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July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

BC’s education system needs an attitude change


Abbott: “puzzled and disappointed” by lack of progress in teacher talks (photo: Nick Procaylo, PNG)


Boards of Education, parents & the public want a resolution — the BCTF prefers an impasse

Thanks to Jon Ferry of the Vancouver Province for providing an opportunity to address the need for “attitude change” as a legitimate topic within the context of the BCTF labour action.

Ministers of Education from both sides of the political spectrum (Liberal and NDP) have attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the BCTF. George Abbott as the current Minister of Education came to the portfolio from Health Care with a relatively effective record of negotiation within that sector. Unfortunately, this experience in Health Care has zero relevance in the K -12 public education sector in which the BCTF refuses to participate in meaningful negotiation or to agree to recommendations that would permit meaningful bargaining.

Five years ago in February 2007 Vince Ready, the Industrial Inquiry Commissioner, presented his Final Report for Collective Bargaining Options to the then Minister of Labour. The report focused on bargaining in the K-12 public education sector.

The BCTF did not object to the selection of Vince Ready, nor did they challenge his credentials to undertake this task. They also did not try to prevent him from completing his task by initiating legal action to delay or to prevent preparation of a report. Vince Ready is and was a respected labour adviser whose expertise for the task was accepted by both BCTF and BCPSEA.

In such circumstances, the public legitimately could expect that recommendations arising in the Ready Report would be focused, positive, and provide a way out of the interminable politically motivated impasse that the public must endure whenever the BCTF is at the bargaining table.

The Ready recommendations were focused, were positive and were not unique. To a degree, they provided a statement of necessary pre-conditions for meaningful bargaining in any sector. Briefly summarized the Ready Recommendations were:

  1. No later than 8 months prior to bargaining both parties (BCTF and BCPSEA) establish their bargaining objectives through mechanisms that exist in their respective organizations
  2. 8 months prior to the expiry of the Collective Agreement, a Facilitator/Mediator is to be appointed by agreement of the parties and failing agreement, the Minister of Labour shall appoint a Facilitator/Mediator
  3. A Government official is appointed to serve directly on the Bargaining committee of BCPSEA and to participate in all activities. The Official should be senior enough to effectively represent the public policy interests of government
  4. The parties develop a common understanding of the data related to ALL collective bargaining matters such as:
    1. total cost of compensation;
    2. benefit costs;
    3. teacher demographics;
    4. teachers on-call;
    5. labour market issues (including but not limited to teacher supply, demand, as well as recruitment and retention matters)

The BCTF response to these recommendations is an indication of why there is an interminable and recurring impasse each time the BCTF is at the bargaining table.

BCPSEA, on behalf of the 60 Boards of Education in BC, agreed to be bound by all 4 recommendations. The BCTF outright rejected recommendations 2 and 4 and further refused to be bound by them.

Recommendations 2 and 4 are not interferences to bargaining that unduly favour one party over another. Recommendation 2 ensures that a Facilitator/Mediator appointed is acceptable to both parties and, if agreement cannot be reached, ensures that an appointment is made, not by the Minister of Education, but by the Minister of Labour. It also ensures an objective third party at the table whose designated role throughout the bargaining process is to facilitate and to mediate.

With such a person is at the table, it is possible, at least in bargaining, to challenge the political polarization on which the BCTF relies. This polarization is a critical part of BCTF media campaigns replete with rhetoric and sound bites which ensure that both their members and the public remain poorly informed.

Recommendation 4 is the most critical recommendation. It sets necessary preconditions for any bargaining – agreement about which data and method of calculation are valid, reliable and required by both parties in order to bargain effectively. One only needs to review the differences in the cost estimates within the current round of bargaining to understand how critical agreement about data and methods of calculation are to reaching any agreement.

As of January 2012, the BCTF estimated the Year 1 cost of their proposals to be $306M, BCPSEA estimated the cost to $498M – a $192M difference. Looking at the cumulative cost estimates through the life of the contract, the BCTF using their data sources and methods of calculation estimate the cumulative cost at $1.3B; BCPSEA data and method of calculation estimates cumulative cost at $2.1B – an $800M difference.

