How was your kids’ first day of school? Loads of excitement as they strapped on their stylish new duds, toting their Mabel’s Labels-ized backpacks and school supplies, and giddy to see their friends?
Unfortunately, for thousands of children that live in British Columbia, Canada, this was not the case because schools are closed.
In fact, B.C. children didn’t even get the opportunity to finish up their school year (or get a year-end report card) as 41,000 teachers across the province have been on a full strike since June 17 (and the final day of school was originally slated for June 26). The B.C. government also imposed a lockout during a partial strike by teachers earlier in June. The main issues in the contract dispute include wages, class sizes and composition.
As a proud resident of British Columbia, I would like to summarize this situation for you. I pay some of the highest taxes in the country, but my kids haven’t had access to public education since June. And there’s no end in sight.
So what has the government been doing all summer, some might ask?
The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has been busy traveling all over our province, tweeting about her adventures. Just check out the delicious cinnamon buns she enjoyed in July.
— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) July 16, 2014
Label me bitter if you must, but parents all over our great province should be enjoying mimosas and high-fives after posting our Facebook back to school photos this morning. Instead, we’re stuck scrambling for childcare as our government has left our schools closed. So as a concerned – and frankly pissed off – parent, I schlepped it up to my MLA’s office to join in on the #MLAPlaydate movement.
Yes, in the rain and all!
“It’s time for our children to be back in school getting a quality public education,” the website reads. “Starting Tuesday, September 2nd, 10am to 3pm — and everyday until school is back. It’s time for a visit to a MLA for your MLA playdate.”
As a parent, it seems ridiculous that the government isn’t stepping up and ending this dispute. So, I guess it takes law-abiding, tax-paying mere mortals like myself to cause a stink.
After all, don’t my kids deserve a quality public education?
But guess what happened? Not only did our MLA not show up for work this morning, the nearby yoga studio called security on us and we were asked to leave.
But we won’t be silenced. Just check out the supporters of the #MLAPlaydate movement all over our great province.
— Comox Valley Record (@CVRecord) September 2, 2014
Close to 80 parents and kids have gathered outside Kamloops MLA Todd Stone’s office demanding end to teachers strike pic.twitter.com/nRhnMBKBzl
— Raffelina Sirianni (@Raffelina_CFJC) September 2, 2014
— brady strachan (@BradyStrachan) September 2, 2014
— Kathryn (@reverendkath) September 2, 2014
As one can imagine, this is an extremely political situation and some have argued that the teachers should simply return to work without a contract. But this would take pressure off of negotiations, leaving the teachers to inevitably face strike action again.
“The important thing for teachers right now is getting the spotlight on the fact that we’re in this mess because of the stripping of class size and composition language in 2002, and the decade of cuts that followed,” B.C. teacher Shannon Shinoda tells HerScoop.
The teachers are fighting for our kids, for our neighborhood schools, and for public education in our province.
“My new school has no computer lab and no librarian,” Shinoda adds. “The library books are maintained by parent volunteers, whereas bonafide teacher librarians usually have a masters degree in library science, literacy, technology, etc. Counselors, speech therapists, resource teachers, ESL teachers, etc. are becoming a rarity and parents have to pay out-of-pocket for services that used to be offered in the schools.”
So as it stands, teachers and parents are forced to protest the state of public education in our province.
“Political pressure is the only thing that matters,” Shinoda continues. “As much as we all hate this, teachers feel like we have to use this opportunity to push the government to right some if its wrongs.”
With fingers crossed and our “Class Size Does Matter” signs, we will continue to fight at #MLAPlaydate gatherings.