September 17, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses cuts to parental leave

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Trudy Mason discuss cuts to parental leave and the Couillard government’s austerity agenda.

Click here for the podcast.

September 11, 2014

Why Teachers Fear the Worst of Clark Government

Signs mount that union busting, privatized schooling are true agenda.

By Tom Kertes| Published September 10, 2014 by TheTyee.ca

Today, public school teachers in British Columbia will vote to end their job action if the government agrees to leave the issues of class size and class compensation to the courts. Both parties are almost on the same page when it comes to wages and contract length, but regardless the government continues to say the two are miles apart, and continues to refuse to participate in binding arbitration.

Why this government is so adamantly against making any deal with teachers, other than a deal that essentially amounts to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation giving up its court case, giving up on wages and giving up on any issue of importance to its members, is what everyone watching this dispute is asking.

The point of government is to work within a system of balanced power that supports the community as a whole. One way to do this is through public education, which provides schooling on an equal and equitable basis and with public oversight. Public education, in contrast to private education, is universally accessible. Every child in B.C. has a right to education, a right respected by government through the provision of schools supported by shared taxation. In contrast, a privatized system — like the system of private schools already in place for some students — starts with barriers to entry. Parents need to be able to afford it, or the child must be deemed worthy of entry, for example to receive a school scholarship.

A concern for all supporters of public education is that the BC Liberals will introduce either a charter system, where public dollars are diverted from a public system to one composed of publicly-funded, for-profit, special-interest or religious schools. If this government wants to use the strike as a wedge issue to pull support from the public schools or as a weapon to break the teachers’ union, then we may end up with the worst possible scenario, where our public system gets dumped for a private one. The government may do this because it opposes union influence over the school system, because its supporters are either seeking to profit or to proselytize through a new system, or simply because it wants to put its own stamp on the system.

Whatever the reason, B.C. cannot afford to lose the public benefits that only a public school system provides.

Read more: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/09/10/Teachers-Clark-Govt-Fear/

September 6, 2014

Hey, premiers, leave them teachers alone!

By Robert Green | Published Sept 1 2014 by Ricochet

The beginning of the school year should be a time of great optimism and excitement for teachers. We’re energized by seeing our colleagues again and excited to meet the students we’ll be teaching for the year. Our thoughts should be focused on making our classrooms more welcoming, our lessons more engaging and our contributions to our school community more meaningful.

Unfortunately, for too many teachers across Canada the positive feelings that normally accompany the beginning of the school year will be overshadowed by more negative sentiments: uncertainty, frustration, anger and above all the feeling of being profoundly disrespected.

British Columbia

Nowhere is this more true than in BC. The province’s teachers have been on the picket line since the spring as part of the latest chapter in an exasperating decades-long struggle with the province’s Liberal government. The bad faith demonstrated by the government over the course of this struggle boggles the mind. While the media wants to malign BC teachers as greedy, the heart of this dispute has always been about protecting quality of education for students by reducing class size. After teachers gave up salary concessions in the nineties in order to win class-size reductions (greedy bastards!) the BC Liberals went on to unilaterally remove these provisions from their contract in 2002. Continue reading

September 6, 2014

How English schools can survive

By By Anne Lagacé Dowson | Published September 5, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Don Macpherson doesn’t miss much. As the dean of Quebec political journalists, and a parent too, Macpherson sees the warning signs embedded in a report by the Quebec education ministry that was dropped into the silence of the summer.

The report is a devastating report card for our English-language school boards in Quebec. It demonstrates that they have failed to stay in touch with the new realities of language in Quebec. As the report mentions, a virtual cascade of parents who have the legal right to English-language schooling for their children are instead choosing schools in the French-language system.

More and more parents who could send their kids to English-language schools have decided that they do not have confidence in these schools. They are voting with their feet. They have decided that English-language schools are not equipping their kids with what it takes to thrive in the New Quebec.

Parents now realize that to be able to make a living in Quebec, and put down roots in this province, their children need to be able to speak the language of the majority — and speak it well.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/English+schools+survive/10174759/story.html

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September 1, 2014

Why BC teachers can’t sign with E80 on the table.

Published August 31, 2014 by Voices for BC Education

Imagine a client hires you for a job. The pay isn’t great but the work is steady and you like the hours.

A little while later they come back and tell you that the scope of the job has grown substantially and they understand you can’t do it alone so they let you hire a team of 10 people. With 10, you can do the job, just. It’s more challenging but you agree.

As time goes by they stop paying some of your team. You find yourself with a skeleton crew. You go to head office and tell them what is happening. They tell the client they have to pay for the 10 people they agreed to hire.

The client comes back saying they won’t and tries to rewrite the terms of your agreement. You stop working. They stop paying.

They come back to you and say… we will hire you back, just you, not your team. The condition? They will hire you if and only if you agree to sign this document that says “Should head office decide more people are needed to complete the job, either party can tear up the contract.” and the client doesn’t have to hire more people.

Would you do the job?

 E80 is asking us to agree to let the government decide if they will abide by the court rulings.  It’s giving them the right to tear up our contract if they don’t like what the courts have to say. Would you agree to that? Would you go back to work?

