made it illegal for teachers to strike; froze education spending; and blocked teachers from negotiating class size.Despite Clark’s “families first” campaign this time around, Midzain isn’t convinced.“It’s her idea of family,” said Midzain.However, Chilliwack board of education chair Doug McKay isn’t so quick to judge. Because McKay didn’t move to B.C. until 2004, he has no prior background of Clark’s history in government.“From my point of view, she gets to start right at even,” said McKay. “I’m going to give her a chance. I hope we’re able to work with her.”In her term as education minister, Clark was also responsible for starting school planning councils that gave parents a voice in public education, as well as implementing schools of choice, which made it possible for kids to go to schools outside their catchment area.Clark’s platform for becoming premier promised to give parents more input and choice in public education; support independent and faith-based schools; create more niche schools that focus on sports and arts in addition to academics; keep the foundation skills assessment tests; and “fix” the governance model which oversees teachers to ensure the B.C. College of Teachers’ investigation and disciplinary process is up-to-date and effective.

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