Learn More – NEW

A must watch video on alternatives for funding BC Public Education 


A must watch video on E80 and the Teachers Court Case 


E80: what lawyer Joel Bakan has to say


Joel Bakan, University of British Columbia law professor and a constitutional law scholar, has weighed in on the controversial proposal, E80, which is the employers’ proposal on class size, class composition and specialist teachers. Bakan says he understands the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s concerns about the possibility that accepting the proposal could negatively affect a court appeal that is to be heard in October. The employer has said that negotiating class size and composition is its No. 1 priority, while the BCTF has made dropping the proposal a condition of entering into binding arbitration. Teachers will vote tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 10) on whether to end their strike if the government drops E80 and enters binding arbitration.
Bakan’s opinion on the proposal is below.
“I see a lot of sense in the BCTF’s insistence on eliminating E80 from the package for consideration in binding arbitration. The effect of E80, as I understand it, is to force negotiation on classroom size/composition when the nature and scope of the BCTF’s legal rights in respect to those matters is unknown and pending decisions of the BC Court of Appeal, and possibly the Supreme Court of Canada after that,” Bakan wrote in an email.  
“As is true of any negotiation, the respective bargaining positions of each party is determined by the prevailing legal framework concerning their respective rights. One cannot, for example, effectively negotiate a sale of land if the crucial legal issues concerning that land – such as zoning and permitted uses – are uncertain, or pending a court decision. On a larger scale, the relative positions of government and aboriginal negotiators in respect to land claims are profoundly shaped by court decisions on aboriginal title. The same is true of any and every negotiation, including those between BCTF and the government – extant legal rights determine respective bargaining positions.

In my view, the BCTF is acting sensibly and reasonably in wanting to eliminate unresolved, yet crucial, legal issues from bargaining. It is not that the BCTF doesn’t want to bargain those issues – as the Minister seems to suggest; it is that they want to wait until the courts have finally determined the respective rights of the parties on those issues before commencing bargaining. That makes eminent sense, as does the proposal to go ahead with binding arbitration on those parts of the dispute that are not currently before the courts. The BCTF’s position would put teachers back in classrooms on terms decided by an arbitrator on matters not before the courts, while leaving negotiation concerning matters that are before the courts to a time when those courts have finally decided upon those matters.” 

Christy Clark’s Battle With Teachers Is Personal, Argues Educator



Premier Clark’s fight with BC teachers is a personal battle.  Clark has waged an ideological battle with teachers that threatens to bring down one of the top public education systems in the world.

This is not the first time that Clark has attempted to “shift the balance of control back.”  As a university student in 1988 Clark became the internal relations officer at SFU and immediately went to battle with the unionized staff of the student society.  She won, claiming to want to “shift the balance of control back.”  After becoming student body president in 1989 she was disqualified for not following campaign rules.

In 2001, as Education Minister in the Campbell government, she stripped the teacher’s collective agreement of class size and composition language, a move she was told was not legal; advice she did not listen to.  By the time she had become Premier, the first of two court cases based on her actions had been won by the BCTF.  The government, under her leadership, was told to rectify the guilty actions within a year.  The government ignored the request of the court.  The government did not appeal.  A short lived three day strike in 2011 ended up in legislation, Bill 22, which was again challenged in court.  BC Supreme Court Justice Griffin found the government guilty of taking away the teacher’s charter rights, bargaining in bad faith and plotting to provoke a strike for political gain.  They were ordered to restore 2002 class size and composition levels, bargain in good faith and fined the maximum of $2 million.  The court had found the Clark government guilty a second time.  At Clark’s request and taxpayer expense, the government sought and received a Stay in the proceedings. They did not argue the legality of the court decision but that the money that had been taken away from BC’s most vulnerable children was too expensive for BC Taxpayers to return.  The appeal will be heard in October.

When BCTF tried to enter into constructive negotiations with BCPSEA, and it looked like it would work, Clark fired the whole Board and replaced it with one executive.  Talks with the teachers immediately took a nasty turn and returned to dysfunction. To further complicate the matter Clark introduced her own ideas without public consultation in the BC Ed Plan and the BC White Paper on Education, the latter demanding teachers accept a 10 year term, reduced security and a plethora of other changes to the system.  Negotiations with the new BCPSEA began, and demands had changed.  The ten year deal was talked about but never tabled, new provisions tabled by the government decreased teacher job security, attempted to change the school calendar, and create a two tiered pay system to just name a few.  E80 and E81 were introduced to bargaining, clauses that would effectively reverse whatever the courts had decided if it was not in the government’s favor.  Bargaining resumed but the government refused to change its position, except to finally table a ten year deal.  Clark herself continued to sell the ten year deal in the background.

The BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint was unveiled, providing educational commentators with the first glimpse of plans to not only re-engineer the public education system but predominately privatize it without any public consultation.  It became a made in BC model for public education that closely resembles the problematic No Child Left Behind program introduced by George W. Bush; providing profits for private corporations at the expense of a child’s education.  This is a program that the US is currently trying to pull itself out of.  It was also the first time plans to shift K-12 public education to predominately focus children on working in the LNG industry was introduced.

BCTF was left with little choice but to go on strike, a move seemingly welcomed by Clark.  Closer to the school start date negotiations bogged down on the E80 and E81 clauses, a blackout was placed on negotiation details even as Minister Fassbender under Clark’s direction, continued to bargain in the media.

Just prior to the school start date mediator Vince Ready became available to provide his services.  BCTF entered the weekend making significant cuts, BCPSEA changed little except for deleting E81.  They retained E80, a clause that would still allow government to erase the decision of the court if it was not in their favor.  After two court victories on legislation presented by Premier Clark back in 2002, this clause was unacceptable to the BCTF.  Talks with Ready broke down and the strike continues.

A Clark approved program to pay parents $40.00 per day, money that had previously been saved from the strike in June and belonged to the public education system, was angrily received by parents and touted as a poorly thought out scheme.   Fassbender again made the interview circuit, blaming the teachers for all the problems, the site to inform parents about the $40.00 began spewing out anti teacher messages, tweets and facebook posts by both Clark and Fassbender continued to blame teachers and the BC Education Plan ran anti teacher headers.  On Wednesday Clark hosted a media event, falsely blaming teachers for unlimited massages and an extra-day off for secondary teachers, neither which were true. Clark’s bullying tactics had hit a new low.

Clarks tactics have changed little since her SFU days.  Her actions still reflect her desire to “shift the balance of control back.” This time the setting is not the student union at SFU but the BC public education system. The consequences of this game to children, parents, teachers and the survival of the public education system are far greater than they were in her actions as a student back in 1988.

Bruce McCloy is a teacher and education advocate with the group BC Voters Supporting BC Teachers and Public Education



Some Background Information 

Bruce McCloy

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it

“Each way of change in educational reform, especially Post World War 2, has left a legacy – a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, good and bad.  The philosopher George Santayana warned that if we do not learn from the past, we are condemned to repeat it.  History is not a pile of refuse, nor is it a refuge.  Our challenge, in relation to our values and our vision, is to learn from history what we can and to leave behind what we must” (Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way, p. 47).

Over the past twelve years the provincial Liberal government has taken education on a particular philosophical path.  It has been argued that this path is eerily similar to one followed in Canada, Britain, the US and Australia in the mid 1970s to mid 1980s.  The lessons that we can learn from history is that this era had catastrophic implications on the development of educational reform; implications that many jurisdictions have worked hard to leave behind and some whom are just now emerging from.  Presented here is a list of attributes attributed to this era of catastrophic educational change.   Take a few minutes and look for comparisons to our current Liberal backed educational reforms.  Then look at the implications that the 1970 -1980 educational reforms had on systems in these countries and this will help you better understand and explain to others concerns that BC teachers have for our current system.  It is fair to conclude that those areas that are similar today to the 1970s – 1980s will result in similar implications.  We need to learn from history or our education system will be condemned to the same problems that plagued this very troubling time in our development in education.  Better yet, we must act to demand the changes that we see history is telling us must be changed; or be condemned to repeat them.  If this occurs, it will be our children that suffered – and we can only say that we knew better and did not act.  We have an opportunity to act, we have a responsibility to act.

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act”

Albert Einstein

Education Reform around the world in the Mid 1970’s

Which ones does BC still hold on to today?

“This Way of Education enforced greater competition and increased expectations, but at too great a cost to student learning, teacher motivation, and leadership capacity on schools.  The conservative agenda of diminished resources and reductions in teachers’ preparation time, high stakes testing linked to graduation, and accelerating reform requirements exacted high costs on teaching and learning.  Despite its urgent insistence on improvements and equity this way of educational policy, alongside endless and contradictory systems of teaching and testing, had narrowed and dumbed down the curriculum. The funding offered to schools, when it did come, came with deadlines and produced panic-driven measures of short term change.  There were numerous calls throughout these countries for the government to reverse course, and arguments that educational systems must encourage the innovation and creativity needed to compete in a global knowledge economy.  To achieve this privatization of the public school system became a necessary evil.  Students became subject to messages and ideals promoted by private companies in ways that were secretive and unknown to parents.  Anachronistic policies had given schools multiple and contradictory ways to fail, removed creativity from the classroom, and precipitated crises of retention in teaching and leadership … epitomizing the punitive pressures of the top-down style of educational reform (Andy Hargreaves, 2009) .

A response to conservative political ideology promoted by leaders such as Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher, led to a decrease in government funding for public institutions, downloading of responsibility on local governments away from national / provincial leaders, greater central control over standards and promotion by the government of an active distrust of educators promoting a public mistrust between parents and teachers.