For taxpayers and the public education system, these differences are significant and must be resolved. However, the BCTF would seem to prefer a situation that ensures an impasse. In the absence of agreement about what are reliable and valid data as well as common methods for calculation, the BCTF can continue to point fingers at BCPSEA “because their data do not agree with BCTF data”. An impasse is ensured, politicization increases and no resolution can occur. Vince Ready recommended a way through the impasse, but the BCTF appears to prefer the political advantage that an impasse provides. One might ask, why?

Continued political polarization permits the BCTF through its rhetoric to convince its members that if government does not meet BCTF demands:

  1. teachers are being “victimized”;
  2. teachers are “not respected”; and
  3. the union of teachers represents the ”public interest” and therefore the union leadership must take firm positions that “protect public education”.

In the past such rhetoric was effective and rarely challenged. Superintendents who serve at the pleasure of their School Boards prudently remain silent. Some School Boards are as politicized as the BCTF. Many Board trustees are members of the BCTF or, in some cases, a majority of Board trustees serve with BCTF endorsement and political support. These Boards are also silent. However, despite this relative silence from other key partners in the public education sector, the BCTF rhetoric is wearing thin.

Boards of Education, parents and the public want to be able to evaluate and to account for how public dollars allocated to education are being spent. Ensuring that teachers are fairly compensated related to other comparable sectors or professions is important. However, this cannot be accomplished by continuing to increase the proportion of School Board budgets allocated to staff salary and benefits particularly when enrollments are declining.

The Ministry and the Boards must also ensure that a public education system has sufficient resources to provide every child in public education with safe, seismically upgraded facilities appropriate for learning, necessary and appropriate learning materials, access to learning technologies and learning environments that will prepare them to succeed as lifelong learners capable of adapting to rapid change.

This cannot be accomplished in the currently “hyper-politicized” bargaining environment in which the BCTF prefers to sustain the impasse and refuses to accept or be bound by recommendations that would provide a means to reach agreement.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on June 24, 2012.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

The Teachers Union in BC – who is victimizing whom?


BCTF President Susan Lambert (Photo: Ward Perrin, PNG)

BC teachers deserve the ability to opt out of the BCTF

In summer of 2011 a colleague asked when I thought the “limited strike” would end. My response was pragmatic and pessimistic.  I indicated that I expected the “strike” to drag on through the year, with a break during summer of 2012 and full scale escalation beginning in September 2012 closer to the time of the provincial election. I further anticipated that the BCTF leadership would fail to bargain effectively as it has consistently done in the past, and that teachers would again be legislated back to work.

Why would I expect this? Primarily because the leadership of the BCTF has consistently failed to demonstrate that it can be an effective union or an effective union of professionals. The individuals who are most disadvantaged by this failure are the individual teachers who each school day interact with students in classrooms.

I am not an apologist for government and I am not anti-union. However, were I teacher and a member of the BCTF, I would be concerned about the leadership of the union, its political agendas and its willingness to cast its members in the role of “victim”.

BCTF rhetoric perpetuates a myth that government, regardless of political party, is intent on victimizing teachers, does not respect what they do or respect them as individuals. To demonstrate respect for teachers, government merely must accede to all union demands irrespective of cost to the taxpayers or necessary services in other sectors, such as health, that would have to be reduced or eliminated.

BCTF leadership also perpetuates a myth that what the BCTF seeks at the bargaining table is “for the students”. A brief glance at the initial proposals the BCTF brought to the table would suggest otherwise. Not one would have had a direct and positive effect on the learning environment for students in classrooms.

These have been consistent BCTF strategies through successive rounds of bargaining. If the leadership can convince BCTF members that government is deliberately victimizing them collectively and individually, then the union leadership has latitude to use any and all means to protect the members from “bullying by government”. While focused on being bullied by government only a few members will ask: what about BCTF bullying? What about a union that claims to be democratic, but seeks to supplant government to dominate and to control public education? What about a union that will exercise its influence to silence dissenting views or limit the careers of teachers who express dissenting views?

