Here’s the thing: none of us has a crystal ball. Not the pundits nor the prognosticators, some of whom have made very lucrative careers out of saying what they “know” will happen.
In fact, some say the events which shape the human experience are not the outcomes we forecast, but the unexpected occurrences to which we respond. For more on this, read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
I know I can’t speak to the future with certainty, but as I look towards the fall, I suspect my voice will be a dissenting one.
Because events are moving quickly in the public education sector with no clear indication of the government’s ultimate objective and yet there seems to be a general complacency about it all.
Here are three red-flag issues for me:
- The removal of the BCPSEA Board points to a profound change in the way bargaining will be conducted in the public education sector. I think BCPSEA paid the price for pursuing a path contrary to the provincial government’s vision. The board’s removal was sudden, swift, and seemingly–and mistakenly in my opinion–unlamented. Whether this is an improvement or not remains to be seen, but I am still looking for assurance that this is not the first step in a series of unilaterally determined shifts which may or may not prove to be publicly beneficial.
- A 10-year labour agreement with the BCTF is seductive and such an easy sell in the court of public opinion. But I’m not convinced, unless the deal is fully funded and increases resources significantly for students, that it can be accomplished in a fair and equitable manner. I am also not convinced that it is in the best interest of the employer as I’ve written about before here.
- Publicly elected school boards make a difference because they represent local interests and are accountable to local communities. The fact that we have a high-performing system today is due in large measure to the way districts (everyone from students to parents to trustees to staff to principals to teachers to support staff) have been able to keep the machine humming despite inadequate funding. Yes, the provincial government spends more per student now than ever before, but add up the costs that have been downloaded without being funded and the increases in expenses which haven’t been covered (including key items such as utility costs, MSP premiums, and carbon offsets) and you’ll see why there’s such a discrepancy. Yes, some boards have run into difficulties, and yes improvements can be made, but the attempt to disregard the government’s role in exacerbating the situation is disingenuous.
So while I may not be able to speak to what the future is bound to bring, I do know that I will continue to speak up and to advocate, even if I’m in the minority, because it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that a healthy, thriving public education system is the best foundation for all our tomorrows.