Monthly Archives: December 2012

Ministry Representatives present to BCTF Executive Committee

Hi Again.
This memo was just sent out to local presidents and Local Reps about a ministry presentation to the BCTF Executive about government directions for Special Education. There was a ministry power point attached to the original message, however it does not seem to want to be forwarded. If you would like a copy of the power point please let me know and I will try and send it to folks individually.

Update: *See Link Below For PowerPoint*

When the liberal Government stripped class size and composition from our collective agreements they said they needed ‘flexibility ‘ in education. Translation – a naked cash grab from education of more than $250 million per year to fund their goofy tax cuts.

Now we are hearing new words from the ministry with respect to students with special needs. We are hearing ‘de-categorization’ and ‘Universal Design for Learning’. Translation – cuts to resources and funds for students with special needs.

Fred

Ministry PowerPoint: Click Here

MEMO TO: Local Presidents, Local Representatives

COPIES TO: Executive Committee, PSAC, PIAC, WLC/BAC

FROM: Susan Lambert, Jim Iker, Glen Hansman

DATE: December 21, 2012

SUBJECT: Ministry representatives present to BCTF Executive Committee

On Friday, December 14, 2012, the Executive Committee heard a presentation on government directions in Special Education from the Ministry of Education, represented by Rod Allen, superintendent of learning, and Bill Standeven, director of the ministry’s Diversity, Equity, and Early Years Division.

The Federation invited representatives from the following PSAs: the Learning Assistance Teachers’ Association, the Aboriginal Education Association, the BC Alternative Education Association, the Special Education Association, the BC School Counsellors’ Association, and the Association for Educators of Gifted, Talented and Creative Children in BC. Also, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) was invited to send representatives to the presentation; BCCPAC chose to send their president, Terry Berting, and three members of its Special Education Committee.

Background information
The special education section on the Education Plan website states that the ministry is “working with district partners to develop a number of tools and resources” linked to early intervention and classroom practice, but fails to specify what the tools and resources are, or which district partners are involved.

More information was gleaned from this Global Education Leaders’ Program document http://gelponline.org/sites/default/files/resource-files/case_study_bc.pdf, which states:

“An explicit programme of citizen and stakeholder engagement over two years has resulted in a broad consensus around the need to transform education in BC and the nature of the changes required.”

This document includes a quote from Rod Allen in which he refers to decategorization of special needs education. He refers to a new approach of “no labels and no medical model. In a 21st century personalized world,” says Allen, “I’ll tell you what a special education looks like if you can tell me what a ‘normal’ education is.”

Table officers requested that the information about changes to special education service delivery, which was being shared with other groups, be presented to the BCTF. The Federation had received a copy of the PowerPoint “Considerations for the Future of Special Education in BC” (attached) presented to a conference in October in Langley.

BCCPAC representatives who attended the presentation last Friday noted that their organization, like the BCTF, had not been consulted by the Ministry of Education or involved in a process of developing “consensus.” In fact, at their last AGM, BCCPAC passed a resolution calling for the return to targeted funding.

The content of the ministry presentation
The ministry has identified three areas of focus for change to the delivery of education programs for children with special needs:
· Response to Intervention/Universal Design for Learning
· early intervention practices
· transition years model.

The initiative borrows heavily (without acknowledgment) from Saskatchewan’s Actualizing a Needs-Based Model to Support Student Achievement document, (www.education.gov.sk.ca/Actualizing-a-Needs-Based-Model-to-Support-Student-Achievement), which describes a shift away from designations, to “needs-based” approaches utilizing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Response to Intervention (RTI).

Saskatchewan is clear of the imperative to provide such an initiative with funding and support. In contrast, Standeven and Allen’s presentation was clearly motivated by government concern about costs, “$18,000” children, and the rise, in particular of autism rates.

However, the following reasons were cited as the impetus for change:
1. Various educational jurisdictions are arguing that special education is not working to produce improved outcomes for students.
2. Paperwork has taken priority over service to students.
3. The increased prevalence of attaching of EAs to individual students, it is argued by some, appears to produce no improvement in outcomes.

Ten school districts piloting change have been granted “relief from reporting and deadline requirements,” and have received $30,000 for “Innovation” projects. The Federation is aware that teachers in at least some of these districts have not been told the scope of the projects. Beyond the grants, the implementation of the proposals are supposed to happen within the existing funding envelope.

Some of the suggestions for change seem to involve returning to old practices such as strengthening school-based teams and relying on teacher judgement in the assessment of children. While welcome, the nostalgia for what used to be normal practice was shocking. It disregards the legacy of the decade of funding cuts, the resulting deterioration in teacher working conditions and student learning conditions, and the relentless governmental policy of attacking and undermining teacher autonomy and professional judgement that has characterized this government’s carriage of the public education portfolio since 2001.

Through the presentation and the question and answer session that followed, it was clear that:
· The ministry is very concerned about current special education per pupil funding costs, and at least some of the motivation for their changes is the funding issue and the need to cut costs.