Perhaps the time has come to question whether there are alternate ways to organize. The current BCTF union structure as a post entry closed shop is dysfunctional and costly to the very society it claims to serve.

Currently, the only checks and balances in the relationship between government representing the electorate and the BCTF representing its members are legal. The BCTF has become adept at using legal means to stall, to challenge and to threaten individuals who speak out in opposition to the BCTF leadership.

The law is a blunt instrument in this relationship and legal decisions are routinely misinterpreted by the BCTF in public releases crafted to ensure that teachers continue to believe that they are being victimized. To be fair, the BCTF has occasionally used legal means to positive ends, but whether the gains have been worth the cost to the members is open to question.

Perhaps if the members had the option either not to join the union or to pay only for those services from which they benefit monetarily, such as the cost of negotiations, there would be greater incentives for the BCTF to bargain effectively rather than attempting to use the bargaining process as a means to influence political outcomes in provincial or local elections.

There are alternate examples in the USA and in the EU. Rather than closed shops, there are agency shops in which non-union members pay fees, but specifically for the cost of negotiating a contract. Or, there are open shops in which union membership is not required. These are more common in the EU and recognize the individual’s right not to belong to a union.

BC desperately needs at least a discussion about possible options. What currently exists does not serve the members or the public. It seems primarily to serve the leadership of the BCTF.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on April 30, 2012.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

A skeptical view of Vancouver’s great education divide


Illustration of boundaries for Vancouver high school catchments (source: Globe and Mail)

Vancouver’s “class war” is being waged using misleading stats and outdated perceptions

The Globe and Mail article plays to an enduring debate in Vancouver. This debate is fueled by an assumption that schools located east of Main Street are under-served and educate a vulnerable population; those located west of Main Street are over-served and serve a privileged population. The Globe and Mail article provides data that seems to support this assumption and its conclusions may be embraced without question. This would be both foolhardy and detrimental to public education in Vancouver.

I am skeptical. Experience and an analytical pre-disposition motivate me always to question the data.

Fifty years of lived experience in Vancouver causes me to marvel at the pace of change. It also causes me identify the many effects of change that seem to be overlooked by those who: first, would perpetuate a concept of a city divided eastside and westside; and second, seem to prefer debate that remains static despite the changes.

Vancouver is a city of abundant and diverse neighborhoods – some east of Main St. some west of Main St. There are also neighborhoods north of 12th Avenue and South of 12th Avenue; neighborhoods north of 47th Avenue and south of 47th Avenue.

In fact, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) abandoned an eastside/westside boundary mapping and nomenclature some time ago. Recognizing significant changes in the city, the VSB created boundaries that define regions as North, South and Centre. The Centre region includes Main Street between Terminal and 49th Avenue and extends from Dunbar St. to Boundary Road. “Cross-boundary enrolment” in this context would look very different than that presented in the Globe and Mail article.

The Globe and Mail graphs claim to represent migration of students from eastside schools to westside schools. The westside schools are supposedly over-subscribed because they offer “choice programs” that are not available to students on eastside. Therefore, the eastside students must travel west to attend these supposedly preferred programs.

What the graph better represents is the effects of a real estate explosion on the UBC campus that began about 20 years ago. The population explosion of families with children living on campus who require access to schools motivated the VSB and an NPA Board to undertake the UBC to Dunbar Community Consultations. The process brought attention to the critical need for new schools at UBC.

For over 10 years elementary students have been bussed from the UBC campus to surrounding westside schools. Secondary students travel by public transport off the UBC campus to surrounding westside secondary schools most of which appear on the Globe and Mail graph as being “over-capacity”.  They are over-capacity, but not entirely for the reasons suggested by the authors of the Globe and Mail article.

The UBC to Dunbar consultation process was productive. From it came the concept of “Neighborhood Centres of Learning”, an ability for Vancouver and other districts to cooperate with communities to use “open capacity” in schools for purposes that serve the broader educational needs of a community such as before and after school care, daycare, etc.

