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Joint Statement by PAN and FACE on the Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision in the BCTF Case
We know that many parents have questions about the meaning and impact of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. What follows is a brief explanation of the decision, its consequences, and the ongoing concerns of the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) and Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE) with regard to the underfunding of public education in BC.
The Supreme Court’s decision
On November 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled in favour of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). The ruling ended the long-running dispute between the BCTF and the BC government that began in 2002 when the BC government used legislation to strip class size and composition matters out of the teachers’ collective agreement (contract). The SCC did not write reasons of its own; it adopted the reasons of Mr. Justice Donald’s dissent in the BC Court of Appeal.
The essence of Mr. Justice Donald’s decision is that the BC government did not bargain in good faith before it brought in a second round of legislation in 2012, after the 2002 legislation was found unconstitutional. Therefore, the BC government’s 2012 legislation, which was very similar to the 2002 legislation, was also unconstitutional. As a remedy, Mr. Justice Donald ordered that the stripped class size and composition sections must be returned to the collective agreement immediately.
As of 2014, the collective agreement between the BCTF and the BC government contains a clause that says “If the final judgment affects the content of the collective agreement by fully or partially restoring the 2002 language, the parties will reopen the collective agreement on this issue and the parties will bargain from the restored language.”
What the decision means and doesn’t mean
The combined effect of the court decision and the clause in the collective agreement means that the BCTF and the BC government must now engage in good faith negotiations on the topic of class size and composition, with the restored language as a starting point for those negotiations.
It is important to understand the legal meaning of “good faith” in collective bargaining. Here is how Mr. Justice Donald explained it in his reasons:
Parties are required to meet and engage in meaningful dialogue where positions are explained and each party reads, listens to, and considers representations made by the other party. Parties’ positions must not be inflexible and intransigent, and parties must honestly strive to find a middle ground.
The BCTF’s court victory does not mean that we are immediately transported back to the school conditions that existed in 2002, prior to the unconstitutional legislation. It means that the BCTF and the BC government must meet and do their good-faith best to reach an agreement on class size and composition. PAN and FACE hope that both parties will do what is right for our kids. Since the 2002 contract stripping, our kids have been in larger classes with fewer supports, and we have seen crucial non-enrolling positions like art teachers, librarians, counselors, ELL teachers, and Special Education teachers disappear from our children’s schools.
The court’s ruling also doesn’t mean that public education’s underfunding problem is solved. While the negotiations will hopefully lead to better supports for kids and more non-enrolling teachers in schools, there are costs that fall outside the collective agreement that have increased and not been funded, and those are not solved with this decision. For instance, the BC government has required school districts to upgrade their internet connectivity but has not funded that work (Next Generation Network). The BC government has also agreed that principals and other administrators should get a much-delayed raise, but has not increased funding to the districts to enable them to pay these raises without making cuts elsewhere. There are many other such costs; these are just two examples to demonstrate that underfunding is not solved by the resolution of the BCTF’s case.
We are pleased that Mr. de Jong, BC’s Minister of Finance, has declared his desire to immediately begin negotiations in good faith with the BCTF. We remind the Minister that increasing funding to ameliorate class size and composition is only the first step in restoring a level of funding for public education sufficient for all of BC's children to have access to the staff, resources, and facilities they need for a quality education that meets their learning needs. Parents are still fundraising for essential resources such as library books, classroom furniture, technology, and arts programming, and there are still tens of thousands of children in schools across BC that remain at high risk of structural failure in the event of an earthquake.
A net increase in funding is required
PAN and FACE will continue to advocate for adequate funding that covers all the costs of equitably providing quality public education. We also must be vigilant to ensure that, if the BC government is required to put more money into public education in order to fund increased staffing levels required by any agreement it may reach with the BCTF, it does not “make up” for that increased funding by clawing back money from other areas of public education. There is history to support this caution: In 2014, the BC government promised to “fully fund” the costs of the settlement it reached with the BCTF that year; yet in Budget 2015, the BC government forced districts to make $54 million in “administrative” cuts. Due to the years of previous cuts leaving no “low hanging fruit” to cut, those “administrative” cuts resulted in direct effects on kids and their ability to equitably access quality public education.
We will be watching to make sure that the BC government does not attempt to minimize the costs of a negotiated agreement on class size and composition by making cuts in other areas such as seismic upgrades, maintenance, and support services. There is no area of public education in which further cuts can be justified. What public education needs is improved, stable, predictable funding that allows districts to provide quality education to all learners in seismically safe buildings.
