BC Teacher Union and the Rest of Them

The BC College of Teachers (BCCT), in place for 2 decades and designed to oversee the public interest in education is seen, by many in BC, as effectively being undermined by the union representing government (public) school teachers, the BCTF (BC Teachers’ Federation).  The membership of the BCCT is comprised of educators in BC — government school teachers, independent school teachers and various administrators with teaching degrees.

The Councillors of the College, by law, are 8 appointed (by gov) and 12 elected from regional zones.  It’s the elected zonal Councillors, elected largely through the endorsement and help of the union, who are seen as manipulating decisions in line with union interests rather than the public interest.

Some of the Councillors feel so emasculated from any purposefulness in the public interest that they have now called on the Minister of Education to convene an independent investigation.  The Chair of the Council is taking the lead in this request.  And, there is now a gathering list of related organizations who support this inquiry – former Registrars, Chairs of previous Councils, a parents’ group (BCCPAC), trustees (BCSTA), Superintendents (BCSSA), Principal-Vice Principals (BCPVP) and the Federation of Independent Schools (FISA).  From all this alphabet soup of organizations the BCTF is alone, it seems, in opposing an investigation.  (The Association of BC Deans of Education – ABCDE – has not said a word, so far.)

These are my two essays I produced as an interested observer and a long time advocate for genuine parent involvement – a cause far too often short-circuited by teacher unions.  These essays appeared as comments on the blog, The Report Card, by Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun Education Reporter http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/default.aspx

BCCT vs BCTF – Issues    ISSUE # 1 – Power vs Authority,  April 05/10

1.  Power.  If this BCCT vs BCTF dispute is a clash of Titans, there is definitely history here.  As far as raw, physical, continuous force goes, one just has to read this history article to see how the BCTF has grown as a parallel force to the government since 1972 in BC.  That is, steady, systematic, incremental growth for nearly 40 years.  Please see “teacher power” in this article: The Decline and Fall of the BC Ministry of Education http://library.queensu.ca/ojs/index.php/edu_hse-rhe/article/view/454/611

2.  Authority. Who has the authority in matters educational is not often questioned. Not much. Only some home educators would disagree as some claim it is a higher authority than man that governs their duty to educate their children.  Nevertheless, most people would agree that it is the elected government that has the ultimate authority.  That this authority has been emasculated and frustrated by the awesome extensive power of the teacher union is the subject of the history article referred to above and also a topic of conversation regarding the recent issues with the BCCT and the BCTF.

To put things into an international perspective the BCTF is not alone in its extraordinary influence and power in education.  Teacher unions internationally have gained power incrementally over sleepy jurisdictions.  There definitely has been witness and oversight failure.  By school boards, by senior governments and by domesticated parents and unaware public.

In a recent TV debate in the US we heard the former Education Secretary, Rod Paige, say:  “Teachers unions represent the most dominant political force in American education.  We’re not talking about little wimpy organizations. We’re talking about mammoth highly financed, highly organized, highly peopled organizations. And political dominance is not something they got unintentionally.  They intended to be politically dominant.”  http://intelligencesquaredus.org/wp-content/uploads/Teachers-Unions-031610.pdf

Questions arising:

a)  Does might make right?

b)  Is this a case of an Irresistible Force against an Immovable Object ?

c)  What are the political rewards or payoffs that the present government is enjoying by not intervening in this standoff of 22 years standing?

d) __________

BCTF vs BCCT – Issue #2:  Politics vs Public Interest, April 26, 2010

I attended two public meetings of the BC College of Teachers (Jan and April 2010) and was disturbed with the behavior of the 8 Councilors considered BCTF elected members.  I was troubled that they are role models to children in our public schools.

I was considerably relieved, however, to be told that they were not your average straight-arrow teacher but were select militants from BCTF ranks.  They were elected by college members from their regions and who were endorsed and assisted by various union means to election.  Some were fulltime union officials and not currently practicing teachers.

So, they are NOT everyday teachers but are obviously attached by apron strings to their union bosses.  While my respect remains for teachers per se, my experience at the meetings bore out the perception and reality of teacher unionists as political, manipulative, controlling, aggressive and wily. (With a few exceptions.)

1.  Dilatory Behavior:    Calculated delaying tactics were evident at both meetings.  The January mtg saw a massive campaign of  s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g  Roberts Rules of Order to the extreme. The April mtg was packed with presentations from union locals taking up considerable time.

2.  Note-Passing:    At the January mtg one of the appointed Councilors challenged the note-passing from members of the audience to elected Councilors.  I watched for this at the April mtg and was shocked to see a prominent union local president walk up to a seated elected Councilor, pass a note, whereupon the Councilor proceeded on an extensive line of prompted questioning.

3.  Mission Unclear:    A number of the presentations by the union locals demonstrated their belief that the College was there to support government public schools. The BCTF president-elect, Susan Lambert, who spoke extensively in a session over 1 hr long, also conveyed that impression. However, the reality is that the BCCT oversees ALL public education matters in BC – public (government), private, independent and other.  This is the public interest BCCT must adhere to.  Perhaps the next Convention BCCT sponsors should be on the topic Public Interest in BC Education.  It is clear to me that many in BC either sincerely do not understand the mission of a self-regulating college of teachers or wish to continue being the mischief-makers, the problem, rather than the solution.

Questions arising:

a)  Since both these meetings were dysfunctional and unproductive, with little business conducted, should the next public meeting have a Registered Parliamentarian conduct the proceedings with the power to declare adjournment if there is obvious obstruction?

b)  Should the Oath of Office be administered to all Councilors individually before each meeting?

c)  Since questions from the public never happened at either meeting due to ambush of the agenda, should this be an item priority at the early stages of the next public meeting?

d)  __________________________________


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