The focus for much of the week in Victoria was the teachers’ dispute, although the government didn’t start to debate the bill which would end the dispute until Thursday afternoon.
Bill 22, or the Education Improvement Act, is a heavy handed piece of legislation. It will result in increasing class size, weakens protection for special needs students, and undermines free collective bargaining. I’ve had many calls and letters from teachers who are extremely concerned about the impact of the Bill on their ability to carry out their work, and particularly what will happen to their students.
What concerns me is that it is yet another attempt by the BC Liberals to play politics with the classroom. In 2002, when the current Premier was the Education Minister, she took away local control over class size and composition; that decision was last year ruled to be illegal. What is being offered now will do nothing to rectify the problems created. The new bill will allow an indefinite number of special needs students in a classroom. While the Education Minister says that means special needs students won’t be discriminated against, it is not in fact, good for those students to be in large classes without supports. What is needed are enough teachers, and teachers assistants, to ensure all students benefit from being in class.