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Tyee Readers Still Mad as Hell About Teacher Negotiations

We asked, thousands answered. Here's how your opinion on the teachers' dispute evolved.

By Sarah Berman 8 Sep 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Sarah Berman is an editor at The Tyee. Her writing has appeared in VICE, Adbusters, Maclean's, the Globe and Mail and many others.

It's been three months since The Tyee first asked readers where they stand on the teachers' strike. Over 1,000 readers responded; most of them stood behind the teachers' job action in May.

After a long, fruitless summer with little movement on either side, The Tyee asked again: have your sympathies changed in the teachers strike? Thousands responded to the poll, an overwhelming 89 per cent of which said they still support B.C. teachers.

The numbers closely follow The Tyee's May query, but a change of tone was evident in the comments. This time, many poll responders vented their frustrations with both sides of the dispute:

"Neither side is acting reasonable."
"I do not support either teachers or government.... What I support is children and their education -- they are being used as pawns by both parties."
"I am disgusted equally with both sides. Talks should have continued throughout the summer. I am not a fan of unions but it sure looks like this government we have in B.C. is out to break the teachers' union."

Only five per cent of responders said their position had changed over the summer, 35 per cent of whom now support the government. None of those who polled in favour of the government cited the $40-per-day compensation for parents with children under 12. Instead, government supporters criticized the teachers' position on wages and bonuses.

"The teachers keep saying it's not about wages but they will not take wages out of the equation and will not give up the $5,000 signing bonus."
"The BCTF wants too much control and too much money."
"If it was only about composition and class size, I would be in agreement. But I feel that the demand for higher wages than what is offered is not fair... I think what was proposed -- 'BCPSEA is offering to hard-wire into the contract additional protections on class size, a guarantee of at least $375 million over five years to address complex classroom needs, a stronger role for teachers in deciding how to spend these funds' -- sounds rather appropriate. Also I do not like that the teachers themselves were not allowed to vote on whether or not to end the strike."

Other government supporters questioned striking as a tactic:

"I think the BCTF made a serious mistake going on a full strike. I believe it was premature and will cost them much support from families and children. They could have used other job action tactics and continued their legal battle in the courts."

However, the vast majority of poll respondents described even stronger support for the striking teachers. An additional three per cent said they changed their position to support the teachers' union. Many respondents described chronic underfunding and poor regulation on class size and composition as reasons for their support:

"I saw what happened to my youngest son due to cutbacks. He just got his Grade 12 three years late. Unidentified disorders take far too long to get tested and by then the damage is far enough along it cannot be rectified within the school years. We need better classroom support rather than going back to segregation as it was when I was in school."
"They had their contract stripped by the party 12 years ago. The government has been ordered to reinstate it, but has continued to appeal and delay. Relief of class size and composition is needed now, not in two to five years."
"As a family therapist and grandmother of three children in the B.C. school system, I know that it is essential to meet the special educational needs for children with learning disabilities. Smaller class sizes and adequate salaries are essential for a learning environment, which should be an essential component of quality public education system."

Others pointed to two B.C. Supreme Court cases that declared the BC Liberals' did not negotiate in good faith.

"The government is trying to privatize education by destroying the public system through underfunding, and by refusing to respect Supreme Court judgments."
"The government has refused to negotiate class size and composition, which teachers won the right to negotiate by the B.C. Supreme Court decisions on two separate occasions. It is time to reinvest in education by restoring class size and composition limits to 2002 levels."

Regardless of position, Tyee readers are strong supporters of education as a democratic right.

"According to the United Nations, our government is violating B.C. children's right to free education: Article 28 states parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) make primary education compulsory and available free to all."
"Teachers should not have the right to strike. No one is harmed except the students."
"Fully-funded public education is a democratic right. Teachers are the last defenders of public education. The $40 allotment for kids under 13 is the precursor to a school voucher system. Check out the U.S. to see how the voucher system works for their citizens. Stand up with the teachers and protect future students' right to a fully-funded public education."

The Tyee Poll is not a scientific poll, but rather is intended to get the pulse of Tyee readers and the wider community. Check out this week's poll, which asks how readers are showing their support for teachers and government, here.  [Tyee]

Read more: Education, BC Politics

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