Opinion: Education misfire

With a week left before Chilliwack students are supposed to return to the classroom, there seems little reason to think they will.

With a little more than a week left before Chilliwack students are supposed to return to the classroom, there seems little reason to think they will.

Despite insistence from both sides that they want an agreement reached by Sept. 2, school yards will likely remain silent.

Indeed, as the clock ticked down Thursday, government and the teachers’ union were still trading shots, this time it was over Education Minister’s Peter Fassbender’s comments in the media that, according to the BC Teachers’ Federation, broke an agreed-to media blackout.

Of course, few believed that the two sides would find a negotiated settlement amid the lazy days of summer.

The trajectory has always been toward a final showdown – one that is still coming.

It is, after all, the government that holds all the cards.

The BC Liberals are early in their (strong) mandate, meaning they are better able to weather the public backlash over the dispute.

They have in their pocket a raft of public sector settlements that suggest a negotiated agreement is possible.

And while there are many who are angered by the government’s bargaining tactics, there are many others who argue the BCTF is asking too much and teachers have gone too far.

The government also knows that teachers cannot stay off the job much longer. Their strike fund is dwindling, and their resources are drying up.

And they know that those teachers who get fed up and leave the profession can be replaced by the hundreds of education graduates churned out each year by universities in B.C. and across the country.

Meanwhile, parents who may feel the sting of increased childcare costs should the strike continue, have been offered the salve of a $40-a-day payment.

BCTF negotiators may be hoping for a legislated settlement, one that would allow them to face their membership as bruised but not beaten combatants.

But the fact is they have played their hand poorly. They have cost their members money that no settlement will recover. They have alienated their CUPE colleagues who suffer every day the schools remain closed.

And they have underestimated the will of a government weary of more than two decades of conflict.

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