Words tell one story. Numbers tell perhaps another.
There is no doubt teachers enjoy much public support. As well they might, as well they deserve. I was a high school teacher for five years decades back. I still remember fondly the support I received from my students and their parents - as well as the criticism from my detractors who wished I did better. We all fit somewhere on the infamous bell curve.
The teachers' labour relations environment in B.C. is a hopeless farrago and quagmire, alas. That said, I fear memories within the DTA and the BCTF tend to be conveniently short when it comes to pay issues.
One need only Google the BCTF and Ministry of Education websites to see how well Delta teachers have fared over the course of the worldwide economic depression all taxpayers have been struggling through for nearly four years - thanks to wanton profligacy by the "market" as well as by governments.
In 2007, a starting teacher in Delta with a bachelor of arts degree and a teaching certificate made $42,480. By July 2010, that number had risen 7.16 per cent to $45,909 for a firstyear wage.
A teacher at "max" after 10 years, for their part, saw their salary bump from $67,362 to $74,353, a 10.38 per cent rise. These increases came in the midst of a worldwide economic depression.
As well, it should be noted, the beginning teacher enjoys automatic yearly increments to reward "successful service" - even without formal performance evaluations or merit pay considerations. That meant that what was $42,480 in 2007 had risen to earnings for that teacher to $53,743 by 2010, a 26.63 per cent hike.
As well, each year the teacher earns pension credits. After 10 years, the senior teacher has a bank of 20 per cent deferredincome pension credits. In September, 2010 that would have taken a 10-year teacher's $74,353 in wages to $89,224 or so.
Which means when they retire after a 30-35 year career they can garner nearly $35,000 pre-tax annual pension payments in addition to CPP and OAS, which takes their total monthly pension income to nearly $4,500 pre-tax earnings - for life.
Not to mention while they teach their yearly statutory holiday pay, vacation pay, paid leaves, as well as 100 per cent employer-paid medical plan, extended health benefits (prescription drugs, glasses, massage therapy), paid sick leave, long-term disability and life insurance.
All of that is worth another $15,000 or so at "max," putting such a teacher's total compensation value for Canada Revenue Agency purposes at over $100,000 in 2010 dollars.
What needs to be remembered, too, is that these numbers have been in place during the worst global economic crisis of our generation.
As well, they factor into a time when the student-age population in Delta (ages five to 18) fell in that timeframe nearly 10 per cent - from 18,985 down to 17,191.
For its part the classroom teacher cohort, meanwhile, dropped by just 4.6 per cent, from 921.3 full-timeequivalent to 879.2, according to the website numbers I read.
Getting back to the labour relations piece. Perhaps the old system of "not strike" - but negotiations only over salary and benefits - should be brought back. That's what it was when I taught for five years in Surrey some 40 years back.
But with one difference I would recommend - the arbitrators would be required at law to decide the pay issues on a "final offer selection" basis: either the arbitrator would accept 100 per cent of the school board's proposal or 100 per cent of the union's, but no "cut the baby in half " option.
And if "ability to pay" were the foremost criterion the arbitrator had to look at, I think taxpayers would be more represented in the process.
In these parlous and grievous economic times, unless we the people get a firm grip on public debt in all public sectors in B.C., surely we will "greece" the skids to bankruptcy here, too.
W. Baird Blackstone