PAN, in cooperation with parent and advocacy groups — Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, Richmond Schools Stand United, Surrey Students Now, Comox Valley Families for Public Education, Families Against Cuts to Education BC— recently sent a letter calling on the Government of Canada to direct infrastructure funding towards urgently needed seismic upgrades in British Columbia’s public schools. Doing so will enable the federal government to ensure the health and safety of thousands of Canadians (most of them children), provide post-quake emergency shelters, and meet its goals of investing in social infrastructure to lay the foundation for Canada’s future.
We question why our children’s safety is discussed in the context of political games and priorities and treated as an education budget item. We believe public school buildings should not be linked to the education budget. In a province with a massive budget surplus, it is unacceptable that tens of thousands of children go to school every day in high-risk schools that will collapse in even a moderate earthquake.
To reinforce this important message to the Federal Government, TAKE 5 is a quick way to reach more Members of Parliament (MPs). We thank the parents of Seismic Safety for BC Schools for this easy but powerful advocacy idea.
Please TAKE 5 to support this collective effort and send an email to your local MP asking how they plan to address this child safety issue and how they plan to hlep the federal government meet this critical safety need.
United we are STRONGER! The more pressure they feel from more people, the more our government will be forced to listen and act.
IMPORTANT ADVOCACY MOMENT
Monday April 25 at 7:00pm is the final VSB public consultation session before Trustees vote on the proposed budget for the coming school year.
This proposed VSB Budget reflects 10+ years of administrative and other cuts and NOW more than ever before, this budget will be materially damaging to education in Vancouver and the equity within our system. These $24M in cuts will be detrimental to ALL our children in their classrooms and will be felt for years to come.
Parent Advocacy Network members believe this budget is unsupportable and it's time to TAKE A STAND!
Once again PAN will be presenting at 7pm (we are #2 on the Agenda) - and this time we are asking Trustees to unite and REJECT the Budget and DEMAND the Government provide adequate and stable funding for public education as is their legal obligation.
We invite all parents/guardians, grandparents, aunts and uncles and families to STAND with us and WEAR RED as a visible indication of protest - BC Budget is in the Black and BC Ed is in the RED - and support the #BCEDINRED campaign
This is our best opportunity to make a visible statement and protest the continued government underfunding.
We NEED your support - Please make an effort to Join us and TAKE A STAND!
When its our turn to present, we ask all those in attendance to STAND UP in their RED!
WHO: Parent Advocacy Network members and all parents/PACs in Vancouver
WHAT: Wear RED and STAND with us
WHEN: 7:00-7:30pm, Mon Apr 25
WHERE: Auditorium/gymnasium at Tupper Secondary School, 419 East 24th Avenue, near Fraser & King Edward/25th
RSVP: Reply YES to this email!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT.
FACE (Families Against Cuts to Education) has provided a very simple email tool here. Use and share!
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ALL VANCOUVER PARENTS
April 11: VSB just added a third evening of public consultations. Wednesday, April 13 7-11pm at the VSB Board Office, 1580 W. Broadway
April 10: updated to included revised budget proposals and public consultation information.
Please read and share widely & quickly through your networks so we reach as many parents as possible.
Parents need to stand up and demonstrate wide public concern about the VSB budget to help pressure the Government.
We strongly encourage all PACs to register (via email to email@example.com) and send at least 1 person to present at a VSB Public Budget Consultation. Please send as many parents as possible to attend.
Currently the sessions on April 12 and April 14 are full but VSB is extending the time to 10:30pm and may be adding a third session on April 13 (VSB will announce via social media on Monday). The need for more sessions means .... the parents are speaking out!
The Vancouver School Board was facing a budget shortfall of $27.26 million dollars. The April 4 funding announcement by the Ministry of Education and the fact that no students are registered to attend Henderson Annex this fall have reduced this by $3.2 million to just over $24 million – this is still the worst projected shortfall since 2002.
The School Act prohibits a School Board from presenting an unbalanced budget so many cuts have been proposed.
The Proposed Budget
The proposed cuts — HUGE, highly detrimental and long-lasting to services for our children, which we may never get back — will have SIGNIFICANT impact to ALL children across this district.
They will affect every family and the effects of the cuts will be felt for years to come.
The CUTS include:
The public have been invited to give feedback to the VSB regarding this proposed budget on April 12 at 7pm at Van Tech Secondary School and April 14th at 5pm at the VSB Offices on West Broadway.
