Teachers Vote to Suspend Extracurricular Activities: School System Relies on Unpaid Volunteer Work By Teachers

Teachers are expected by everybody to work for free. That’s what they’ve been doing, putting in uncounted hours before school, at noon hours, after school, and during evenings, and now they’ve decided not to offer free services any more.

That’s understandable, in the current situation.

The vote to withdraw volunteer services that everybody takes for granted and expects to go on forever, 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. 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 teachers are expected 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 that relies on choosing to see only part of the picture, and that ignores the fact that with Bill 22, this government is thumbing its nose at justice in British Columbia.

About Diane McNally