Major Shift Needed — From Producer Demands to Needs of Consumer and Public Interest

Below, are two comments I recently published which anticipate the BIG SHIFT in BC's education scenario — announced today (June25 8:00 am — Lone negotiator to lead revised teacher talks).

For a quick read of expected directions foreseen, see *** in the bolded sections below.

June 14, 2013, comment, Tunya Audain to Vancouver Sun blog, Fassbender on the Record

 The Opposite Of Stability Is Disruption. 

I ask you: Where else in the world is there such a pre-occupation in education discussions with the matters of stability and harmony? While other jurisdictions focus on school quality and student achievement we in British Columbia are beset by worries of more labour troubles in our government schools.

Of course our history is not pretty. Get the book, Worlds Apart, or at least read the short blurb

Since the teachers’ union became political and gained a foothold in decision-making after the 1972 NDP provincial victory we have had 40 years of rather persistent campaigns of one sort or another. Ironically, the union says it is “non-partisan” and true, it has shown its militancy with all party stripes — Social Credit, NDP and Liberal governments.

*** When an industry or sub group within an industry starts calling the shots in a government service, this is called in economics — producer or provider capture. When this goes on and compromises the public interest this is seen as government failure. 

If Peter Fassbender is to truly do his job in the public interest then I can see why he is sensitive to the “stability question” (mentioned 6 times in his latest interview). *** It is the parents and students and taxpaying public who need to be assured of proper services — or get out of the job altogether.

We can still have the broad meaning of public education accomplished with a whole host of diverse options, be they home education, online education or private providers of all sorts. Or charter schools as one of the options provided in Alberta that bypass the constraints of teacher unions or school boards.

From a buffet of many choices, the government role is to monitor quality assurance, achievement of broad curricular goals and fiscal accountability if public funds are used. This is already done with respect to monitoring the independent sector, with the added principled duty of inspecting for, and preventing, sedition — the fostering and promotion of subversion of the government.

Too bad this last provision against sedition* is not now in the Public Schools Act as it is in the Independent School Act.

This one small addition in itself would likely provide a greater measure of desired stability than anything else!

(* Sedition: rabble-rousing, incitement to rebel, subversion, troublemaking, provocation, rebellion, contumacy, agitation, insurrection, mutiny, insurgence, insubordination, inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, undermining the authority of a state, sowing discontent against a government, inciting resistance to lawful authority, tending to cause the disruption of the government, etc.)

 June 12, 2013, comment, Tunya Audain to Vancouver Sun blog, Premier Christy Clark’s instruction to new education minister

Urgent Business Awaits New Minister of Education.

Avoiding edubabble is just one advantage Peter Fassbender has in his new challenging job as Minister of Education. Past Ministers, being educators, got sucked into the vortex of not only edubabbling but succumbing to the one-sided demands of the education industry.

*** The new Minister must not forget his mission is to serve the public interest, which does not mean placating the demands of militant teacher unions, bloated school boards and hosts of others on the producer side of the education equation.

Do not forget the consumer side — the parents and students.

The letter from the Premier is not comforting in the least regarding a better outlook for parents in their primary duty in the education of their children. The expectation is that the status quo prevails — just make it better.

With respect to ongoing collective bargaining between public school teachers and the government side, where is the interest of parents evident regarding their ultimate primary responsibility for their children’s education? The last round of “job actions” saw the loss of reporting to parents for a whole year. The parental role was undercut and undermined because of this withholding of information.

*** I ask: Why should parents entrust their children to government schools without any guarantees that they will be kept informed and welcomed in the education process?

 That is but one urgent issue and concern that arises from the business-as-usual air in the letter.

 Frankly, without some major analysis regarding the present dysfunctional structures, we’re certain to slip into the persistent sinkhole of strife of the last 40 years.

 I, for one, believe public education can best be served by a whole host of choices, including charter schools that Alberta has and we don’t.

***  I have little faith in the present structure of “collective bargaining” and again bring forward the words of a long-time observer, Dr. Fleming, from his excellent book “Worlds Apart: BC Schools, Politics, and Labour Relations Before and After 1972” Bendall Books,

 Fleming says the three institutional pillars of the system — the union, the government, and the school trustees — are anti-visionary, anti-technological, and completely committed to the status quo.

*** Time to de-institutionalize.

Fleming’s closing paragraph:

 “… will government and the teachers’ federation finally find ways to behave in a civilized manner, or will the discord of recent decades finally weaken support for old organizational relationships to the point that a new ‘post-public’ universe of schooling will emerge?”.

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