Dear Christy…

door into school

Dear Christy,

It must be so difficult being Premier of the province these days. What with having to deal with all the complaints about  oil sands pipelines, and worrying about the changes in the LNG market, putting all your plans for our economy in jeopardy.  It must give you many headaches to have to think about all that.

I can imagine also that you must be very busy and hardly getting any sleep as you fly around the province to the various fundraisers for your 2017 re-election campaign. It can never be too early to work on the next election campaign, can it?

But what I wanted to write to you about was this fight you’re having with the teachers and the BCTF.  See, I’m not a politician but you may want to re-think your strategy with the teachers. Something happened when you locked them out of their classrooms in June….

Usually during lunch time they are too busy photocopying and working with kids and they don’t have much time to talk to each other but when the lockout forced them to eat their lunch out on the sidewalk, they suddenly discovered that they had lots of time on their hands and that they could have conversations in a way that is not possible in a busy school day or even on a Pro-D or in a staff meeting.

You see, normally in a typical secondary school that has a teaching staff of about 80 teachers, most teachers only ever talk to about 5 teachers daily and then perhaps about 10 others on other occasions but during the lockout, that changed. There was lots more conversation and, I’m sorry to say, those conversations were mostly about you and what your real agenda is when it comes to public education. Teachers shared information and experiences and built up relationships that had not existed before.

The other thing the lockout did was that it freed up time on weekends that would normally be used for marking and preparation of lessons but because you forbad teachers from doing any of that, they found it very difficult to break old habits.  They were so used to the kinds of tasks they had done for years on weekends, they looked for outlets for all that pent-up energy and that’s how they discovered social media in a way that was unprecedented.

They started pages on Facebook, they joined pages on Facebook and they set up blogs and wrote and blogged and tweeted.  They wrote letters to the media, they wrote letters to MLA’s. They commented on each other’s posts on the various pages set up to support teachers. They shared blog posts so much, they were noticed by alternative media like Huffington Post and Rabble.ca. They started Twitter tags   like #thisismystrikepay that went viral across the world.  Bit by bit they built up this network of connections and information that is proving to be quite resilient and resistant to anything that BCPSEA says or does.

I’m afraid that your lockout, the one they tagged #Christyclarkslockout on Twitter, has been the catalyst for the creation of a network focused on resisting any attempts to privatize public education in BC. 

I’m sorry to have to tell you this but all the work you’ve been doing for the past 12 years to save taxpayers money by shifting money away from the education budget and toward other investments may be all for nought as this network continues to grow and strengthen.

You should see what they’re talking about on all the pages! They’ve dug up all kinds of facts and statistics and information that makes a compelling case for their assertion that a well-funded public education system is critical to a democracy.  They are now also attacking your economic policies and are referring to studies that show that government austerity measures actually kill economies. This is dangerous information when you’ve been trying so hard to focus on balancing the budget. Do you know that they have the audacity to suggest that the whole concept of a balanced budget is just a myth and that there is enough money for schools if there is enough money for investments in mills and pipelines?

I think the best thing for you to do is to get teachers back into classrooms as soon as possible. Start the year early to make up for all the time that was lost in June!  Get teachers busy with lesson preparation and teaching again so that they can stop talking to each other and to the public about public education.  It’s actually quite scary the number of parents that are now talking to teachers!

Some of these parents are really very angry that they are only now realizing what has been happening in schools for the past 12 years!  They have been talking about working on a recall campaign and they have started so many petitions!

Oh! I should not leave out the students! Have you seen the letters they’ve been writing in support of teachers? And all those videos on YouTube? Some of them are quite clever and funny. Sorry, but they are! And they’re getting lots of views too!

So you see, if you get teachers back into classrooms you may be able to  stop this network  from growing and getting stronger.

I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, I know it must be quite stressful, but I really do think that you poked a hornets’ nest when you attacked public school teachers and their union.

