Letter: Public education standards authority needed
To the editor:
The current impasse between B.C.’s public school teachers and the provincial government reminds me of my experiences during the 1990s and early 2000s advocating on behalf of adults with severe mental illnesses: Two outwardly appearing-to-be-rational parties taking what are plainly out of touch with reality bargaining positions, made worse by both sides not basing their objectives on neutrally-established service-delivery criteria.
The establishment of an impartial, permanent provincial public education standards authority (PPESA) for B.C. is urgently needed.
Terms of reference ideally would include setting such standards as: Maximum numbers of pupils per class; maximum numbers of special needs students per class; minimum numbers of classroom assistants per class; hours of preparatory work teachers are paid for; etc.
In order to insulate a PPESA from improper political (or other) interference, such a body would best be established under the impartial aegis of B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, perhaps by way of a Royal Charter or Writ, with membership appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, based on consultation with stakeholders, for no less than seven-year terms.
If province-wide public school education standards were established by a PPESA, such standards should be formally evaluated and, if necessary, updated on a bi-annual (or tri-annual) basis by way of a transparent and inclusive consultative process that would enable the involvement of representatives of all major stakeholders such as teachers, the B.C. government and parents, while ensuring that interested taxpayers have avenues for input as well.
After a PPESA was set up and public school education standards established, B.C.’s auditor general (or a similar public funding expenditure watchdog) should be tasked with projecting the costs to B.C.’s annual budget for delivering k-12 education—based upon the PPESA’s standards—while factoring in potential salary levels for teachers and other provincial school districts’ employees.
Then, in future when B.C.’s teachers and the B.C. government sit down to negotiate issues that are invariably going to be preoccupied with money considerations, both sides would know from the start what the costs for delivering education are, and negotiations could focus not only on how much money the government of the day can be ‘forced’ to cough up, but also how much, and where, B.C.’s teachers are prepared to give and make compromises in order to ensure that the PPSEA’s public school education standards can be implemented.
Roderick V. Louis,