BC teacher calls on Premier Christy Clark to properly fund public education

BC teacher calls on Premier Christy Clark to properly fund public education
Posted on July 27, 2014 | Paul Sinclair | Written on July 2, 2014
Comments
Letter type:
Open

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

* Please note that the Premiere has now responded to my letter. Her response as well as my reply appear below my letter.

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Dear Editor,

After I have exhausted all the possible alternatives and avenues to make my voice heard, I am writing to you with the hope of helping me publish the attached open letter I have submitted to Christy Clark, Premier of BC.

I am currently a Math Teacher, for almost eighteen years, in this beautiful province of British Columbia. On behalf of all my dedicated colleagues who are struggling against the neglect and humiliation we are constantly facing from our provincial government, where public education has never been a priority! We live in the city of Vancouver where the cost of living is out of proportion! The average British Columbian family has to dedicate at least 91% of their potential income to secure a roof over their head!

Over the course of my career, the living and working conditions of our teachers and professionals have steadily deteriorated, to say the least, and the learning conditions of our students are getting worse at the same time because of the total lack of funding to public education in this province. Most of us dedicated educators, use our own resources and technology as a tool for teaching more effectively in our subject areas with pride and dedication.

Under normal circumstances, in civilized countries, Health Care, Education, and Security are extremely vital to daily life, as tax payers, citizens and human beings. These three important components should be encouraged, promoted, and rewarded, instead of being restricted and punished at will, through legislation. That's what makes the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship!

We have been on strike for almost a month now, without hope of achieving a fair settlement!

I am publishing this “Open Letter” in order to demonstrate my extreme disappointment about the ways our Education System is being treated. My main purpose is to spread awareness among all the British Columbians so we can put an end to this costly negligence and make Public Education among our three first priorities... before its too late.

Open Letter to Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia

As a teacher, parent, British Columbian tax payer, and responsible Canadian Citizen, I feel obligated to submit this letter to your government on behalf of all the professionals who represent the core and the foundation of the economic spectrum in this wonderful province of ours: Nurses, doctors, teachers, university professors, and police officers, to name a few.
 
As professionals, we are the ones who shoulder most of the problems of our society and the burden of taxation. Indeed, we are the ones who suffer the neglect, discrimination, and hatred in our daily activities. We are the ones who experience the worst living and working conditions, not to mention the highest divorce rate that is crippling some families. We all feel vulnerable, divided and, therefore, subject to neglect, humiliation, hatred, and total lack of respect.

As professionals, we need to stand our ground, side by side, and hand in hand to gain the respect and dignity we deserve. We arrive to the extent we can no longer tolerate the fact to be treated like second rate citizens. We are proud professionals and we intend, regardless of the lack of respect we are suffering, to keep our pride in doing our great job productively. As teachers, my colleagues and I are here to maintain high standards and expectations to help our students achieve excellence and become the responsible citizens. Their future depends on our actions and what we are offering them. We cannot guarantee a bright future to these students if we are not giving it all we can. Our firmness and dedication in remaining together, “hand in hand” is the most powerful tool to keep our Union stronger and alive.
    
H.A.N.D stands for Help Against Neglect and Decay of our Education System.

It is high time we stopped blaming each other and come up with positive outcomes to solve this crucial problem in a rational, fair, and civilized manner. As professionals, parents,  and British Columbian tax payers, we are dedicating our life, striving to keep our kids and students healthy, safe, secure, and educated, to the best of our ability, and for the sake of their becoming responsible citizens and better prepared to face the challenges ahead.

On the other hand, we are not here to satisfy the ego and the hypocrisy of politics by playing the game, promoting mediocrity. We are here to do a job, a great job. But we need to have the tools to be ahead of the game, for this life is full of obstacles. Our students deserve the best. They deserve to be prepared, happy and successful.   

How on earth can we deprive our talented and gifted students from potential growth and prevent them from reaping the benefit of post-secondary education, for the simple reason that their hard working parents are presumably “empty-pocketed” and do not have sufficient funds to cover their kids’ educational expenses?