We ask parents and strongly urge each and every school/PAC to send at LEAST one representative to express concerns and indicate how these budget cuts will directly affect children in their school.
If you are unsure how your school or your child(ren) will be affected, ask your administrator who will easily be able to tell you.
PLEASE REGISTER ASAP - via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The April 12 and 14 public sessions are currently full but they have extended the time and will add another session on April 13 if needed.
Your "speech" need only be one or two minutes. What is most important is showing wide public concern about the contents of this budget to put pressure on the Government.
PLEASE EVERYONE ACT NOW AND PLAN TO ATTEND ON APRIL 12 @ 7:00pm, AND/OR APRIL 14 @ 5:00pm
VSB 2016/17 budget process and timeline
Updated preliminary budget proposals
FROM A PAN PARTNER: The Show Up for Gifted Education! rally will be outside Van Tech at 6:00 pm. We will set up a mini-educational fair where students from gifted programs will display their work. If your child would like to take part, that would be wonderful. There is an event page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/218537988502232/permalink/219004938455537/
VSB cuts will eliminate many services including gifted education. Currently, 1200 students per year are being serviced through all VSB gifted programs. Although many of these programs are in elementary schools, many of these students move on to mini schools in high schools and the mini schools are losing their support staff.
Challenge Centre: eliminated
Seminar program: eliminated
Mentorship program: eliminated
Part time psychologist: eliminated
Gifted coordinator: eliminated
If you have parents and students at your school who will be affected and upset by these cuts, please consider forwarding them items 2-6 on this list. Items 1 and 7 are things you can do directly.
1. Write an email to VESTA, detailing your concerns, as they will be advocating for us and students at the upcoming stakeholder consultations.
2. Direct parents and students to Marlene Rodgers. She is the point person for parent mobilization.
3. Parents can also check out PAGES (Parents Advocating for Gifted Education in Schools) for updates on how to help. It is here: https://www.facebook.com/BCPAGES/
4. Parents and students can write letters to trustees, sharing their stories of what gifted education means to them. Their emails can be found here:https://www.vsb.bc.ca/about-vsb/trustees
5. Parents and students can sign up to speak at the public hearings by going here: https://www.vsb.bc.ca/node/6516
6. Parents and students can simply show up at the hearing with signs and support.
7. Please consider forwarding this to your colleagues (via personal email only), so they can forward to their parents.
If these cuts go through, this will be the death of gifted education in the VSB. MACC will not survive without the outreach programs, and soon high school programs will be affected as well.
Update: Presentation here.
On Wednesday, April 13, in the midst of the largest budget deficit in decades, PAN will be presenting a plea for a renewed vision and commitment from the VSB to restoring a comprehensive arts education for all children in elementary Vancouver.
The arts are essential to the intellectual and social emotional development of young children and to the health of our future society. They are also part of the BC curriculum and central to the core competencies that form the underlying framework of the new curriculum (critical thinking, communication and cultural identity). Given that participation in the arts for children and youth is also shown to significantly improve outcomes for disadvantaged children and youth in academic success, employment and civic engagement, the loss of arts from schools is also a matter of social justice. All children need and deserve education in the arts to enable them to develop their full potential.
Over the last two decades, the arts have been decimated through loss of district staffing, specialist teachers and resources. Only half of elementary schools have music teachers, only 2 have art teachers. Arts programs are now largely sustained through private donation or PAC fundraising which creates inequalities of access between schools. This years budget will see the loss of the last Fine arts district staff person and therefore the loss of all arts enrichment programs – which for many children are their only exposure to the arts. And finally, the few remaining arts spaces utilized in the district threaten to be eliminated under the ministry’s 95% capacity mandate to rationalize schools.
While we fully acknowledge the fiscal constraints of the district, we are asking trustees to commit to re-prioritizing arts education within Vancouver Schools as part of their 5 year strategic plan. To this end we are hosting a roundtable think tank drawing on arts experts across educational and civic communities to begin a creative conversation and think of ways we can sustainably work together to ensure all Vancouver children have access to a quality arts education as part of their elementary schooling. We invite you to show your support for this motion by attending the public presentation at Committee III of the Vancouver School Board on Wednesday, April 13 at 5pm. A large number of attendees gives a visible indication of parent priorities. There may also be opportunity to speak with trustees. If you are unable to attend we encourage you to write to the parent advocacy network and/or your trustee and express your concerns for the loss of the arts within Vancouver public schools.
February 19, 2016
“We are failing our future.”
Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education and Families Against Cuts to Education Respond to BC Budget 2016
VANCOUVER — To the great disappointment of the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) and Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE), and to the detriment of our children’s education, the BC government again cut education funding in Budget 2016. A further $25 million in "administrative" cuts will be taken from public education this year. By contrast, private school funding is increasing by $48 million, for a total of $358 million in tax dollars going to private schools.
“Last year’s round of ‘administrative’ cuts saw Boards cutting crucial items like school buses, custodial services, and even Education Assistant hours, so these cuts directly affect our children,” said Jennifer Stewart, parent and co-founder of FACE. “There is nothing left to cut and we are hearing more and more frequently about Boards closing entire schools in order to achieve ‘administrative’ savings.”
The government says that it is committing more funding than ever to education; what the government doesn’t say is that the increase is only enough to cover negotiated wage increases, and does not even match the rate of inflation, let alone cover rising costs. This is an effective hidden cut to the operating budget, in addition to the outright ‘administrative’ cuts.
“The Budget demonstrates that public education and our children are not a priority for government,” said Andrea Sinclair, parent, PAC Chair, and co-founder of PAN. “Prior to BC Budget 2016, we campaigned for the government to listen to the Finance Committee’s recommendations for increased funding for public education. Citizens across BC signed the petition and sent postcards to the government, but they were ignored.”
“It is shocking that the government has money for a ‘Prosperity Fund’ when many vulnerable children come to school hungry and school boards are struggling to provide breakfast and lunch programs,” said parent and PAN co-founder Maggie Milne Martens.
Jennifer Stewart says that FACE and PAN will continue to advocate for adequate public education funding: “Education is a promise we make to our children, an investment in the future of our province, and a societal good that benefits all. When we fail to fund it adequately, we are failing our future.”
About the Parent Advocacy Network
The Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education (PAN), formed in 2015, is a grassroots collective of parents from over 49 schools (and growing) across Vancouver who share a commitment to public education. Our mission is to connect parents across the district to support one another in advocacy. The network enables us to share information, experiences and stand together in protecting public education.
About Families Against Cuts to Education
Parents and citizens who care about public education came together in 2015 to form Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE). We believe public education needs to be a priority again, that public education is more important than politics, that a strong public education system benefits us all, and that all children must be able to benefit from high quality public education.
Media Contacts For PAN - Andrea Sinclair, 604-240-9834, email@example.com
For FACE - Jennifer Stewart, 604-790-9929, firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2016 Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education. All rights reserved.
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN), in conjunction with Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE), is targeting the provincial government with a goal to deliver hundreds of paper postcards - campaign well underway - and thousands of online signatures from citizens declaring “I Stand with the Standing Committee”.
Our goal is to make a bulk delivery of both signed postcards and online signatures to the Minister of Education demonstrating that parents will be holding his government accountable to adequately fund public education.
We need your help in spreading the word!
We hope that you will join us by sharing the link below with fellow parents, neighbours, family and friends and through your own social networks.
The all-party provincial Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services Report of Budget 2016 Consultations found - for the second year in a row - that the top priority for British Columbians is K-12 education funding. Sadly, these have previously been ignored. They cannot be ignored in Budget 2016!
The Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services recommendations:
1. Provide adequate capital funding to school districts for facility improvements/seismic upgrades/additional schools
2. Provide stable, sustainable and adequate funding to enable school districts to fulﬁll responsibilities to continue to provide access to quality public education, with recognition of the increased costs school districts have incurred.
3. Review the Ministry of Education funding formula for programs and services, as well as administrative staff compensation levels to ensure adequate and competitive compensation.
Sign the online card petition NOW and "Stand with the Standing Committee"!
Thank you for helping spread the word! The more signatures we gain, the stronger our collective voice!
Together we can make a difference!
On January 12, VSB Trustees will be meeting with senior staff to review a draft proposal of the long range facilities plan that will outline how the VSB will reduce 'surplus capacity' within the district over the next 15 years to meet a capacity target of 95%.
This is roughly the equivalent of eliminating 7,000 seats or 280 classrooms.
This proposal must be submitted to the Ministry of Education by January 31, 2016. The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) has already raised concerns about the negative impact that a 95% capacity will have in terms of the disruption of communities if school closures occur - overcrowding in remaining schools, the inability to serve the future enrollment needs of these communities, the elimination of specialized spaces such as art and music rooms as well as the loss of community supported programs such as Strong Start.
PAN updates and news, partner events, and other timely information relating to public school advocacy in and around Vancouver, BC.