British Columbia Teacher Strike Ends After Three Months

Finally, the teachers strike in British Columbia is over.

Teachers approved a contract to end the strike that has been going on since before the end of school last school year.  The last two weeks in June and the first three weeks in September  added up to 27 instructional days missed by students. In most schools, Monday was a short day with regular classes beginning on Tuesday.  Education Minister Peter Fassbender says there will be no extra days added to extend the school year, according to CBC News.

“I think it’s very detrimental to the kids because now the children are going to have the curriculum crammed into a shorter timeline in order to meet the standards that are required,” parent, Liz Hoffman said.

Not all parents are worried and believe the kids can make it.

Parent Lorraine Finch said, “They’re just going to have to work a little bit harder,” she said. “The teachers will have to probably work a little bit harder too, but they’ll make it work.”

Senior students are concerned that missing this much school will put them at a disadvantage.  Twelfth-graders have to consider applications and how they will be perceived as compared to students from other provinces, reports CTV News.  Scholarship deadlines are a concern as well.  Some universities say they will work with students and help them sidestep any challenges.

The new teacher contract is for six-years and includes:  a 7.25% salary increase; extended health benefits; improvements to teacher-on-call rates; $400 million education fund to hire specialist teachers; $105 million for retroactive grievances over 2002 class-size negotiations.  Around 46% of school support staff have signed for a 5.5% wage increase over five years.  Those who have not signed are hoping for a resolution by November.  This was the longest teachers’ strike in B.C.’s history.

One good result of the strike is that parents and guardians appear to be more engaged with the education system, writes Steven Chua of The Canadian Press.

“There’ve been parents showing up to meetings in greater numbers, there’ve been parents writing letters, social media, sharing what they believe,” Nicole Makohoniuk, president of the B.C. Confederation of Parental Advisory Councils said. “It’s been very exciting times for us.”

The negotiation did not include class size and support, so both sides will have to go to court for those results. Within 30 days of ratification, the 15,600 workers who have signed agreements will be reimbursed for scheduled time they were not paid for during the strike.

The experience of the strike was disheartening and bruising to teachers.  And, to add insult to injury, many of the 41,000 teachers faced the task of doing weeks of lesson plans in the few hours available before classes, says Justin Giovannetti reporter for The Globe and Mail. Most teachers were exhausted and humiliated by the way they were treated by elected officials.  Young teachers, in many cases, went without a paycheck for months.  Teachers believe that it may take the entire school year to recover extracurricular activities, sports, and morale.

Teacher on the Sunshine Coast, Nick Smith said,“If they had known they would need to put up with all this crap, they would have never done it.  There are also people who don’t want to do extracurricular activities any more. After I was treated like this, why should I?  It’ll take a while for people to recover and feel appreciated.”

Amy Judd of Global News reports that Professional Development Days can be cancelled if school boards reach agreements with teachers.  The minimum number of instructional days can be amended through a cabinet order.  The provincial government has said it is not willing to consider extending the school year since that would effect summer school.