A rally on what should have been the first day of school last week was held at the education minister’s local office.

LETTERS: Funding government employees

Letter writers address the B.C. teachers strike, by the numbers.

Editor:

The dispute between teachers and the government has now entered the fourth month without any positive steps by either side to reach an agreement.

The mediator has termed the situation an impasse.

The government has said they have a fiscal responsibility to keep taxes low and cannot afford to meet union demands. The government is standing firm by pointing out that other segments of government have settled for much less than the teachers are asking.

There is of course two sides to this dispute. The government is saving considerable money as long as the dispute continues. But to take this surplus, which is teachers salaries, and arbitrarily award it to parents is a bad decision. They have antagonized teachers who have no income, and government has not gained the support of parents, who have said they don’t want money – they want their children educated.

The decision of government to gauge the settlement for teachers in relation to that of the public sector should be put in the proper perspective. Teachers are required to have a BA or B.Sc. and a teachers’ degree. This involves loss of income for six years and for some large student loans to pay off. There is also the issue of too many students per class, which is compounded by addition of special-needs students. As a result, teachers have to put in extra hours without compensation to supervise and complete administrative tasks.

The key to solving this ongoing dispute is for the government to recognize that teachers’ salaries should be gauged to their university training, which qualifies them to meet the standards and responsibilities of the education system set by the government.

The government does not appear to have any reasonable option but to end this dispute by meeting the teachers half-way.

Bill Parrott, Surrey

• • •

Lost in the rhetoric of the teachers’ lockout/strike is the concept that the government and BCTF are actually fighting over the same pie. There is a limit as to what volume of taxes can be collected. Government spending, whether it be on health, education, welfare or infrastructure, ultimately comes from the same people.

I question whether the current funding model is sustainable. For example, many government employees – be they members of the legislature, firemen, garbage collectors, police or teachers – have, as part of their compensation package, paid benefits and defined benefit pensions. Many non-government employees have no paid benefits and non-defined benefit pensions.

We live in a jurisdiction where health care is supposedly universal, regardless of ability to pay. In the case of paid health-care benefits to government workers, are these benefits necessary and, if so, why are they not available to all qualified residents? If not, why are taxpayers obliged to pay for benefits they cannot afford for themselves?

Defined benefit pensions are more complex. Pension managers collect money from employees and employers – in the case of government, our taxes –  and invest it. Investments may include publicly traded corporations. The success of the investments are dependent on those corporations being profitable. If they are not, the onus to pay defined benefit pensions is back on the taxpayer.

Here is the problem. There are some public servants who treat the word profit as a dirty word. There are others who apparently have political agendas regarding projects and events, which may inhibit their economic success.

However, if you are receiving public money dependent on a robust economy, and you have a stake in making policy that may stymie that economy, and you have no fear of that money not arriving because it is guaranteed to be supplied by the taxpayers, the optics are terrible.

The solution, as I see it, is a modified economic model. The best way to balance the field is to have public-employees groups buy their own benefits packages and pension plans. They are huge in numbers so they could extract a better deal. It would also encourage them to have an interest in the future economy, not just their own.

In essence, these groups would get a compensation package to divvy up as they see fit. For example, teachers could decide on class sizes, quality and quantity of benefits, while realizing all the pros and cons of changes. They are an extremely well-educated group and presumably strong at critical thinking and analysis skills.

If we do not visit a new economic model, I think we will continue to grow a very toxic environment in public services, and we will ultimately lose them as they price themselves out of the taxpayers’ market.

Bob Holden, White Rock

Funding special needs

An open letter to Premier Christy Clark et al.

We are parents of a teen with autism who needs support, like all special-needs children, during this strike.

Unlike typically developing teens, most special-needs teens cannot take care of themselves during the day.

Our daughter is not and has never been part of the “supported-child development” centre funding that is completely irrelevant to most kids with autism, let alone other special needs. She has had a full-time ABA support worker aide for her autism in school since Grade 1.

Although she is over age 12, she cannot look after herself and needs the extra support that she would normally get in school, but which she is now prevented from accessing. What is the government doing to ‘subsidize’ and accommodate these special-needs students, like they are doing to other typically developing students that need childcare?

The funding that is normally allocated to them while in school, $18,500 a year or $98.40 a day, should be allocated to them during this strike. Why is there no plan or accommodation for special-needs students during this strike? Please provide the subsidy that they would normally get in school, during the strike, so we can continue, at least to a certain extent, her supportive learning that she requires for her disability.

Ironically, our kids are what appear to be at the core of the strike – class composition – yet both sides seem to have overlooked our kids and their rights and needs.

Kids first? We currently find that slogan very ironic to say the least, and need a solution ASAP.

Jennifer & Doug Ralph, Surrey

 

 

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