· The ministry does not appear to have a plan:

a. to fund a new model

b. to transition to it

c. for in-service

d. to address class size

e. to restore learning specialist teachers

f. for ongoing support.

All is to come from within existing school district budgets—a stance that is very concerning, especially in light of the decision on the Moore case.

· Discrepancies and apparent contradictions in the presentation were questioned. For example, the focus on RTI/UDL and early intervention was presented in contrast to our current, and implied antiquated “medical model,” a system of assessment, diagnosis, and funding. This is a false dichotomy because of course, RTI/UDL and early intervention programs, and strong assessment, diagnosis, and identification practices are not, and should not, be mutually exclusive.

The assertion that an increase in the number of children diagnosed is a problem to be addressed by not designating children in need, is both a false dichotomy and a highly cynical proposal. Especially as no other determinations for the allocation of funding were proposed.

· There is an attempt to create a disconnect between the current state of special education in BC, and any government responsibility for decisions over the past decade. “The funding is the funding,” Standeven, on behalf of government, reiterated, acknowledging that “the environment of dollars has shrunk.” The loss of 750 special education teachers should have no bearing on the education opportunities for students.

· At one point in the discussion Standeven, who has worked for the Ministry of Education for 18 years, went so far as to say that one-fifth of the ministry’s budget is being spent on students with special needs, and if a teacher feels she or he has students that need more resources, that teacher should ask the school principal for more resources and support.

Conclusion
Those present, including the PSA representatives and BCCPAC representatives, were able to make a few comments and ask a few questions before Allen and Standeven had to leave to attend another meeting. Before they departed, Susan Lambert implored the ministry to halt implementation of this initiative, and to start again so that proper consultation and involvement of the teaching profession can occur.

It is clear that a great deal more work has to be done in flushing out government directions, sharing the information with members and parents, and in jointly asserting the need for the necessary funding, resources, and support for children with special educational needs.




A Letter, An Update, and A Wish

Seasonal type greetings everyone,

 The Board’s letter

The Minister of Education recently sent a letter to all of the school boards in the province where he outlined the liberal government’s so-called “Cooperative Gains Mandate”. This is their new code for the old, “Net Zero Mandate”, which is all code for screw any fair wage increase. In the letter McRae calls on Boards to find a further savings in their budgets to fund a 1.5% wage increase for support staff.

There has been very interesting responses from Boards across the province. They have all replied to the minister with very firm “NO’s”. They make it clear they have no room to cut. Attached is our Board’s response to the minister’s letter. A number of Boards (ours included) have gone one step further and called for a fair wage increase for all employee groups, to be funded from the government.

I sent a note of appreciation and support to our Board for the stand they are taking.

Retirement Workshop

We have been trying to arrange a retirement workshop in our local for a while. For one reason or another it has not worked out.

Well, wait no more. We have recently arranged to have a retirement workshop in our local on Saturday February 9th, 2012. We had to choose between having a workshop in the evening or on a Saturday. An evening workshop would mean lots of travel at night after a long day and there would be no time to book individual appointments after the workshop. So, we opted for a Saturday seminar. We will probably start later in the morning and there should be time to book some appointments with the presenter after the workshop. We should also be able to provide some snacks or lunch as well.

More information about time and place will follow in the New Year.

Local Bargaining

Each time you look at our Collective Agreement it becomes very clear, very quickly that it is a wee bit out of date. We have not really been able to re-negotiate most issues for over twenty years. The so-called ‘big ticket’ items, class size and composition, salary, benefits and prep time are dealt with at the provincial table. If you recall we tried to get our Board to negotiate some more substantive local issues last year, however BCPSEA soon put an end to that.

It seems as if we may be able to engage in some meaningful local bargaining in the New Year. This is not simply trying to negotiate relatively minor issues such as bulletin boards and internal mail. We should be able to negotiate more substantive local issues such as post and fill.

Last year we surveyed everyone about their priorities for local bargaining. From there we developed a list of local bargaining objectives and ratified them at a general meeting and we then worked on proposals to bring to a local table. And, that’s just about as far as things went.

It appears we will be able to try some local bargaining again. As soon as we know exactly what items could be on a local table we will visit all staffs to discuss our local bargaining objectives.

Learning Improvement Fund postings

If you remember we first started to talk to the district about the LIF back in June. We negotiated an agreement as to how the money would be spent. We consulted school staffs and we brought a proposal to the table, as did the district. We did not achieve everything we wanted but at the end of the day most of the money was spent on teaching staff spread across the district. It resulted in about 2.0 FTE extra positions in the district. ( Mind you there were also staffing cuts in September due to declining enrollment – but I suppose that is another discussion)

All the positions generated by the LIF were filled by September. They used the average cost of a teacher to work out how much would be allocated to each position. As it happens, most of the positions were filled with teachers very early in their careers and at the beginning stages of the salary grid. We argued there needed to be an accounting of the actual costs of filling the LIF positions. It was likely there would probably be more money available to be spent. After a little humming and hawing the district agreed to review the accounting early in the New Year.

