Our View: Take kids out of contract talks

Oh, won’t someone think of the children!

That’s all we’re going to hear for the next few weeks, probably months, as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government butt heads. Considering how many times the governing Liberals and the teachers have done this over the last 12 years, they must have the cranial strength of bighorn sheep.

Here are the issues, as we understand them:

• The BCTF wants fewer kids per class, and more help for kids with special needs.

• The government does not wish to pay for this.

• The courts have said the Liberals are very, very bad, and not only must go back to the old class size rules, but that they deliberately tried to provoke the teachers into striking.

Both sides are claiming the moral high ground, each insisting that their way is the one that will be best for those precious little tots.

Balderdash. To be fair to the government, it has added new programs, like all-day kindergarten, and graduation rates have been stable or gone up.

So clearly, no matter how overworked teachers are, the situation is not one of imminent educational apocalypse.

However, the Liberals’ position that hiring more teachers and support staff would be bad is… odd.

How, exactly, will having more teachers and SEAs damage the learning environment? Are teacher-librarians secretly eating one in five first graders?

Let’s take the kids out of the debate, at least for now. This is a debate about working conditions. The teachers have a stressful and difficult job; the province has a limited budget – but with some wiggle room.

The government needs to meet the teachers halfway on this, before the courts force their hand. They must give up the idea that teachers are a tether ball to be batted about.

And teachers should accept that blowing a hole in the provincial budget is no way to make friends and influence people.

– M.C.

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