As a result of the consultations, UBC, VSB  and government agreed to the renovate the NRC building to accommodate secondary students from grades 9 to 12 and also to renovate the exiting secondary school to accommodate students from kindergarten to grade 8. The renovation of the NRC is underway and others will follow. When this is completed schools that currently accept overflow from University Hill and appear to be “over-capacity” may look more like those currently on the eastside that appear to have “open capacity”.

Looking at the numbers in the Globe and Mail article, I am at a loss to know to what they refer.

The total enrolment in Vancouver is around 50,000 students attending elementary and secondary schools. Even if I assume that the article includes only secondary students, the numbers do not add up.

It is suggested that there are 9,992 secondary students who live on the eastside. The article claims that 13.6% of these – 1359 students – attend schools on the westside. It is also suggested that 13,287 students live on the westside and 3.1% or 412 of these attend schools on the eastside. The numbers and the analysis don’t make sense.

Even if I assume the article refers only to secondary students, the claim is that total secondary enrolment in Vancouver is 9992 plus 13,287 equals 23,279 – almost 7000 fewer students than actual secondary enrolment in 2010-11.

In 2010-11 there were just under 30,000 secondary school students attending Vancouver secondary schools.  About 17,000 (57%) of these students were enrolled in eastside secondary schools; about 13,000 (43%) were enrolled in westside secondary schools.

Regardless of any other concerns I may have with the analysis, it does not include 7000 secondary students or 23% of the total secondary enrolment in Vancouver. For that reason alone the numbers, percentages and conclusions are suspect.

There is movement of students from east to west and from west to east. There are also equal number of secondary schools on either side of Main Street – 9 east of Main and 9 west of Main. Further, if I quantify and examine the distribution of  true “choice programs” (mini-schools, hockey schools, IB programs, secondary French Immersion, fine arts programs, robotics programs, etc.), there is virtually equal distribution of such programs between eastside and westside schools.

If we are going to debate the value of “choice programs” in schools, first we need to have accurate and reliable data which this article does not provide, then we need to examine other variables that influence “over capacity” as well as “open capacity” including growth in new neighborhoods as well as  growth or contraction in existing neighborhoods. Finally, we need to focus on the many reasons why students select the so-called “programs of choice”.

A better question to address is: Why do we assume in 2012, that a one-size-fits-all approach to secondary education is the preferred model or that secondary students should be prevented from selecting programs that better meet their individual learning needs?

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on April 25, 2012.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

Teaching in BC: profession or trade union?


Jan Drabek’s opinion article in The Vancouver Sun raised a number of critical issues related to teaching as currently organized in BC. Drabek characterizes the current organizational model as similar to a trades union. He also poses a critical question:

“Wouldn’t it be wise for teachers to at least explore the possibilities of re-organizing along the lines of these professions – architects, doctors, lawyers and even professional artists?”

The history in BC that addresses this question is disturbing. It suggests that the BCTF, from its command and control position in relation to teachers and education in BC, is not capable of working within a mature professional context. In fact, by its own admission, the BCTF systematically worked to ensure that professional self-regulation, as organized within other professions, would fail when teachers in BC were granted this opportunity. (Novakowski, 2010)

Mature established professions, medicine, law, engineering as examples, organized early to demand of governments that they recognize these areas of practice as self-regulating professions. Practitioners understood that their members required comprehensive knowledge within a discipline as well as the ability to use their knowledge in a practice that served members of the public.

In Canada, governments typically supported professional self-regulation. They recognize the specialized knowledge and specialized practice required of practitioners as well as the need for practitioners to be involved in certifying and regulating members of the profession. Mature professions take their self regulation responsibilities seriously, guard this professional obligation and ensure that their decisions as well as actions serve a public interest.

Within mature self-regulating professions regulatory functions are separated from political advocacy functions. For example, the Canadian Medical Association advocates for the political interests of the medical profession; the College of Physicians and Surgeons is the regulatory body responsible for certification, discipline and continuing professional education. In law, the Canadian Bar Association represents the political interests of lawyers; the Law Society regulates the profession with similar responsibilities as those specified for medicine.

