School boards hope for compromise in teacher’s strike

“We are on the sidelines and we are limited to trying to protect public education.” Darrel Ganzert, School District 20.

The boards of education have no power to either bring about a settlement or strongly influence a settlement between the province and teachers in the ongoing labour dispute, said Darrel Ganzert.

What the boards can do, including trustees on the School District 20 (SD20) panel, is protect public education and try their best to get school back in next month, continued SD20’s board chair.

“We are on the sidelines and we are limited to trying to protect public education,” explained Ganzert.

“The trustees’ objective and the will in our district as well is to get school back in session and offering a solution to a problem.  It may not be fair to the teachers but what it does is get public school back in session in September.”

Ganzert said boards of education across the province recognize the government is underfunding public education and its members have made numerous statements “time after time” over the matter.

Most recently, B.C.’s boards banded together and communicated, to both sides,  back-to-school action that has one goal – to get students back in the classroom on schedule.

The boards of education ask teachers to recognize that the government has a mandate for wage increases and teachers fall within that mandate, explained Ganzert. Additionally, board members ask the government that all money saved during the teacher’s job action be reinvested into the public education system.

“This is our suggestion to the government and the teachers,” said Ganzert. “We’ve written numerous times to both parties asking them to protect public education. This is just one more step in that direction from the trustees.”

The province’s 40,000 teachers launched a full-scale strike about two weeks before the end of the school year, calling for wage hikes and for the Ministry of Education to address issues such as class size and composition.

The union’s most recent proposal sought a salary hike and two multimillion-dollar funds to hire more teachers and resolve grievances, but provincial government officials said the proposals are not affordable when compared with other public sector workers.

Last week, B.C.’s finance minister announced a subsidy that would give parents $40 a day for child care tutoring or other educational options for children under 13 if the strike extends into the school year. The money would come from the $12 million the government saves each day that teachers are not in the classroom.

-with files from Canadian Press