Re: Premier’s private school tour draws protest
It baffles me as to why Premier Clark is so afraid of teachers as so poignantly demonstrated by her actions in Chilliwack and Hope on Monday, March 5 as reported in both local Chilliwack newspapers. Teachers simply wanted Ms. Clark to have the chance to see the faces of the real people who, along with students in BC, will feel the effects of Bill 22, the “Education Improvement Act.” We weren’t blocking the road or any entrances, yet Premier Clark made assumptions about how teachers would behave “…vociferously and angrily.” (“Premier’s private school tour draws protest” the Chilliwack Progress) if she was present at Unity Christian School. She wouldn’t even pass by us from the safety of her car!
Furthermore, in the Tuesday, March 6 edition of the Chilliwack Progress, Ms. Clark stated that “…the outcome of Bill 22 is inevitable and that the teachers’ full withdrawal of services is pointless.” She then blames the teachers’ union for disrupting classes. I am curious as to how she can blame teachers for any disruption. It is her leadership that has made the decision to be elsewhere in the province rather than in Victoria debating this bill, and, given its presumed inevitability, passing it.
Ms. Clark told reporters that “the meeting had been planned for some time” and that “…the fact the teachers’ union decided today that they were going to shut down public schools doesn’t mean that I need to stop doing my job.” Yet, it seems as though changing and canceling events at short notice isn’t impossible to do as Ms. Clark was quite able to change plans at the last minute in both Hope and Chilliwack because of small groups of peacefully demonstrating teachers.
So why wouldn’t Ms Clark face teachers, or talk to us? This was a perfect opportunity for her to defend the Education Improvement Act and convince us that it is the right direction for public education without all the BCTF rhetoric that people seem to think teachers are fed unilaterally. If she really believes that this act will improve educational services for B.C.’s students then absolutely she should be doing her job – either in Victoria doing government business or out in the public speaking to those people affected by her policies.
Speaking of being fed rhetoric unilaterally, I wonder how many MLAs have read through the Bill 22 document, taken the time to refer back to the School Act and collective agreements in order to understand what is being changed, and been out in their own communities listening to their constituents, many of whom are parents, grandparents, and teachers? The public support that teachers in Chilliwack have been witness to over the past three days has been phenomenal. Those passersby who have engaged in discussion about this legislation have expressed shock at what is being proposed, some highlights (low lights?) of which are: no accountability to Boards of Education, no real class size limits from Grade 4 on, no clear definition of the school calendar, and no limits or specific support for students with special needs.
I have some questions for the public to consider as debate on Bill 22 continues:
How could Ms Clark be pre-judging what a mediator will be deciding? If everything is “inevitable,” is the appointment of a mediator just a farce?
How can Ms. Clark truly be representing the people of British Columbia? Her arrogance speaks volumes about how she intends to wield her power. She states that her job is to “…talk to as many British Columbians as (she) possibly can” but she won’t meet with teachers. Why? When did students in public schools become non-entities in government policy making?
Does our MLA, John Les, elected by individuals in Chilliwack to serve our needs, have the courage to stand up to this arrogance and vote on Bill 22 according to what the people here want and for what is truly good for all students instead of just along a party line?
I encourage everyone to watch the events of the next few weeks carefully and go to the polls , whenever a byelection or general election is called, armed with a clear idea of the type of representation that is needed.
Chilliwack Teachers’ Association