Teachers could be staging an illegal strike in a few weeks.
That possibility was made clear last week by B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert following the union's annual general meeting in Vancouver.
Angered at the government's passage of Bill 22, which bans job action during a mediated "cooling off" period, teachers could resort to a province-wide shutdown of schools, in addition to a legal challenge against the legislation.
The BCTF stated, "It is a measure of the depth of teachers' outrage at Bill 22 that the action plan includes the possibility of a future vote on a full withdrawal of services, among other measures."
Lambert said BCTF members will decide on their course of action in province-wide vote April 17 and 18.
Any strike, like the legal walkout teachers held recently prior to the passage of Bill 22, would not only be illegal but would also result in stiff fines against the union as well as individual teachers.
The "bold plan of action" also includes the possibility of teachers withdrawing from extracurricular activities, something teachers in several districts including Delta have already agreed to do.
Local teachers at a special meeting earlier this month voted to "strongly encourage members to withdraw from all extra-curricular/voluntary activities".
What it means for Delta students is that their out of class activities will be impacted once spring break ends April 2.
Saying it was a difficult choice but one frustrated teachers felt forced to take, Delta Teachers Association Paul Steer told the Optimist the government's entrenched position doesn't leave room for the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
"The only alternative to the entrenched position is to have some kind of authentic dialogue, so teachers support any process of dialogue that can lead to a better understanding and hopefully resolution of the impasse," Steer said.
Steer noted the budget cuts the Delta school board will inevitably have to make this spring will be made easier with Bill 22.
"One of the things Bill 22 accomplishes for the government, besides stopping the strike, it provides for basically no consultation with teachers about increasing class sizes. They're going to remove all statutory limits on class size, so it's possible to put as many special needs students in any class as deemed necessary, with no recourse for teachers to even talk about it," he said.
"Teachers aren't really happy about having to basically go to a position of last resort. We're very much supportive of authentic dialogue and negotiated agreements, but the possibility of that has really been taken away by government, leaving teachers with no option but to taker this unprecedented step of withdrawal of extracurricular and volunteer work," Steer said.
Steer noted the education ministry doesn't have an adequate understanding of the reality of classrooms, based on the fact the number of special needs students in the Delta district, for example, has gone up despite the overall student enrollment decline.
"Teachers have this understanding and that's what makes them very credible. When parents and others actually sit down and discuss the issues with teachers, they come away very informed as to what the realities are," said Steer.
Early identification and intervention of students with special needs is important to help them from falling behind and requiring even more resources, however, the government isn't putting enough in that area, Steer noted.
According to the Delta's district's latest Achievement Contract, although there is an improving trend in language arts for primary students, there's still concern about the number of primary students who are not yet meeting expectations in reading. Currently, close to 30 per cent of Delta's primary students fall into this category, the school board was told.
"It's sad, really, when it often takes until the end of Grade 3 before you can really get some formal identification of a particular student's learning issues, which potentially would result in a little bit more money into the system to support those needs. Speedy support for students with needs makes them less dependant and more independent as learners as time goes on," Steer said.
"If you ignore something at the beginning, it will go away, but in time it will come back and be worse and that much harder to make better," Steer added.
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