Teaching profession being misrepresented

Though wages and benefits are obviously a concern to any person, our teachers’ greatest concerns are class size and composition

We find it disturbing that during contract renegotiations the teaching profession is easily misrepresented by our politicians.

Unlike politicians, no teacher receives a car allowance, an expense account, a tax-free income component, additional pay for additional work, an exceptional benefit package and an exorbitant pension plan. Teachers do not get any tax deductions related to their profession yet are expected to have a computer at home and often purchase items for their classes.

The teachers’ benefit package only compensates $80 every two years for prescription eyeglasses; amazing considering the teacher must spend most of their career reading. As well, there is no benefit to cover any prescription medications for stress. A teacher must have a degree to get a job and almost always has a five-year bachelor of education degree. A beginning teacher, with five years of university, is paid $45,909, but fewer and fewer beginning teachers ever receive full-time continuing contracts.

Once a teacher becomes ‘full time’, it then takes that full time teacher 10 years of experience and an additional masters degree (another two years of university) to reach the top of the pay scale and earn $81,489. There are 186 instructional days and six non-instructional days in the school year, but this represents only part of the time a teacher is working. We have never met a teacher who doesn’t spend evenings or weekends or holidays, marking or planning or coaching or running a club or volunteering time to help their school. It’s our opinion based on experience that a beginning teacher works 10-hour days (at least) and therefore earns $24.68 (gross) an hour with no deductions. Even less if you include the six non-instructional days.

Though wages and benefits are obviously a concern to any person, our teachers’ greatest concerns are class size and composition. This government stripped the teachers’ right to negotiate these concerns in 2002. The B.C. Supreme Court overturned the 2002 laws that stripped teachers of their right to bargain class size this year, declaring the legislation invalid and unconstitutional, yet the negotiation of these concerns is still being denied. As well, there are numerous classes that don’t meet the standards set by the government.

In 2001, to prevent teachers from walking out legally while on strike, this government declared that teaching is an essential service. Yet now, because the BCTF and BCPSAE negotiations aren’t to the liking of BCPSAE, Melanie Joy, the BCPSAE chair, has threatened pay cuts and locking teachers out. How does that make any sense? Teachers are still teaching, and coaching and running clubs and doing as much as they can to help students, and they are communicating their student-related concerns with parents as usual.

During the past five years BC Liberals have voted themselves pay increases of 29 to 50 per cent. Today a newly elected B.C. MLA, who does not require post-secondary training or experience, has a starting base pay of $101,859. At the federal level a MP’s base pay is $157,731. Of course, many make far more that this. On Oct. 3 the B.C. legislature started their fall session. In the 15 months prior to this they have sat for only 24 days.

It was Gordon Campbell who said that public service should be valued and that “we have to ensure that compensation for MLAs and their families is fair.” Should only MLAs be valued and should only MLAs and their families be compensated fairly?

Lynne Holloway and Rick Willie