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Don Avison gives the BC College of Teachers a failing grade

Two months after its initial scheduled release date, the Don Avison report on the BC College of Teachers was released today, announcing the regulatory body’s failure to regulate the province’s teachers in the public interest.

“The BC College of Teachers is not currently regarded as an independent and credible entity. A striking number of those interviewed, including many Council members, consistently described the College, particularly at the Council level, as ‘dysfunctional’. That assessment is accurate,” reads the report, compiled by Avison, a lawyer and former public servant.

Avison was appointed by the provincial government to conduct the review of the College after 11 members of the College’s 20-member Council wrote a letter to Minister Margaret MacDiarmid asserting the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) had influence over the body. Of the 20 Council members, eight are appointed by the government, while 12 are elected members, usually of the BCTF, who until last spring would meet with the union before each Council meeting to discuss issues being raised.

“They’re very productive meetings because what we do is we critique proposed policy,” BCTF President Susan Lambert told The Tyee before the report’s release, adding they haven’t had any meetings lately, but says the College holds similar meetings with other education stakeholders.

“It’s looking at proposed policy and ensuring that the policy is reflective of the classroom and of societal expectations and is rigorous, and we look at it from it’s always better to have another pair of eyes look at something you propose before you actually adopt it because you get a different perspective sometimes.”

Lambert rejects the idea the BCTF influences the Council, saying the allegations were personally and politically motivated by College members, particularly Registrar Kit Krieger, a former BCTF president from 1997-1999, and the only incumbent president in the union’s history to be defeated in a re-election campaign.

But Krieger, who was elected to the College Council in 2004 as a BCTF member but later defected, says he is grateful to the teacher’s union for the opportunities it gave him, and says they have an important role to play in teacher advocacy in the province. But he says BCTF leadership, himself included, has long misunderstood the purpose of the College to regulate in the public, not union, interest.

“The College is so out of step with every other regulatory body that this process of endorsement and the long history until last spring of caucusing with members, of having a policy framework which seeks to override, contradicts the legislation that sets the College up, the assertion that the College is supposed to be democratic and represent the profession instead of the public interest, or that the public interest is adequately represented by school boards or by the BCTF, those are simply wrong assertions,” Krieger told The Tyee in an interview before the report’s release.

Avison recommends two solutions for the College: a complete restructuring of the Council, whittling members down to 15 appointees representing teachers, administrators, and principals and vice-principals, but no one profession outnumbering the other; or a dissolution of the College and a return to government regulation of teachers.

In a press release issued by the education ministry, MacDiarmid agrees with Avison that changes to the College are necessary: “Maintaining the status quo would not be fair to our students, parents, or teachers, nor would it serve the public interest.”

Katie Hyslop reports on education for The Tyee.

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