Unconstitutional and Illegal “Laws” Make a Difference

Geoff Johnson, long-retired Superintendent of a School District That is Never Named is reassuringly off-base again in “Extracurricular Activities Make a Difference”, Times Colonist April 17. It’s good to know that in this changeable world, we can count on some things, and Geoff Johnson being wrong is one of them.

Let’s re-write the title of his article: how about “School System Relies on Unpaid Volunteer Work By Teachers”, or “Teachers Expected By Everybody to Work for Free”?

This withdrawal of volunteer services that everybody takes for granted and expects to go on forever, because teachers have freely given uncounted hours of unpaid time to before school, noon hour, and after school activities for students, is taking place in the context of ten years of frustration, knowing that Bills 27 and 28 (2002) would be found illegal and unconstitutional, but having had to live and work as if they were laws based on justice.

And after ten years of waiting for justice, Bills 27 and 28 were indeed found by the British Columbia Supreme Court to be unconstitutional and illegal in a ruling on April 13, 2011. Teachers and citizens are well beyond frustration with a government that breaks its own laws to pass new expedient laws designed to specifically target public school teachers and union principles. The British Columbia Supreme Court gave this government until April to come up with a remedy for the destruction to public education created by Bills 27 and 28. What was the remedy this government chose? Bill 22, yet another ad hoc law further targeting union principles of fairness in hiring and transfer, further eroding the status of teachers as professionals and enshrining the complete dismissal of provisions for class size and composition.

And in this context Mr. Johnson expects teachers to happily continue to put in an astonishing number of volunteer hours every week while quietly waiting another ten years for Bill 22 to be found illegal and unconstitutional.

Principles of social justice are at stake. Principles of decent learning conditions for your children and grandchildren in classrooms, wood and metal shops, and labs are at stake. Teachers are trying to get your attention, and the reaction is condemnation for not continuing to provide free services

Fundamental principles of justice are being attacked by a government that passes illegal laws, and knows it can wait for ten years for the courts to sort that out, and then will simply pass another potentially illegal and unconstitutional “law”. It’s a sad day when the law has to appear in quotation marks, but here we are.

Teachers are the canary in this coal mine right now. It takes courage to put oneself in the way of so much disapproval and misunderstanding. Public school teachers are standing in the front lines of the fight against erosion of rights and justice for all of us, and need citizen support, not criticism like that from Mr. Jones that relies on choosing to see only part of the picture,  ignoring the fact that with Bill 22, this government is thumbing its nose at justice in British Columbia.