The elephant in the room is PRIVATIZATION.

Not all the parents can afford to send their kids to private schools. I think your government has to be more creative to give the public education system the dignity it deserves and strives for.

To inspire you, Christy Clark, I would like to share a story about a Canadian Entrepreneur from Vancouver I highly admire and respect. I keep his name anonymous, out of respect for him. While he was a student, he admired his music teacher so much, I have heard he bought his teacher a brand new car, because, at the time his teacher could not afford one. He did that out of respect and love for his teacher!

While I do not need a car to feel valued, a little of respect, consideration and appreciation for the hard work my colleagues and I do on a daily basis, would go a long way. Why? Because my work does not end when the day ends. It keeps going long into the night so I can ensure my students will get the opportunity they deserve to stay focused on their work. On several occasions, I have received visits in my classroom from my previous senior mathematics students coming from different universities. As a token of appreciation, I was entitled to big hugs and thank-you for the hard work I did and which I am still doing. You can never put a price on success, integrity and devotion. My students come to show me their gratitude and that, in itself makes me a-one-of-kind teacher. I am proud of my accomplishments as a teacher.

I invite you, Christy Clark, to imagine yourself teaching in a classroom setting of thirty students, among them, three to six special need students. Under these circumstances, how are you going to manage this overloaded class, dealing with special needs students on a 1 to 1 basis, without a teacher assistant to help and without compromising the performance of other students? Are you going to dedicate your lunch hour and after school time to help students catch up with their missed assignments? Day after day without compensation or even recognition for the extra time and effort we put in.
    
Under these extenuating circumstances, such as deteriorating working conditions, class composition, and underfunded education, you are making teaching more difficult than it needs to be or should be. On the other hand, no matter what happens in classroom,  it appears you want to hold teachers responsible for the problems that are being thrust upon us. It seems as if you are doing this intentionally in order for teachers to lose credibility and respect within our community. Clearly, your only objective is to privatize education.

We are proud parents, professionals, and British Columbian tax payers who deserve a decent government that serves our needs and treats us with respect and dignity. We are concerned about the future of our kids in this province where the cost of living is out of control! We are not asking for the moon but a fraction so we can keep up.

       Happy teachers + happy students = great achievements

Is it too much to ask the government to compensate and reward teachers for the hard work they are doing? After all, education is the core that cements things together. It is the foundation of BC's future economy. Under the circumstances, 15% over 3 years and $5000 bonus is such a minor increase, it doesn't even beat inflation. But, we need it in order to maintain our standard of living so we can maintain our standards in the classroom.

It’s a matter of being a part of a solution instead of being a part of the problem. Which course are you going to pursue?
    
        Sincerely yours,

        Paul Sinclair. Math Teacher at Eric Hamber Secondary

 

Letter Response

Below is the response I received from the Premiere. My reply follows...
 

Thank you for your email, Paul. We appreciate the time you have taken to share with us some details of your experience as a teacher in B.C., and your concerns about issues surrounding teachers’ bargaining and public education. We have received a lot of feedback about this matter.
 
Government funding to school districts remains at record levels. The Ministry of Education is providing $4.7 billion to districts in operating grants in 2014-15, an increase of 27 per cent compared to the $3.7 billion in operating grants provided in 2000-01. This is all despite an unprecedented decline in student enrollment over the same period. There are 70,000 fewer students enrolled in B.C. schools compared to the September enrollment level in 2000-01.
 
We recognize the importance of ensuring that every child in our province has equal access to a high-quality education. As you may know, our government brought in the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) over two years ago. These funds are meant to be allocated by the districts to hire additional teachers and education assistants, provide additional teaching time or support professional development and training.
 
We have included some related news releases below for your information:

No one is denying that teachers, like many professionals, have a challenging job. Here in B.C., we are fortunate to have such well-educated and enthusiastic teachers across our province. You and your colleagues work hard to inspire your students and give them the best education, and we believe that hard work deserves a fair and negotiated settlement.
 