Teachers want to be in the classroom. They want to be teaching but they can’t if E80 is part of the deal.

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August 30, 2014

What’s Jamming Teacher Bargaining?

Sources say Clark gov’t insists on clauses insulating it from another Supreme Court loss.

By Crawford Kilian | Published 25 Aug 2014 by TheTyee.ca

The long summer stall in teacher bargaining may be due to terms the government is insisting on including in the next contract, The Tyee has learned. One proposed clause, apparently a major sticking point, appears to stem from the legal, financial and political bind the BC Liberals face after rulings against them by the B.C. Supreme Court.

While a media blackout continues, information received (not from anyone bargaining on either side) suggests that “one of the major stumbling blocks in the contract that the government wants the teachers to sign is that there is language/wording that virtually recreates all the conditions set out in Bills 27, 28 and 22.”

Bills 27 and 28, passed by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government in 2002 when Christy Clark was education minister, effectively tore up the contract teachers had been working under, and removed class size and composition from the bargaining table.

In 2011 the BC Supreme Court declared the bills unconstitutional. It gave the government one year to make amends, and in 2012 Victoria introduced Bill 22, effectively restoring what the Supreme Court had rejected.

Read more: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/08/25/Teacher-Bargaining-Jams/

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August 29, 2014

Will the Liberals ensure schools get proper funding?

By Robert Green | Published Aug 27, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Along with just about every teacher in the province, I was left speechless by Liberal Education Minister Yves Bolduc’s statement last week that “no child is going to die from (budget cuts) or stop reading because there are already books” in school libraries.

That such words would be uttered by a minister of education is just baffling. Either Bolduc is unaware of the very serious impact of denying Quebec’s schools the resources they need to get kids excited about reading, or he simply doesn’t care about the quality of education in Quebec’s public schools.

That this statement happened to also have been made by a man who saw no problem double-dipping into Quebec’s public coffers for over $200,000 in personal gain is downright infuriating.

Thus far, the government’s attempts at damage control have done little to restore confidence. While Bolduc has apologized for his statement and both he and Premier Philippe Couillard have affirmed that it’s important for school libraries to be able to purchase new books, neither has provided an alternative that won’t affect the province’s most needy students in other ways. Both have made vague suggestions that school boards should choose to cut elsewhere.

This of course raises the question of where exactly school boards should cut. Continue reading

August 28, 2014

Workers not to blame for Quebec pension problem

By Don Pittis | Published Aug 22, 2014 by CBC News

A deal’s a deal, right? Well, not when it comes to the province of Quebec and the pensions of its municipal employees.

And if Quebec gets away with cutting municipal worker pensions, which have been eaten away through mismanagement by the very people doing the cutting, then watch this phenomenon spread. 

Quebec is pulling a Detroit. About a year ago, I pointed out that the shattered dreams of Detroit pensioners should be a warning to the rest of us. But unlike Detroit, Quebec is trying to snatch back promised pension money by fiat through its proposed Bill 3 pension reform legislation, without the inconvenient legal process of bankruptcy.

No wonder the municipal workers are protesting.

To read many of the stories about these Quebec pension cuts you would think that it was the pensioners’ fault. The same kind of thing happened in Detroit. Outraged taxpayers inveigh against government employees for sucking money out of the public purse for a cushy retirement. It’s as if by choosing a job with a pension and keeping to their side of the contract, the workers are taking advantage.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/workers-not-to-blame-for-quebec-pension-problem-don-pittis-1.2742698

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August 27, 2014

Pay The Fucking Teachers – a rant

By Wes Borg | Published June 26, 2014 by My Dumb Blog

A rare (I promise) and unsolicited rant from this particular comedian:
Pay the fucking teachers. Shut the fuck up and pay them a lot of money.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t argue. Just suck it up and give the fucking teachers whatever they fucking want.
An educated public commits less crime, makes more money, and has a lower birth rate. They probably even fucking swear less often.
Education is the magic fucking bullet to get us out of the economic, political and environmental shitstorm we are about to be swimming in.
Education is not just the magic fucking bullet, it’s our ONLY fucking bullet.
There are currently 7 billion people on this planet.
In the year 2000, there were 6 billion.
That’s a BILLION extra people since Destiny’s Child was a thing.
Wrap your fucking mind around that one.
During Beyoncé’s career, from “Bootylicious” to “Drunk in Love”, the world’s population increased by over 16%. (Don’t blame Beyoncé, she’s just trying to entertain the nice people with her music and titties.)
Oh, and the oceans are about to start rising, flooding cities and wiping out entire fucking islands over the next 50 years. It’s going to happen, and we have NO IDEA how to even just SLOW IT DOWN.
So we are about to have way too many people living on less and less land.
How the FUCK do you think that’s gonna work out?!
Oh, and we’re almost out of oil.
Now obviously “the rich are going to move to the higher ground” (Geoff Berner) and start shooting anyone who comes near the compound, and religious fanatics are going to say it’s God’s Will or some other stupid shit, but the only hope for the rest of us is that the kids growing up today get fucking smart, fucking fast.
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August 21, 2014

Dear (White) Teachers

By Michael Doyle | Published August 16, 2014 by Michael Doyle’s Science Teacher blog

Excerpt:

Those of us who teach in public schools, who earn our living using public dollars, are obligated as civil servants, and more importantly, as human beings, to carry the discussion of what it means to be public. For us to be people.

