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VIEW: As a BC teacher, I can't afford not to strike

I was one of the 28,809 teachers that voted yes in favour of a strike escalation. I did so with a heavy heart. As a new teacher, I can't afford to go on strike. As somebody who values public education, I can't afford not to.

Imagine you are a guardian of a child. You want the best for your child but you know that:

- B.C. is investing $1,000 less per student than the national average.

- There are 1,443 fewer learning specialist teachers in B.C. than in 2001–02, despite increased demand.

- BC has the worst student-educator ratio in Canada.

I worry that if the public school system continues to decline; parents will opt for a private system in which their child can receive the holistic, student-centred education they deserve. 

The average cost of private school in B.C. ranges from $3,000 to $48,000 per year. Christy Clark can afford to send her children to private school, but can you? Is it fair that some students learn in small pods and take field trips to Paris while others compete with their 30 plus classmates for their overworked teacher's attention? 

While teachers are certainly asking for a wage increase in line with the increasing cost of living, the point of this strike is not about increased wages. Teachers are asking for the resources they need so that they can give their students the quality education they deserve. Parents want what is best for their children, but unless we all advocate for a well-funded public system, we run the risk of creating a system of "haves" and "have nots."

People across the province are advocating for more funding so that B.C. students are not left behind, but the B.C. government refuses to invest in education, not because they do not have the money, but because they lack the political will. If we can afford $514-million retractable roof for BC place, surely we can afford to invest in a quality education that meets the needs of all children, regardless of their income.

I refuse to begin my teaching career knowing that I will spend year after year watching the students who need a good education the most fall through the cracks because I do not have the resources I need to help them. I am asking for the resources I need in order to do my job well and if I have to go on strike to get them, so be it. My students are worth it.

Nassim Elbardouh is a B.C. teacher.

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