Teachers deserve a raise, and we agree that class size and composition are important. That is why on June 15, 2014, the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) tabled a comprehensive package to get kids back in school, and create long-term stability for parents, student and teachers. It included the special $1,200 signing bonus for a deal by June 30, 2014, an improved wage offer, $375 million in guaranteed funding for class composition, and bridging provisions to address the court case. To learn more, please visit the websites below:

We want to assure you that the BCPSEA stands ready to negotiate anytime over the summer, with or without a mediator, so that the next school year is not impacted.
 
In closing, we want to be clear that government continues to fund public education at record levels, despite fiscally challenging times because we believe it is an important investment in our children and in our province’s future. We want a lasting, negotiated settlement that protects education for students, is fair for teachers and puts the system on a path to stability for everyone. We know there is more to be done to ensure our students receive the best education. In that light, we will be sure to include your feedback in any related discussions moving forward.
 
Again, thank you for writing. We hope you find this response helpful.
 


Dear Honourable Premier,  Christy Clark,

Thank you for the formal response I have received from your Office.

Throughout careful reading, your Office seems to be chanting "the same old story of how your government wants to support education in general and ensure that all students are given fair treatment and that teachers should be given proper consideration". We have heard the very same story for over twelve years now, but actions should speak louder than words!

Sometimes, we need tu put the politics aside and open our heart to see what is right to do. There's no doubt in my mind, I am certain you have all the intrinsic values and qualities to change the momentum before it's too late, and to give the public education system the dignity it deserves.

Respectfully yours,

Paul Sinclair

 

About The Author

Paul Sinclair has been teaching Junior Mathematics, Senior Mathematics, and Calculus for over eighteen years in this beautiful city of Vancouver. He's very passionate by the magic of numbers and the relationship they... More

Comments

Thanks for sharing your letter Paul. I'm sorry to hear things are so bad for teachers in BC. From one teacher to another, I wish you all the best in your endeavor to improve public education in BC.

Dear James,

You have all my respect for taking the initiative to respond on my behalf to negative feedbacks on my open letter. It's democracy and I respect every one's opinion, even though it's very hurtful, sometimes.
Sincerely, I managed to express my point of view and make a point. Unfortunately, it breaks my heart to see that I became a target. I find it a waste of time and energy to respond individually to every hostile comment. Meanwhile, I send my profound gratitude to those who share our concerns with compassion and consideration. At least, we know that we are not alone in this conflict. May be we need to put our anger and emotion out of the equation and think deeply about the situation. How to come up with tangible solutions, without finger pointing each other. I thought my message would be understood, but I am totally wrong! I tried to express my concern on behalf of all the professionals:
Teachers, with all the problems we are facing. I must have exacrebated the problem, using the word "hatred" instead of "anger". And I apologize for that.
Doctors and Nurses who work impossible shifts and cope with the stress to keep us healthy,
Fire fighters and Police Officers who risk their lives, in their daily activities to keep us secure.
Engineers, Architects, University Professors, Small Businesses, hard working single mothers and the list goes on..All the professionals who work mostly for a pay cheque, knowing it's going to be hard to keep up with the higher cost of living and make end-meets!
All of us do represent a small fish in the ocean! The irony of the story is that our disagreement and fight against each other make us an easy target for the big fish to manipulate us and have the biggest part of the cake. Over the years ,decades, and centuries, people never expected miracles from any form of government!
The history speaks for itself and shows us that we have to rely on ourselves, as human beings and citizens. There's no winner-loser game. Win-win situation works the best for all of us combined:Professionals, Entrepreneurs, corporations, and Multi-Nationals, to name a few. All of us have to combine our effort to find necessary funding to finance Education at a bigger scale. We need to make our citizens financially responsible. We need Engineers and Scientists to make discoveries for the sake of improving our living conditions and preserving our Environment. Every one of us deserves to be happy , healthy, secure, educated and productive enough to contribute to the well being of our humanity. That is the only way out to sustain a decent living and preserve our human race. Honestly, I have much more respect and Trust for University Professors and Researchers than Politicians. Profit, indeed, is very important to stimulate our economy, but not to the extent to destroy our planet! Our destiny depends on choices we are currently making for our future. Let's think deeply about it.

