OPINION: Ruling puts kids first

My oldest daughter started school in 2010. And along with it, came my education in the realities of the system

Tracy Hughes

I did not have children in the education system in 2002, when then education minister Christy Clark stood up and stripped a number of provisions from the BC Teacher’s Federation’s right to bargain class size and composition.

So I do not have experience with how classrooms in Salmon Arm operated prior to that.

My oldest daughter started school in 2010.

And along with it, came my education in the realities of the system  –  a system where kids can be identified as having special learning needs, but can be offered limited or no supports due to a lack of resources.

Additional supports were suggested to assist my daughter in meeting the educational expectations for her grade. But it was also made abundantly clear that little to no supports could be supplied directly by the school or the education system.

And what parent wants to see their child fall behind?

So I am thankful to have had the financial wherewithal to re-jig our family’s finances to add in some additional supports on a privately paid basis. Other parents and their children are not so fortunate.

That’s why I was delighted to hear that the BCTF, in a dramatic and unexpectedly early result, won their case against the provincial government – a fight they had to take all the way to the highest court in this country. The decision immediately restores clauses deleted from the teachers contract by the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell in 2002 dealing with class size, the number of special needs students who can be in a class and the number of specialist teachers, like learning resource and teacher-librarians,  required in schools.

Thursday’s decision overturned the B.C. Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of the provincial government, and restored the original decision in the union’s favour.

The news must have been especially exciting for Brenda O’Dell, the president of the North Okanagan Shuswap Teachers Association, who travelled to Ottawa as part of a group of union leaders and was there to witness the historic victory.

Undoubtedly the BCTF has spent some pretty hefty dollars taking this fight all the way to the Supreme Court – and don’t forget bout the Liberal government, who also spent some weighty amounts of your tax dollars in continuing this legal fight after their first loss in B.C. Supreme Court.

That’s money that has gone to lawyers instead of programs for this province’s children.

Not to mention all the children – more than an entire K-12 cohort – who have been shortchanged on appropriate educational services. Let’s hope changes come quickly.

This decision is good for the kids of British Columbia.

Will it be good for Premier Christy Clark’s political future?

I can only speak for myself. It’s going to take a lot longer than 2017 before I forget the injustice done to this province’s children.