We then decided it would be better to push that meeting forward to December and have the postings out and filled by the end of the school year. There was sufficient money left to fund about 1.0 FTE for the rest of the year. The LIF postings were coordinated with other postings in the district and have recently been filled. It should give everyone a better idea of LIF postings in the spring.

Happy, Happy Holidays

We have difficult jobs and lord knows the job of teaching is not getting any easier. Thank you for doing what you do. You make a difference in children’s lives.

I do hope everyone is able to enjoy a peaceful holiday. See you in the New Year.

 

Fred

 




Members confused by education minister’s message

Members confused by education minister’s message

Most members will have received the recent e-mail from Minister McRae trumpeting the appointment of a Superintendent of Reading and urging teachers to step up their efforts despite results from a recent study showing BC students at the top in literacy.

Absent from the message is any acknowledgement that this government has made it increasingly difficult for teachers to serve the needs of all students and no amount of effort is going to compensate for severely diminished resources, social inequality, and poverty.

The BCTF has met with the minister and other members of government many times and pressed vigorously for increased funding for education (now one of the lowest levels in Canada), improved staffing, and specialists in place to support learning.

In October a presentation was made to the Select Standing Committee of the Legislature on Finance that clearly illustrated the degree to which support for public education in BC is being eroded. A summary of the brief can be read at: http://www.bctf.ca/publications/NewsmagArticle.aspx?id=28132.

Given BC’s funding levels relative to other provinces, it is easy to see why our class sizes have increased, more classes have larger numbers of students with special needs, and the numbers of specialist teachers has declined. To correct this situation, just to get to the Canadian average, would require 5,800 more teachers. This means that BC teachers are presently making up the difference, shouldering an ever-growing burden.

Additional background on the position the BCTF has taken in relation to many factors affecting the provision of education is contained in Better Schools for BC, A Plan for Quality Public Education: http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Publications/BetterSchoolsForBC.pdf .

Given the time of year, members may wish to respond to the minister’s message with wishes for education of their own.

educ.minister@gov.bc.ca

Susan Lambert

President




I’d Rather Be Teaching

As we head into 2013, another round of bargaining and a provincial election are just around the corner. British Columbians need to hear directly from teachers about your experiences in the classroom and efforts to speak out for public education in your communities. The BCTF is creating new ways for you to reach out to the public directly.
First, watch this brand new minute-long video about class size and composition and share it on your social networks.
Second, visit the BCTF’s new interactive website, IdRatherBeTeaching.ca. The site is a place for BC teachers to upload their own content and speak out about their personal experiences and efforts to defend public education. Using humour, storytelling, art, photography, and everything in between, it’s a space for teachers to connect directly with British Columbians.
As BC teachers, we love our jobs and we care about our students. That’s why we advocate for better schools. We hit the streets for big rallies, knock on doors during an election, run petition drives, and even run marathons to raise awareness. We’d of course rather just be teaching, but right now our schools need defending.
Susan Lambert
President
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation



BCTF Committee Vacancies and Call for Nominations

BCTF Committee Vacancies and Call for Nominations
– Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, One, 2-year term: Deadline January 4, 2013
– Committee for Action on Social Justice, One, 3-year term—Peace and Global Education Action Group: Deadline January 4, 2013
Call for nominations
– BCTF Recognition (G.A. Fergusson Memorial Award and Honorary Life Membership)
– Stewart Schon Award
– Bob Rosen Social Justice Award



Provincial Standardized Extended Healh Benifit Plan Udate

Hi Folks,

The mediation between the BCTF and BCPSEA has concluded with an agreement on the outstanding questions around the new Extended Benefits plan.

Richard Hoover from the BCTF sent out the following information:

Yesterday Jim Iker, John Wadge, Marie Franco and I met with BCPSEA representatives and mediator Mark Brown in a successful effort to finalize all outstanding issues regarding the new standardized Extended Health Benefit plan.

There were three issues of dispute in implementing the new Pacific Blue Cross EHB plan: the extent of retroactivity of benefits, the availability of dual coverage in locals and districts where it is currently disallowed, and the ability of the employer to unilaterally change the plan provider.

The results of the mediation, in brief, are as follows:

·     retroactivity for the new EHB plan is to July 1, 2012

·     dual coverage will be allowed in all districts/locals in the new standardized plan, effective and retroactive to July 1, 2012

·     if a plan carrier change is contemplated in the future, we will use the same process by which BCPSEA and BCTF chose the new plan carrier (PBC) this round, and any dispute will go to Mark Brown or a mutually agreeable third party for a decision.

We will (hopefully) see the new pharmacy cards early in the new year.

Fred

Fred Robertson
President
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association
lp85@bctf.ca