What is the history related to teaching in BC? In 1987 government enacted the Teaching Profession Act. It granted to teachers the right to self-regulate through the BC College of Teachers. Teachers were given a gift. They were recognized as a profession. They were granted the rights and obligations of other mature self-regulating professions.

The BCTF responded forcefully and negatively to this gift. It was seen as a threat to the BCTF ability to command and to control teaching and education within BC. Ken Novakowski in the September 2010 issue of Teacher summed up the BCTF response succinctly: “After debating the merits of boycotting the college or participating in the college to limit its scope of activity(emphasis added) the BCTF decided on the latter.”

15 of 20 (75%) of the members of College Council were endorsed by the BCTF. These endorsed Councilors understood their role to “mitigate the negative aspects” of the college “and to stem its growth and cost to members” (Novakowski 2010). These endorsed Councilors also met with BCTF executive before each Council meeting to ensure that BCTF interests were paramount in all business of the College.

In 2003, after 15 years of attempting to self-regulate in the face of BCTF organized resistance and interference, government intervened and appointed 20 Councilors – a completely new Council. It is ironic that Novakwoski describes these appointments “as political hacks” and fails to acknowledge that the previous BCTF endorsed and elected Councilors whom the appointees replaced were “political hacks” for the BCTF.

In fact, a majority of appointees to this “Interim Council” comprised recognized and professional educators from across the province. A minority were appointed on the recommendation education partner groups such as those representing trustees, parents, Aboriginal educators and Faculties of Education.

Between 2003 and 2010, the BC College of Teachers continued to exist. Council went back to 15 BCTF endorsed and elected members and 5 appointed members. By 2008 at least 2 of BCTF elected members began seriously to question whether the BCTF campaign of resistance was consistent with the Oath of Office required of Councilors. This Oath necessitated “acting in the public interest”. They also seriously questioned the BCTF rhetoric asserting that “the interests of the BCTF as the teacher’s union are the same as with the public interest”.

The BCTF continued its active and relentless campaign to limit the ability of the College to self-regulate in the public interest. Finally, at the request of the then Chair of Council, the Registrar and the appointed Councilors government appointed Don Avison to review the College. In January 2012 the Teaching Profession Act was replaced by the Teachers Act. The BC College of Teachers was replaced by the Teacher Regulation Branch of the Ministry of Education. Teachers effectively lost their opportunity to claim status as a profession and to self-regulate.

The BCTF permits no interference with its assumed mandate to control teachers and public education in BC. Unlike the nursing profession which is able to separate the role of its union from the role of its professional regulatory body, the BCTF continues to view a professional self-regulatory body as well as all education partner groups as its competitors in the sector. Just as they have been largely incapable of bargaining without being legislated back to work, they have been equally incapable of working positively to achieve mature professional status for their members.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on April 13, 2012.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

Gibson asks – who controls public education?


“There is a justifiable level of apprehension, almost fear, associated with publicly opposing positions taken by the BCTF”

I am frustrated by the battles raging in BC over who controls public education. I am frustrated by the leadership of a union that asserts in its every action that only the BCTF knows what is best in public education. However, what I am even more frustrated by is the sound of silence from any of the other partner groups within education. Where are the voices of the principals and vice-principals association, the superintendents association, the Deans of Education, the trustees association?

They are silent and their silence is deafening.

Mr. Steve Cardwell, Superintendent in Vancouver, has rightly suggested that after the labour dispute is finished all educators must return to work together. Teachers, principals, vice-principals, superintendents, professional non-teaching staff, trustees and parents must, as is expected of professionals in any field, set aside their differences to focus on their collective professional responsibility – in this case – educating the next generation of public school students.

Civility and respect are critical for all professionals and for all sides during labour action. However, being civil and being respectful does not require any individual or representative of a professional organization to be silent. Or does it?

My experience past and present leads me to suggest that there is a justifiable level of apprehension, almost fear, associated with publicly opposing positions taken by the BCTF. Examples are illustrative.