To save yourself and your party’s chances for re-election,  you should do whatever it takes to get those hornets back into the nest. Give them whatever they say they need for their working conditions because you know they’ve argued quite successfully that their working conditions are students’ learning conditions and now parents agree with them. I don’t think you’d want to have thousands of parents angry with you when you promised to put their families first during your last election campaign. Best to do what you promised last time before you work on your promises for 2017.

I hope this helps and that you have a good rest before your next fundraiser!

Sincerely,

Joan Swift

11 thoughts on “Dear Christy…”

  1. Wonderful letter. However, Christy is not going to worry about the next election. She suspected, and it was confirmed during the last election, that the people who DON’t want the Liberals to be in power don’t go out and vote. I worked a polling station. The provincial average was exactly represented at our table. We had books and books of ballots left over. Exactly 52% of the voters who were to vote with us actually turned up. Now, this is INCLUDING the people who voted ahead of time because we had all of the records with us. Almost everyone I spoke to afterwards about this abysmal turn-out had ranted about it being time for a change, and not ONE of them actually bothered to vote. Some people really couldn’t abide by the NDP leader. OK. That’s understandable. There is a HUGE responsibility for the opposition to have a VERY credible leader. This leader must also not plan to swing the province to the opposite pole. We mustn’t scare business away. We actually need it. We need someone more in the middle. A BALANCED approach. Is Christy worried? Oh, no. She isn’t. The opposition can’t just pull someone out of a hat at the last minute to try to convince British Columbians that he or she is experienced and sensible enough to run things. We need to see the person in action.

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    1. I think a lot has changed since the last election given the number of calls for a recall campaign in November. I think this time she’s pushed her agenda too far and now there is a lot of anger that we teachers have never seen before.

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  2. This is the best letter yet. My smile widened as I read on and on. Or was it a grin growing greater with each paragraph. Love how you were able to spell out such a complex situation with such simplicity that makes it so crystal clear to the intended auduence….hopefully. Did you send it to the addressed? Do you think it will be read? I hope so, and that we get a personal response. I think we are owed that, at least.

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  3. Well thought out letter. I also have to agree about tbe dismal voter turnout. We all need to get out and vote and let our opinions show in the polls.

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  4. Great letter. We need the parents of special needs children to step up on the teachers side, and demand to have access for their children to a resource room. This is a separate room where their children can go, during the academic courses such as Math etc. This is a room where they can actually be learning valuable life skills that is not possible in a math class for example. Then join up with all the other children when it is Music, P.E. or Art. What a great benefit to all the children this would be.

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    1. Gloria, it’s not about the children and more about fattening the wallets of the teachers and do less work.
      This did not happen 40 years ago. The classroom sizes were larger and ESL was more of an issue, other countries not teaching english.

      I have a grandchild that has been labelled as “special needs” student by the school. After several assessments with Autism and ADD specialists, only to find out the kid is normal just like the other 60% of kids that get tested due to schools forcing kids to be tested. The doctors note that this classification, of special needs, is a plot for teacher to receive teaching assistants or should I say work less.

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      1. You are factually incorrect. Teachers do not get paid any extra money to have a child designated. I graduated from high school thirty nine years ago, and I have been a teacher for thirty five years. ESL was most definitely NOT more of an issue at that time than it is now. We now have a much larger and more recent immigration population, and our government is also actively recruiting students from Asia to attend school in Canada to study English by immersion This is a cash cow for the government that they have no plans to give up.

        Forty years ago, class sizes were similar to now. However, class composition was entirely different. Students with any significant disability were almost always siphoned off to schools for exceptional children, such as Woodlands or the Victor Street School for the Retarded in Victoria. There were also schools for kids with physical disabilities and schools for the deaf and the blind. Now, all of these children are in the regular classroom, and when they do have EAs, they are routinely shared between multiple children.

