Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender have ruled out binding arbitration

Factory model fading for schools

As BCTF continues old-style labour tactics, textbooks and courses are going online and curriculum is changing for a new era

VICTORIA – The B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s latest demand, for binding arbitration on selected pocketbook issues of its members, is going nowhere.

This follows months of the union’s insistence on mediation. First a B.C. Supreme Court judge met with both sides and walked away. Then the BCTF’s preferred choice, Vince Ready, agreed that mediation won’t fix the current version of the mess he last examined in 2007.

BCTF president Jim Iker announced the arbitration gambit on Friday, in one of the webcasts he uses to rally the union’s exhausted membership. Education Minister Peter Fassbender replied that with five minutes’ notice to the government’s chief negotiator and lacking specifics on what would be subject to arbitration, the proposal would forfeit the government’s mandate to control costs.

“This government will not raise taxes in order to provide a settlement to one union that does not reflect what the other public sector has done,” Fassbender said.

In short, there will be a negotiated settlement, eventually. The union chose to begin the strike, and now must find a way to end it.

The government’s position in this dispute is unlike any of the many that preceded it. And it points the way to an evolution of education that cannot be stopped.

The announcement of a $40-a-day payment for days lost during a fall strike for children under 13 was greeted with scorn by the BCTF and its echo chambers. Parents won’t be bribed, they want school, not daycare, it’s an insult, went the refrain.

By this week, nearly 80 per cent of eligible parents had enrolled, faced with pickets at their schools and real and mounting child care and tutoring costs. The union executive said members who are parents should refuse the money.

Some B.C. teachers have begun advertising tutoring services online. With distance learning and other online education options expanding in all 60 public school districts, the digital revolution is unfolding quickly.

The B.C. government made a couple of announcements in April, one about moving to digital versions of textbooks and another about a digital merger of 1,600 school libraries with public and post-secondary schools. Growth of options accelerates.

Largely drowned out by the noise of 1970s-style industrial labour strife, the B.C. public school curriculum is being refashioned for this new age. Among its goals is to “allow teachers and students the flexibility to personalize their learning experience to better meet each student’s individual strengths and needs.”

One of B.C.’s early models for self-directed learning is Thomas Haney secondary in Maple Ridge, where senior high students are expected to make their own way through course work, learning to manage their own time.

It was here that the first couple of Grade 12 students showed up last week to begin making up for lost time from the strike that set in last spring. Self-directed study has become a crash course.

Private schools are also swamped with applications from Grade 12 students looking for particular courses they will need by next year.

In the short term, Fassbender says the lost strike days will likely have to be restored to the school schedule.

“Do you put it on at the end of the year? Do you take it out of spring break? Do you take it out of Christmas holidays? My staff are looking at all of the options,” Fassbender said.

In the longer term, the whole factory model of school is on the way out.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Kid-friendly ski day at Shames

There were 175 children who skied and took lessons for free at the Port of Prince Rupert event

Proposal could see Haisla reserve double in size

Ellis Ross says waterfront development would be ideal

Kitimat CDC benefits from special technology for special kids

“The kids participate now where they didn’t before.”

Home care declines as B.C. senior population grows, advocate says

More deferring property tax, using rent subsidy to stay at home

Student rangers sought for Terrace

Young adults interested in student ranger program have until Feb. 24 to apply

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

Most Read