What do you do when two children are battling it out in the schoolyard and won’t let the rest of the students go back to class?
The ongoing dispute between the teachers and the provincial government disrupted the end of the school year last June and is preventing the new school year from even starting this September.
This is a big deal. There are 600,000 students in B.C.’s public school system and nothing is more important to their future than their education.
Every day that they are not in class will cost them for the rest of their lives.
Add to that the disruptions to parents’ schedules, the businesses that depend on schools being in session to operate and so on, and the overall cost to society is enormous.
BC Teachers Federation recently called for binding arbitration to settle the dispute, but with some pre-conditions.
Binding arbitration would mean that, rather than the two parties negotiating a settlement, they would leave it up to a trusted third party to decide what the terms of the new contract would be.
The government has rejected the BCTF’s offer. The main reason appears to be because back in 2002 an arbitrator awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors – a settlement that forced the government to hike the provincial sales tax.
Nevertheless, government should accept binding arbitration. No one wants to see taxes go up but, as the BCTF has repeatedly pointed out, B.C. spends far below the Canadian average per student on education. Racing to the bottom just to keep taxes low is not a good longterm strategy.
BCTF, for its part, should drop its pre-conditions. It wants government to negotiate separately a fund that would add new money to the education system. The teachers’ union also wants the province to drop a demand that either side could drop out of the collective agreement if it was unhappy with the outcome of a pending court case on class size and composition.
If you’re calling for arbitration, you’re calling for arbitration. You can’t exempt the most contentious issues and still expect to have an agreement that both sides can live with.
Let’s put the entire dispute between the teachers and the provincial government to binding arbitration. Let’s get the kids back to school.