        I can’t imagine where you got the idea that sixty percent of tested children are assessed as, ‘normal’. Again, this is entirely incorrect. Because of a very severe shortage of psychologists and a very long waitlist at places like Children’s Hospital and Sunny Hill, teachers refer only the most severe and high needs children for testing. It is a fact that a great many more children have needs than receive assessment. You may be confusing ‘not getting a designation’ with ‘testing as normal’. I wouldn’t be surprised, because most people would reasonably think that a child who actually has got a problem will automatically receive a designation and appropriate funding to meet their needs. This is not the case. For example, the Ministry of Education defines a student as meeting the criteria for, ‘severe behaviour/mental illness,’ as one whose behaviours are so extreme that they interfere with classroom learning AND they must have two additional agencies, such as a psychiatrist and a private counsellor, for example, involved which are independent of the school system. Well, as you can imagine, a child can have extremely serious mental health and behavioural needs, but if the parent or the child refuses to take them for therapy, then there are not two outside agencies iinvolved and the child will not be designated as severe. The behaviour doesn’t change, but the designation does.

        I have direct personal experience with a child who had been identified as severely learning disabled in another part of Canada at nine years of age, who then sustained the death of an aunt by suicide at ten, and was subsequently abducted and raped in shackles, at knifepoint, at thirteen. That child DID NOT GET a designation. None. And that child had extremely serious needs, including suicidal ideation and eating disorders.

        Another student I personally know, was born with a severe neurodegenerative disease. Her muscles are wasting away, and she will die young as a result. When she entered kindergarten, before the funding cuts, she was designated as, ‘dependent handicapped’, which is very rare and brings a full time EA. When she got to grade ten, despite the fact that her health condition had deteriorated for a decade, they removed her designation to save money, and re assigned her as, ‘chronic health’ at half the funding. No more full time EA. This is a teen who is intelligent and attends regular class, but she cannot walk, stand, lift her books, open her lunch kit, remove her coat, or toilet herself. She cannot write or type. But to save money, they halved her funding.

        Designations are very, very hard to get, and teachers do not refer lightly. I have NEVER HAD A CHILD NOT DIAGNOSED when I have referred him. In thirty five years, it has not happened. I have certainly had kids not *designated*, because the rules for designation are incredibly restrictive. This allows the government to reject many needy kids for additional funding.

        As for teachers forcing kids to be tested, this is not possible. The only way a child can be tested within the system is with a signed, written consent form from the parent. A psych WILL NOT TEST a child who does not have a parental consent. Outside of the system, the school has no control, and certainly can’t club kids over the head and drag them off to be tested. It is the case that teachers will strongly recommend testing, and they do this because they see a significant need.

        As for testing to get EAs, you got that bit right. Not all designations come with funding. Specifically, learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities (think IQ seventy-ish), mild to moderate behaviour disorders or mental illness, and giftedness do not get any additional funding at all. Autism, on the other hand, is funded at a rate roughly equivalent to a half time EA. So, if you have five or six kids with LD in a class, and maybe a couple with moderate behaviour, and a kid with Aspberger’s, then only that last kid gets any funding. Now, Aspberger’s can be catastrophically disabling, but more often it is less severely handicapping and the student needs guidance but can be fairly independent. So obviously, a teacher would have to be insane not to try to get a child with Aspberger’s a designation, because the system is so horrifically short of both teachers and EAs, that a child with mild Aspberger’s who brings in a half time EA will have that EA shared with all of those other kids with unfunded needs. Always, the Aspberger kid will come first, but every second that kid doesn’t need her, the EA will be working with another student. For this reason, it’s common to try to group kids together who can share an EA, because there’s no way there are enough to really help all of the kids.

        Finally, your comment about EAs allowing teachers to work less shows a complete failure to understand the nature of the relationship. In fact, EAs can create a great deal *more* work in some circumstances. I have had as many as nineteen to manage (in a school of 1500 kids) and it takes many, many hours just to build timetables for them that work with kids’ timetables and break schedules. Also, it is necessary to teach the EA how you want the student to be managed, and to supply additional materials for the EA to use. Teachers are responsible for communicating with parents about EAs as well. A skilled EA is a wonderful addition to a classroom, and I am grateful whenever we get one, but they do not lessen the teacher’s workload. They simply allow the teacher to be more effective with their work.

        I hope that this clears up the misinformation you have had.

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