A period Educational Reform marked by “deficits of professional motivation and punitive top-down approaches to solving educational issues” (Andy Hargreaves)

  • People began to question how their tax money was being spent
  • Political leaders pushed through full or partial privatization of services and market competition on public services that placed professionals under new pressures to perform
  • Governments acquired as must do situation in education, focused on the present task of getting re-elected, with little to no concern for the past or what will occur in the future
  • Growth of the Charter and private school movement through full to partial government funding and an easing of restrictions making moving to a “better” school easy, acceptable and widely promoted
  • Growth of government funded magnet / specialty schools / academies
  • Reform of secondary school learning with a focus on Vocational education with a de-emphasis on going to university for everyone but those attending affluent private institutions
  • Creation of mentoring and tutoring programs for every individual student (personalized learning)
  • Radical idea that students should have portfolios of diverse assessments and achievement negotiated and discussed on a continuing basis with a mentor teacher
  • A quest for coherence
  • Focus on common educational standards throughout the system
  • Provision for consumer choice
  • Increased directed professional training at the district level
  • Detracking (destreaming) of special needs students into regular programs with little to no financial or teacher training support
  • Destreaming leading to de-labelling, saving costs of special needs supports for the government and forcing the responsibility onto the regular classroom with no additional support
  • Leading policy makers believed that the right combination of market pressures, government guidelines, and site level resources would drive up the quality of teaching, which in turn would raise student achievement
  • Decentralized responsibility combined with tight central government control.  Mandates set by the central government with the responsibility to complete these left with the local School Boards, schools and teachers with a cut in “real” funding to the local organizations
  • Contradiction of larger class sizes combined with a greater focus on personalizing student learning
  • Cuts to specialist teachers
  • Markets were overlaid with growing government centralization and standardization of educational goals.  Performance standards and achievement targets enforced political control of outcomes in public education
  • Increased competition among schools, fueled by publication of rankings of tests results
  • Prescribed, paced and sometimes scripted curriculum content in areas of learning that were more narrowly defined
  • The misuse of literacy coaches as compliance officers, enforcing compliance fidelity
  • Political targets and timetables for delivering improved results
  • Replacement of professional learning by in-service training on government priorities
  • Students redefined as clients, customers or consumers
  • A political attack on the “welfare state” demonizing teachers as thieves of taxpayer’s money
  • Business people and the economic elite saw the new way of the 1970s and 1980s as promoting a sense of urgency, attended to all students equally, increased teachers’ skill levels as a result of a need for higher teacher compliance to political ideals, and moved the profession in a common and accountable direction.  Saw increased accountability measures boosting and equalizing achievement
  • Others welcomed the new commitment to gathering comprehensive data on student achievement, anticipating that more precise information would lead to greater assistance for struggling students such as those in special education programs at their schools.
  • Multi-discipline education was promoted as being a superior way to learn but no changes were made to the delivery model to facilitate this call
  • Standards were easy to write and inexpensive to fund.
  • Scripted and paced literacy programs imposed on districts and on their schools
  • Centralization led to a detailed curriculum, government reducing resources for teachers, mandated high stakes Grade 10 testing linked to student graduation and governments broadcasting doubts about teachers’ commitments to the public good.

1970s to 1980’s: The Implications of this Political Reform

-          A system of common  standardized and testable educational standards that made no allowances for different learning styles, programs, geographical locations or student / community needs

-          Increased district led professional training created a focus on the needs of the upper powers rather of the child (top down model)

-          Detracking of special needs students occurred without proper funding for support

-          Classroom teacher, saw the combination of centralized frameworks and initiatives with decentralized responsibility as bewilderingly contradictory

o   Example – portfolio assessment were paralleled with standardized tests

o   Interdisciplinary initiatives ran alongside of subject-based report cards

o   Magnet schools targeted only certain populations but received equal funding

o   Private schools could select appropriate students, choosing not to allow in other students, and receive equitable government funding with the added bonus of being able to charge large tuition fees

-          Outcomes that were centralized were too vague to serve a purpose yet the expectations were very specific.  Vague outcomes and lack of direct funding made it difficult for teachers to adequately serve detracked students.  It became more difficult in the classroom as more students became unidentified and no longer received funding.  To solve this, districts responded by composing and compiling big binders of highly specific outcomes and giving them out to teachers so they could adapt the curriculum themselves

-          Reduced funding combined with centralized expectations and decentralized responsibility led to cuts in order to meet ever decreasing “real” budgets, including larger class sizes leading to less attention for individual children and fewer specialty student services.

-          The collapse of the system during this time period was the result of the system’s failure to invest in its people

-          A government set on building political fortunes on the promotion of mistrust between teachers and themselves, a continuing economic climate of limited public expenditure and overall financial stringency helped propel many nations into a strident Second Way of markets and standardization.

