Depending on what school your child is in, you may have received a mostly blank report card last week.
For Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, it was a waste of time and money, especially after a Labour Relations Board ruling earlier this week. The LRB confirmed that not issuing report cards was an acceptable job action during the ongoing contract dispute and that the employer couldn’t dock their pay because of it.
“I’m really glad that some common sense has come down about these two issues,” said Epp. “The report card issue in my mind was solved a long time ago. Going into this year’s job action, the employer agreed report cards were non-essential.”
Teachers have been without a contract since June of this year. Negotiations are dragging at the provincial bargaining table with the government side insisting on a net-zero contract. In response, the province’s teachers began a job action in September, refusing to do administrative duties, including issuing report cards.
Epp points out that many teachers have been keeping parents up to date on their child’s progress in other ways.
“They are getting phone calls, they are getting emails, they are getting parent-teacher conferences,” said Epp. “It’s ludicrous to me that the deputy minister would write to the superintendents that they (report cards) are important educational tools for parents.”
He’s also relieved the LRB decision recognizes that teachers are still putting in a full day’s work.
“They clearly see that while we are not doing some of the non-teaching jobs, they said very clearly that we are putting in more time on the teaching side of things,” said Epp.
In fact, some teachers have told him there are positive effects from dropping administrative tasks like meetings or spending time collecting fees.
“I have had some teachers say there is some pieces of this job action they would like to keep forever,” said Epp. “Instead of focusing on how will the kids get their planner if we don’t hand it out and collect $10 from each of them, the focus shifted quickly to ‘I have more time to spend with the kids.’”
And with administrators having to handle playground supervision, Epp said teachers have time to help struggling students or phone the parent of a child they are concerned about.
Even though there have been positives mixed with the negatives, Epp is frustrated about how long the negotiations have been stalled. He worries now that the job action might continue for a prolonged period, until the government resorts to legislating an end to the dispute.
“I would say teachers are beyond frustrated but they’re still doing the job. They’re still coaching, they’re still communicating with parents, they’re still teaching kids every day,” said Epp. “The system isn’t falling apart because of the work teachers aren’t doing. If the system has difficulties, it’s because of the lack of funding and neglect by the government.”