Thanks again for your support, James.

Warmest Regards

Paul Sinclair

Richard

We better get that pipeline happening because I don't think its fair to ask those people who pay 91% of their income for housing to pay more tax to cover your raises.

Jason

Wow. Richard, the government sure has you trained well. Critical thinking: failure. I'm a little surprised that anybody would trust politicians over... ANYBODY ELSE, nevermind teachers.

Chris Hoffman

I have friends who are teachers & teaching assistants. I also work in a group home with young men with disabilities,who once were children. Challenging. I have worked with children & youth with special needs as a Childcare worker & youth worker,including in daycare & preschool. I can imagine what be like for teachers,who are trying to teach children & youth to learn

Happylada

I guess it comes down to this - there are employers and employees. The teachers aren't sure of their role - they make the demands as IF THEY were employers, but take NO responsibility for the financial drain they cause on the economy. There is, in this case ONE employer, who represents the taxpayers of this province, and who has a dozen other commitments for that money. Teachers get very well paid, in the grand scheme of things. The fact that they use kids as pawns to blackmail the taxpayers into ever higher taxes is immoral and unprofessional. Should teachers think they are worth more money, they are welcome to look for other employment. I did.

In Taiwan, I taught 50 students in a classroom. Funny - somehow they are beating us academically. The students started school as early as 7:00 AM and were sometimes there at 8: PM - and there were teachers there most of that time. Not in BC.

So folks, you have a cushy job, few responsibilities, and great benefits, retirement and vacations. Why not try raising your value by producing better students, and THEN see if there is more money in the pot?

In the meantime, there are better results with half the money from private schools, parochial schools and specialty schools.

Does THAT tell you something?

Happylada

"As professionals, we are the ones who shoulder most of the problems of our society and the burden of taxation. Indeed, we are the ones who suffer the neglect, discrimination, and hatred in our daily activities. We are the ones who experience the worst living and working conditions, not to mention the highest divorce rate that is crippling some families. We all feel vulnerable, divided and, therefore, subject to neglect, humiliation, hatred, and total lack of respect. - "

I hardly know where to begin with this make-believe victimization statement. Worst Living Conditions? Try living like some of your students do. On 30,000 a year total family income. About the amount of raise you want IF there are two teachers in the home.

Teachers in this province have been at war with EVERY government - NDP, Social Credit and Liberal,for years, so its NOT Christie Clark, NOR the Liberals you have a problem with. Its any and every government. Why? Because you very much overvalue your services.

Try doing something else for a year or two in the open job market. You'll think your current position is Disneyland.

Hatred? Are you rational? You tell stores of respect and affection yet use "hatred" twice. I don't hate you. I think you are greedy and demanding and unreasonable, but I guess in the world of teachers, polite disagreement is hatred. Back to semantics 101 for YOU.

I have worked in business and as a teacher. I'm doing both now, teaching and running this website. Without a doubt, teaching is the most tiring job I have ever done. More tiring than running a business. Why? Because you're on stage six hours a day, five days a week. Its akin to giving sales presentations every hour of every day for your business. Do you do that? I doubt it.

You think teachers are over valued? I think they are under valued. Who taught you how to read and write? Obviously someone because it doesn't happen by osmosis. Without teachers and public education our society--everything that Canada is built on--would not be as it is. $50,000 - $80,000/year is not that much money for the responsibility of educating the provinces' youth. Believe me, its a small investment.

Normally, I would not allow a personal attack like this on a letter writer, on UnpublishedOttawa.com. However, I approved it in order to respond. In the future, if you wish to comment, please keep your comments focused on the issue. Attacking the messenger is not something we permit.