-          Parents who understood how to navigate new provisions for school choice were freed and empowered but students who were not as fortunate to have parents like this suffered greatly and professionals who served them became subject to greater surveillance and government prescription

-          The passive trust that parents had as they respectfully handed their children over to teachers who were left to get on with the job was replaced with “active mistrust” between parents and teachers.

-          Centralized standards, while easy to write and inexpensive to fund, were revered in administrative and policy circles but resented and resisted in classrooms as out of touch and dangerous for students

-          Scripted and paced literacy programs were imposed in many districts and on their schools, leading to a tightening of the bureaucratic screws with increased ferocity.

-          Standardization led to a serious loss of innovative energy and teacher creativity

-          Standardized tests and norms led to teacher burnout and leaving of the profession as well as a drop in the qualified applicants applying for entry into teacher training

-          Student achievement gains often occurred for a year or two in most cases but soon reached a plateau

-          Markets reorganized resources but didn’t produce more of them

-          Private organizations took control over student curriculums presenting their messages to children in a secretive and mostly undetectable fashion

-          Parents had more choices but only the affluent ones knew how to work the system to advance their interests and protect their privileges

-          Standards raised the bar but didn’t help children reach it

-          As measures of performance rose in tested literacy, rates for reading for pleasure fell

-          The costs to the quality, depth, and breadth of children’s learning were considerable.

-          School drop outs increased, site-based innovations declined, teacher quality suffered, and so did teacher retention

-          The teaching profession displayed the feelings of fear, frustration, and lost effectiveness that this strategy produced

-          The result was a “taking away of professional judgement and autonomy”

-          Teacher comment from the time “there just seems to be so much focus on meeting the standards set from the outside that I don’t think we get to spend as much time thinking about what we’re doing in the classroom and enjoying it.”

-          Many teachers expressed the sentiment that they couldn’t “ deal with the system … and [were] tired of fighting it.”

-          The result of this reorganization of education on the teaching profession was profound, decreasing professional motivation and a desire for many to even attempt to enter the profession.  Many who would have made knowledgeable and talented teachers, serving the students well, chose not to enter the profession and use their talents in other areas, leading to a loss for all children and society in general

-          The effect of this philosophy focused on the reorganization of education precipitated a crises of sinking professional motivation and lost classroom creativity

-          Draconian reforms jacked up short-term gains on state and provincial tests but these did not generalize to other assessments that were immune to test-preparation strategies

-          The collateral damage on classroom creativity and on curriculum was just too great

Out of the educational reforms of the 1970s and 1980s there was a call for a new way needed in society and, more specifically, in education to restore professional energy and develop the higher levels of creative knowledge and skill development essential for competitive and cohesive knowledgeable societies.  The implications of this era in education are evident.  There are many comparisons between what happened throughout many countries in the 1970s and 1980s to what the BC Liberal government has done to education over the past 10 years and promises to continue doing.  Christie Clark was the Education Minister that began this approach to educaiotnal reform and now she is the Premiere calling for its continuance.  The implications on our system have already begun to show and will continue to shadow those of the 1970s and 1980s.  Will we learn from this history lesson and demand changes, as they have done elsewhere as early as the 1990’s or are we risk allowing history to repeat itself – and force our children into the same problems and concerns that we encountered and should have learned from. Changes are necessary to this already proven devastating philosophy of educational change directed over the past ten years by this government. They have demonstrated a desire not to change the direction. Our children deserve better.

In BC we have been locked in to what Hargreaves terms the Second Way for so long we have, for the most part, missed the movement most provinces have made into the Third Way. In BC we have recently undertaken an attempt at the Third Way through the newly anointed but superficial BC Ed program.  The concern is that this program, while talking about the benefits of the “Third Way” ignores, like many other attempts, the limitations. “The educational reform strategies of the Third Way have distracted its founders and followers from their ability to achieve the Way’s original ideals”. (Hargreaves, p. 19).  The result will be concerns that differ little from those that became a reality of the Second Way.  There is another way that the current government could take, referred to by Hargreaves as the Fourth Way.  The BC government, to date, despite ongoing calls from teachers, has ignored moving in this direction.  Instead the government continues to find ways to makes teachers in to the villain allowing them to pursue ways to change education ignoring the past and the future and concerning themselves only about being re-elected in the present.  The Fourth Way of educational change, according to Hargreaves, “can deepen learning, raise standards, reduce the differences in achievement, and build a more creative and cohesive future for us all” (p. 19).

As calls from the educational front continue to ring out, and the government continues to vilify those that speak out, it is important that word continues to keep getting out and the public finally realizes that changes in the government are necessary in order to take on the Fourth Way, and rectify the education system from past problems in search of a new and brighter future.

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