I teach young adults in a public space. Their space. My space. Our space.
Race has been criminalized in our public spaces.
Has been for a long, long time.
That’s our problem.

I have long lost hope that I can much change private discourse of folks of privilege, though I bark enough that some conversations get shorted when I’m around. But silencing private conversations will not change a damn thing, despite the ooh-goody-goody dopamine dose of self-righteousness you might feel.

Let’s talk about our roles as public teachers in public spaces publicly.
Let’s remind our students (and ourselves) that the public belongs to all of us.
Let’s remember that abstractions, as powerful as they are, are not real.

Read more: doyle-scienceteach.blogspot.it/2014/08/deat-white-teachers.html

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August 20, 2014

WHY I’M ON THE PICKET LINE

By Tara Ehrcke | Published by Our Times

Excerpt:

Yes, I believe I deserve a raise. But, just like other teachers, that isn’t the main reason I voted yes to strike. A society is measured by how it treats everyone. This includes the poor, the disenfranchised, the “ordinary.” In British Columbia, children of poor and working-class families get overcrowded in underfunded schools. The children who need the most from education — the hungry, the hurt, the struggling ones — get the least. In contrast, the ones whose parents can pay get the most.

The “public” in public school shouldn’t mean just providing a building, with some tired teachers to deliver a curriculum, the success of which is measured by standardized tests. A good public school system should provide high quality opportunities to every single child. While our public schools have many wonderful programs and many dedicated teachers, the sad truth is that there are also overcrowded classrooms, children falling behind, and a workforce exhausted from trying to fill in the gaps.

Read more: http://ourtimes.ca/Between_Times/article_356.php

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August 13, 2014

Why we shouldn’t avoid the word “white”

By Ben Sichel | Published August 8 by no need to raise your hand

Many years ago, many people had no qualms about calling themselves “white.”

Today, more people seem to be squeamish about it. Students in class have occasionally asked me if we can use another word in place of “white” to describe people – “technically we’re pinkish”, one once said. In casual conversation people sometimes take pains to avoid the word, substituting terms like “Caucasian” or “of European descent.”

What is “Whiteness” anyway? Like race generally, it’s important to remember that Whiteness is a social construct, not something biological; and one that was deliberately created to categorize people into superior and inferior castes.

The history of racial classification is often quite absurd. In the United States, the infamous One-Drop rule categorized anyone with a trace of Sub-Saharan African ancestry as “black,” no matter their skin tone. Even today, the U.S. census lists five rather arbitrary racial categories: White, Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (with Hispanic/Latino falling under a separate “ethnicity” delineation). Considering how most people’s intuitive idea of “race” relates foremost to physical appearance, it’ll surprise some to learn that while two people with light skin and blue eyes could be categorized in different racial groups (say, White and American Indian), a person from Pakistan and a person from Korea could be lumped together under “Asian.” (Check out this on-line exercise to illustrate this absurdity.)

Read more: http://noneedtoraiseyourhand.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/why-we-shouldnt-avoid-the-word-white/

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August 12, 2014

Dear Canadian taxpayer: I love you

I have come to realize just how important taxpayer-funded social programs have been for me and my family

By Katharine Cukier | Published August 10, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Dear Canadian Taxpayer:

I know this may seem rather sudden, and I barely know you, but I have a burning desire to tell you that I love you.

As I consider my half-century of life, I realize that it is you, dear taxpayer, who has made much of that life possible.

And yes, at this very Wordsworthian-Keynesian moment of powerful fiscal feeling, I am overlooking your imperfections. But oh please let me sing your praises while this feeling, sincere and true, sweeps me off my feet.

Like all love affairs, there is a dose of narcissism at play here, because I, too am a taxpayer. When I see, you, I see a reflection of me. I identify with your grumbling skepticism over losing half or more of your earnings to several levels of government. I know too well the frustration of crumbling infrastructure, car-busting potholes, health-care waiting lists, or an inaccessible justice system. There’s a long way to go to improve the lives of aboriginal people, and our policies on climate change. And as a Montrealer, I have writhed with moral disgust that our taxes have been lining the silk pockets of the Mob.

And yet, in spite of all of these heartbreaking betrayals, I still see your goodness shining through.

For I have understood that without you, beloved Canadian taxpayer, there could be no me.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Dear+Canadian+taxpayer+love/10106439/story.html

August 11, 2014

The Hypocricy of Austerity

By Robert Green | Published August 9, 2014 by Ricochet

In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec’s elites.

rich_get_richerThough his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time it has sent such a message. The government’s first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched. Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec’s public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.

In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ’s “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government’s attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec’s political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is “out of control” and that we as a society are “living beyond our means.”

In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.

However, a cursory examination of Quebec’s recent spending trends shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec’s expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures. Continue reading

August 8, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Dino Mazzone discuss the Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS with Tommy Schnurmacher. Click here for the podcast.

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