Ray Villanueva

To all the teachers out there...your value to these young kids are infinite and sorry to hear about the issues . May i share my own experience of a teachers strike. I went to high school in Mississauga and was deprived of my athletic desires on my Grade 11th year however the teachers imposed a work to rule for any post school activities. It was probably the worse feeling of my young life in understanding what life was about. I have the uptmost respect to all teachers,health workers,fire dept ,law enforcement etccc as they go through all the emotional roller coaster.

May i suggest to impose a work to rule during the school season and not at the latter end of the school year. Hopefully this issue will be resolve in a timely manner and we can see all the teachers back in their classrooms.

Matt

If you are any bit good at math, please tell me where that money for all your demands will come from. Please also put in your calculations of all the other union me too clauses. I am a small business person who works 6 days a week and about one hour of that dealing with the PST, the HST which your union help defeat was far more easy to manage. Please also tell me how it is fair that a person on disability gets about $900 a month, which is about half what your benefit package is and Christy Clark said disability benefits would not go up until the economy improved. I wait for your answer Mr. Sinclair.

Mr. Sinclair is a math teacher, not a policy wonk or politician. He can't answer that question for you. I am also a business man and a teacher. I run this website.

Everyone knows there is limited public money to draw from. The question is whether or not you think an educated populace and workforce is desirable?

Canada was built on public education. I believe education is a public right. Provinces need to pay their teachers a living wage. For example, I did not pursue a teaching job in Toronto because I knew I could not afford to live there. The cost of living in Toronto is greater than anywhere else in Ontario, yet Toronto teachers make the same as teachers everywhere else in the province. Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada. I can only imagine how difficult it must be.

Every profession has its challenges. For teachers living in large Canadian urban centres, keeping up with the cost of living is one of those challenges.

Najat Sinc-Benrbia

I think that Mr. Paul Sinclair was discussing an issue regarding the education system in British Columbia which has nothing to do with the issue you are bringing. And yes, our province gets more funding for education but no one can see where the money is being employed. As a previous teacher, I know the drill. The politicians get to increase their wages if they see fit but not the other way around. Besides, we live in a democracy and can express our opinions if we see that our rights are being baffled. Also, it is not fair to have a government that cannot deal with the issues at hand. Hence, legislating the problems will not make them go away. On the contrary, the problems will keep piling up till we will be submerged, and our students will not be able to go anywhere, for their future will be a big fat zero. Consequently, we have started to see the trend, and pretty soon, we will not have any back up plans. Education is the core, and without it we are as good as dead. In as far as the disability issue is concerned,I think that people need to voice their opinions and express them in many ways possible.

Marika Mayer

It is true that education is the foundation of our future economy. It is very short sighted of any government to think they can get away with short changing students on their public education, without taking responsibility for the dire consequences that result from inadequate funding. Please reconsider! It is the students who matter, and most teachers know this is their priority! Although teaching is not an easy position, most teachers are called to this vocation because they want to make a difference. I see it every day, working within the school system.

Patricia Melstrom

Yes We All Deserve To Not Live In Poverty Consciousness!!!
I am on Disability...Al on disability receive $906.00 a month.No more..Since 2007 not a penny more...Alberta disability pays $ 1750.00 per month..Hmmm We don't get to eat after our rent ect is paid..

Try that on for size...Christy is another one who needs to go...We the people need to take back out human constitutional rights..We can govern. our selves for the people by the people ...Thanks

pa jesseson

My Dear Math Teacher, Mr. Sinclair:

You are the kind of Canadian we need, Ms. Clark is not. As her actions have made clear to anyone with the ability to see, hear, reason and understand, children are not her priority, either in education, mental health issues, domestic safety, the securing of their future, and a host of other basic human rights and needs. In my view, she is a cold, hypocritical, absolutely classic self-serving politician who, if in your class, would fail all the basic tests of human ethics, morality, feality, honesty, and whose math skills come to 1 + 1 = Me.

Rarely have we seen such a specimen of all that is terrible in public life; at least to our knowledge (a big caveat) she does not smoke crack cocaine in public, or make racist statements, in public, but we must have done something terribly wrong (like not care who we vote into office, perhaps?) to have this specimen called Ms. Christine (I use what I believe is her Christian name, in case it shakes some cobwebs somewhere, though certainly the will not be on her teflon body) Clark.

