March 27, 2012
Honorable George Abbott
Minister of Education
PO Box 9045, STN PROV GOVT
Dear Minister Abbott:
Re: Bill 22 - Education Improvement Act
I am writing on behalf of the Vancouver Board of Education regarding Bill 22 (Education Improvement Act).
On March 26, 2012, the Board passed a resolution directing me to write to you a letter outlining the Board's objections to Bill 22 and to make that correspondence available to the public.
I will also reiterate the Board's position that the current labour dispute must be resolved through negotiation, not legislation.
The Education Improvement Act is already causing disruption and damage to our otherwise world-class public education system. We fear it will continue to do so at a time in this province's history that requires all education partners to work respectfully, thoughtfully and collaboratively to achieve the system redesign that will allow today's students to meet their full potential as engaged and productive members of tomorrow's communities and economy.
We have worked hard in Vancouver to form successful and positive relationships with our employee groups that have enabled us to work together to find the best solutions to our shared challenges. Now Bill 22 is causing our valued education partners to feel bullied and disempowered, putting any real improvement to our education system in peril.
We support and respect the rights of employees to freely and collectively bargain the terms of their employment and we ask you to do the same.
The VSB has also passed a resolution calling for the appointment of an independent mediator. The mediator needs to be able to proceed without the parameters set by government that pre- determine the outcome of the process.
The VSB strongly opposes the Bill's provision for providing compensation to teachers who accept over-sized classes. Paying off teachers for working in overcrowded classes creates poor learning conditions, which is a betrayal of students and harmful to the quality of our schools.
Bill 22 (2012) provides no solution to the flaws in Bill 33 (2006).
In 2006, Bill 33 was passed over the objections of most education partners and all groups representing families of students with special needs. Many were vocal at the time in noting it was discriminatory in nature. It provided no assurance of appropriate supports for students with special needs. Combined with the past decade of chronic funding shortfalls, those students are worse off than ever. Bill 22 and the inadequate Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) are not solutions to this urgent issue.
The last thing our public education system needs is more conflict at the provincial level and more costly and time-consuming legal challenges.
Creating a demoralized teaching force that feels disrespected by its employers is not how we take our education system from good to great. Let's look to Finland's example of building positive relationships based on respect and trust, instead of the opposite direction you are taking us with Bill 22.
The VSB supports the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council's request for the removal of Bill 22.
We appreciate that these are challenging times and repealing Bill 22 will take courage. A negotiated resolution will also take compromise. It will be worth it. Our kids and their future deserve nothing less.
Steve Cardwell, Superintendent of Schools
Rick Krowchuk, Secretary Treasurer
All BC School Boards