As a trustee seeking re-election in Vancouver in 2008, schools were politicized. Staff representatives invited BCTF endorsed candidates to attend staff meetings permitting these BCTF endorsed candidates to campaign in schools. Candidates who did not seek or want BCTF endorsement were very quietly supported by individual teachers. These teachers could not and would not state their support for me out loud or while at school. Staffs were politicized and a level of political group-think evident in the schools permitted staff to silence their colleagues. I was re-elected in 2008, but the silencing of colleagues through intimidation remains a part of what I observed as a trustee.

More recently, during this labour action, I was interviewed by Bill Good in relation to the post on City Caucus about teacher salary grids. An individual teacher, hearing the interview and angered by my comments, was personally offended despite the fact that my comments were general and factual. This teacher acted in anger. The teacher took action against someone close to me. Someone who is not a member of my family, did not make the comments to which the teacher objected and may have a view very different from my own. However, association to me was seen to be sufficient justification for the teacher to take action that was both personal and bullying against an individual close to me.

One could argue that these are unusual times or that two examples do not make a case. I would agree. However, the silence of education partner groups remains deafening. Are all the partner groups in education of one mind? Are they concerned only with their group interest and not the public interest? Or are they apprehensive about speaking publicly because they too have examples of unprofessional and targeted actions by a union that seeks to ensure that it, and only it, has control in public education.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on March 20, 2012. See Carol’s recent posts on public education here and here. See also related posts by Mike Klassen and by Suzanne Anton.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

One explanation for teachers’ class composition battle


Since 1975 with the enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in the USA, parents and educators on both sides of the border have addressed how best to create inclusive classrooms. No longer is it acceptable to exclude children on the basis of disability. This legislation was followed in 1990 by IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Act which further defined the obligations for public schools with respect to providing educational opportunity appropriate for all children. The American legislation influenced Canadian public education, and Canadian parents have legitimately fought and continue to advocate for inclusive classrooms.

Educators have struggled with the expectations for inclusive classrooms since 1975. Teacher education programs did not adapt to provide the specific knowledge and professional preparation required to differentiate instruction in inclusive classrooms, and it was only recently that the BC College of Teachers (Teacher Regulation Branch as of January 2012) made it a requirement for teachers certified in BC to complete at least one course related to special education as part of their preparation to become a teacher.

The current “class composition” debate is just another manifestation of the continued struggle to retain inclusive classrooms and to compensate for the absence of specific and effective preparation for teachers. Restricting the number of special needs children per class to three does not address the real issues.

The current BCTF position which restricts the number of students with unique learning needs to 3 per class, is a “one-size fits all model” of a type the BCTF would normally vigorously oppose. For example, the need to differentiate instruction for a student with dyslexia is more challenging in English literature than in PE class. In addition, the BCTF approach is contrary to the underlying values that created the original legislation in 1975. And, while appearing to be an inclusive model, it is best described as a model that excludes, because it excludes all but three special needs students per class regardless of the unique learning needs and regardless of the subject being taught.

So why does the BCTF seem so committed to this approach and why did the teachers union reject the $165m offered by the Minister of Education to fund special education assistants? Two possible explanations come to mind:

  1. Class size and composition are what are referred to as “staffing clauses”. They permit a union, through bargaining, to exert control over staffing and thereby to increase the number of members in the union. For example, to meet a requirement that all classes are a specified size and that no classes have more than 3 special needs students, School Boards across the province would have to hire significantly more teachers.
  2. If the issue truly is addressing the unique learning needs of students with special needs, why not agree to the additional funding offered? Is it because the BCTF wants to control staffing? Special education assistants are not part of the BCTF, they are members of CUPE.

As with the real story behind contracted pay increases for teachers, parents and other stakeholders need all the facts before making a judgment about the current labour dispute. The fight over class composition is not only about the well-being of children, it’s about turf.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on March 6, 2012.

July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

Salary grids ensure pay increases for teachers despite net zero


BCTF president Susan Lambert and fellow union members (photo: Black Press)

Jock Finlayson’s analysis published in the Vancouver Sun last month, Teachers Waging a Disingenuous War, was timely and helped taxpayers understand the real story behind the current labour conflict between the teachers union and the BC government. In his column Finlayson surmises:

…that teachers in this province are compensated at a level that aligns quite well with what employed British Columbians in general earn, when looked at in a Canadian context.