It is shameful that the people of this province ever gave her their trust, and that is OUR issue to deal with. As for a successful resolution of the education issue currently at stake, I wish you and the other hard working teachers the best of luck. I believe the issue will be resolved with equity, respect for teachers and students, when the right, dishonourable Herren Clark is no longer in charge.

Sad but true.

yours most sincerely

Lynda Slater

To all the teachers:

You have a very difficult job and it is not getting any easier. My children went through this system and the same problems were there. My daughter graduated in 2000. Both my kids went through school with classes of children with
WIDELY mixed abilities including reading difficulties, mental and emotional problems along with very bright kids. Many times teachers apologized to me because they had not a lot of time for teaching because of dealing with kids needing special help. Special needs kids in the classroom I think is good as it teaches tolerance to different individuals but having no classroom support for these special needs kids robs everyone of the education they deserve.

It is time to reform the system. If no money can be found, it is time to STOP funding private schools. As to classroom size, I think it is time to go back to the old days and mainstream students. This is only fair so that the students can all move along at a somewhat equal pace. We seem to forget every child has a willingness to learn and it is their right to have the best learning environment possible.

I volunteered in the schools on PAC all the years my 2 children attended school. The public system is underfunded with funding dependent on property taxes. My children went through school in the second lowest funded district in BC. Our kids lost music in the 90's. As a PAC member, we were always trying to fund raise but in a community where parents do not have a lot of disposable income, this process was difficult. I went to another school in the same district but in a high income area. To my shock, I could not believe all the instruments etc that I saw. I asked a teacher why they had these instruments and art supplies. She replied to me,"We have an active PAC" You could have knocked me over with a feather. All those years on PAC , I did not clue in how much my kids educa5tion depended on the parents salaries in the school catchment. This is shocking and sad and it is time to begin to equal the playing field.

My grandchildren are now coming into a system where these inequalities prevail and i am sad that these same problems are still with the teachers!

Our children need a complete education including the arts because this is an important part of our whole life. This is more important than ever now as the electronic age is dulling our senses of respect for our heritage and the arts.

I could go on and on. i have written letters to MS Clark, but her son is not in the public system and so far not even a reply that she or someone even read my letter! Her son will have plenty of opportunities. Mind you, with the exporting of all our jobs via selling out our natural resources, I guess Ms. Clark feels we don't need leaders of tomorrow. The few we will need will come from the private schools and the rest of the ones, will still struggle.

It is a sad situation and please all teachers keep on fighting!! I honk my horn for you all. You are treated badly but deserve so much thanks!

sincerely Lynda Slater

Thank you for you for sharing your comment Lynda. Great insight into a historical problem.

Please feel free to share the letters you wrote to Ms. Clark on UnpublishedOttawa.com so we can help you get your message out. If she hasn't read them yet, we can help make sure she does.

Najat Sinc-Benrbia

Mrs. Slater, you have brought up a valid issue here regarding the underfunded agenda in the school system. I do agree with all the above, except that the government has money but they don't want to use it for the greater good. They prefer using it somewhere else. We live in a rich country full of potential. The population of all Canada equals the population of California. Besides, we do pay more taxes. Whether it is private or public, Education is key, and without it, our future generations will be lost in an ocean of ignorance, becoming brainless consumers.

John

You teachers need a wake up call I agree with your need of change in the Class room - But here is where you loose Joe Publin and other Civil servants - 151/2 % even the BCU could not get that . theu were told and so now you - you cant get blood out of a stone . Trade Unions usually how to pick a battle to win - You have no chance , none at all never mind 5k sign up. Your UNion hacks and reps need to wake up and smell the coffee . 10 year fight and no reult - 3 mediators walk away - in your Union - there is something rotten in the state of demark

For a math teacher, I'm surprised you miscalculated inflation. 15% over 3 years is much higher than inflation. Dare I ask you to calculate the percentage that $5,000 would be as a bonus to one's salary?

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