Below is your letter to all BC teachers. I have added my comments inside that letter to reflect how I feel about this attack on our collective rights and public education. This is shameful.
Subject: Greetings from the new Education Minister Peter Fassbender
To British Columbia Teachers
I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself as B.C.’s new Minister of Education.
I would like to introduce myself as a classroom teacher of 23 years.
As a parent and grandparent of children who have thrived in public school, and as a former school trustee, I know we have a great education system filled with talented teachers dedicated to their students. B.C. students consistently score high on international assessments and that is, first and foremost, a clear reflection of the quality of teachers across the province.
You are correct in your assertion that the quality of education in this province is due to the hard work and dedication of teachers. This is in spite of the attacks on the teaching profession and its collective actions by your government, the right wing media, school boards, and corporations. Your government has no moral authority over public education in a free and democratic society.
While we have a great system, we all share a goal to make it better. I am committed to open communication with students, parents, trustees, and teachers to ensure we are all working together to help our children succeed.
It seems that with your decree from on high that we halt what can only be seen as constructive bargaining, you must understand that you are in direct contradiction with your assertion that you want open communication and want us to work together. When someone unilaterally stops a mutually agreed upon process that is working and cites “working together” as an argument, it makes most educated people wonder what country we are in.
As part of my mandate, I look forward to pursuing the vision and innovations outlined in the BC Education Plan, expanding access to trades training and the arts, and ensuring seamless transition into apprenticeships for those students who wish to go straight to work after graduation. In particular, I will keep you as informed as possible on another key priority – – pursuing the government’s framework for long-term labour peace with B.C. teachers.
There wouldn’t be a need to look for long term labour peace if your government hadn’t started the ‘war’ in the first place. Your unconstitutional stripping of our contract, unilateral decision making processes, failure to meaningfully consult with the experts in the classroom, cutting of resources and funding, promotion of corporate interests in a public institution, obvious dislike for unions in general and the BCTF in particular, and your government’s ability to turn a blind eye to any and all criticism of the profession and not stand up for your employees points to legitimate lack of real sincerity when you attempt to sell your vision of peace.
On June 20, I asked BCPSEA and the BCTF to conclude matters currently being negotiated. Government wants to use the time scheduled this week to begin working out with the parties and the BCSTA the process or road map forward. We want to keep moving and that means we need to focus on building a joint road map before bargaining can resume under a new mandate that is consistent with our election commitment.
We already have an agreed to working process and a map forward that we have been working successfully with for months. I take issue with your statement that you are looking for a joint road map. What you are really talking about and what is crystal clear is that you want a “my way or the highway” type of road map that is consistent with your commitment to a long term feud with the teachers of this province.
The framework the government released in January includes many ideas that have long been sought by the BCTF, like the full right to strike, more matters being negotiated at local bargaining tables, improvements to the bargaining process, and allowing the BCTF to negotiate directly with government on provincial matters.
At every step of the way, we will work with school trustees, teachers, parents and other partners who care about long-term stability in our schools. We want and need their help in crafting solutions for a long-term agreement. And as we develop solutions, we must remain alive to the challenges of a fragile global economy and the need to balance the budget. An affordable, long-term agreement can help us provide certainty and fairness not only for teachers today, but for future taxpayers as well.
The future tax payers are our students. They include the ones that come to school hungry, the ones that can’t afford technology, the ones that don’t have a neighbourhood school, and the ones that see a limited future. What these kids can’t see is that they are in those situations, not because of global economics where you like to lay the blame and scare monger, but with government policies that see taxation and the social contract as some sort of evil.
I want you to feel informed about the process and the details of bargaining. It is important that all interested parties have an opportunity to share the same understanding as we work towards this important settlement. The Ministry of Education’s newsroom is where you can find relevant information and updates on the proposed framework for labour peace with teachers in one easy to find location. You can subscribe to receive Ministry of Education email updates, bookmark the newsroom, or follow @BCGovNews on Twitter for all updates.
The BCTF keeps me informed. The reason being for this is I am the BCTF. That is where I lay my trust and not in a website full of rhetoric and empty facts. You cannot fool 40,000+ well educated people Mr. Fassbender. Your government is the bully in the school yard and teachers are well versed in seeing the bully for who he is and we will not lie down and roll over. All you have succeeded in doing with this letter is show us that the leopard does not change it’s spots. This is shameful.
I love a challenge and I am an optimist. I promise you I will be part of the solution and not an obstacle to getting things done. It is important to remember that despite past labour disputes, the various parties have worked together to build one of the best education systems in the world. I can only imagine what we can achieve together if we work from a position of long-term labour peace.
I too am an optimist. You can’t work for an employer like your government and still come to work ready to go every day without being an optimist. I am also confident that your promise to be part of the solution is doomed to failure if you continue down this path of ‘Big Daddy Knows Best”. The ‘best education system in the world’ moniker was built by teachers for students and was done so in spite of government. It is only through a true partnership with stakeholders and not one based on misdirection, rhetoric, demoralization, finger pointing, privatization, and hidden agendas that we can move forward. If you also believe this to be true, allow bargaining to continue, provide the needed resources to the students, respect the BCTF as the collective voice of teachers and stop politicking. Only when you put your ‘guns’ away, will you have labour peace.
Minister of Education