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