He goes on to conclude:

From the perspective of B.C. taxpayers, it makes no sense to increase compensation for all 41,000 teachers in the K-12 system because of supply-demand imbalances affecting a relatively small proportion of the entire occupation.

When it comes to trends in compensation, it’s hard to make a case that B.C. teachers have been shortchanged. For the period 2006-11, the minimum pay boost for BCTF members was 14 per cent, while the maximum percentage increase was about 21 per cent. These pay hikes either match or exceed those garnered by most private sector workers in the province.

Another aspect of this – as Finlayson describes the BCTF’s campaign – “disingenuous war” is that it ignores the complexities of the teacher salary grid as well as how the previously negotiated salary increases affect the grid. The union claims that teachers receive no salary increases, and parents – affected by no report cards and the upcoming strike action – of course don’t know otherwise.

So what do the BC teachers salary grids look like?

Teacher salary grids provide automatic salary increases for increased education and for each year of teaching experience to a maximum of 10 years. Recall, a teaching year is a 10 month year, not a 12 month year. Also, unlike many professions, teachers are not required by their professional regulatory board to maintain currency in knowledge and practice.

Here’s some understanding of how it works for BC’s teachers:

  • The amount of education a teacher brings to teaching is indicated by 4 education levels in the grid – Levels 4, 5, 5+ and 6.
  • In BC, Level 5 is the typical entry level for a majority of teachers with a baccalaureate degree (4 years) and 1 year of teacher education.
  • Level 5+ recognizes additional education which does not result in an advanced degree.
  • Level 6 recognizes completion of a graduate degree or degrees.

In 2011 in Vancouver the starting salary at level 5 was $48,083. The starting salary at Level 6 for a teacher with a graduate degree was $52,823 – about a 10% difference for a completed graduate degree.

The salary grid  also provides automatic salary increases year over year for accumulated teaching experience to a maximum of 10 years. These are referred to as “Steps” in the grid. Steps begin at 0 and end at 10 years. So a teacher starting last September would see the following increases to their pay over 10 years of teaching:

  • Based on the 2010-2011 salary grid in Vancouver a beginning teacher at Level 5 Step 0 would earn $48, 083.
  • By 2021 this same teacher would have received automatic salary increases that average about 4.5% per year.
  • In 10 years his or her salary would have increased by about 55% to $74,353.

In addition to increases for years of experience, negotiated salary increases also affect the salary grid.

In the last round of negotiations there was a negotiated increase that changed the grid each year from July 2006 to July 2010. For the beginning teacher at Level 5, step 0 of the 2010-11 grid the starting salary was $ 48,083, not $43,775 as it was in 2006. This means the beginning teacher starting a career in Vancouver in 2010 began with a salary 9.8% higher than a colleague who started in 2006.

What happens to the salary of the colleague who started in 2006 at $43,775?

  • In 2010-2011, his or her salary is at Level 5 but it is now at Step 4 of a grid that reflects the negotiated salary increases. He or she benefits from these negotiated increases to the grid.
  • In the 2010-11 grid, Level 5/Step 4 is $57,725 not $52,552 as projected in 2006 salary grid – a 9.8% increase.
  • Further, the projected maximum for this colleague at step 10 is now $74,353 not $65,719 or 13% more than was projected in the 2006 salary grid.

While the number of “Steps” and “Levels” can be a little confusing, the public should understand that our teachers are not only being compensated fairly, but that for the first 10 years of their careers they also will receive annual increases regardless of the government’s net zero mandate – just for showing up to teach.

Parents already struggling under the downloaded costs of additional daycare costs for expanded vacation breaks and professional development days should breathe easy. Teachers are being compensated fairly despite protests to the contrary by their union.

+ + +

In a further post we’ll discuss the teacher’s pension and other benefits. For a timeline of past BCTF teachers strikes see this link courtesy of GlobalTV BC.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on March 2, 2012.