In last week’s column, Richard Rolke is exactly right; there was a crisis in education funding even before the teachers’ contract came due.
If it was unclear last week who held the balance of power in the current labour dispute it is clear now.
With the two sides apparently not that far apart on many issues, who could argue that binding arbitration is not the best way to get kids back in class again?
And yet the government refuses. Vaughn Palmer explains that since binding arbitration gave the doctors a large increase that compelled Colin Hansen to raise taxes to avoid deficit in 2002, the Liberals are gun-shy of binding arbitration. But in that case the arbiter found the labour pressures of a shortage of doctors and a better pay scale in Alberta necessitated the increases.
There are no similar labour pressures in this case. More Bachelor of Education graduates come out of B.C. universities each year than there are jobs to fill, and given the public is strongly supportive of the teachers, an arbitrated contract that meets both sides in the middle seems perfectly reasonable.
When the doctors’ arbitration led to tax increases did economic growth in the province grind to a halt? Were there massive lay-offs?
Yet we know that many parents are giving up hours at work right now and might even lose their jobs because their children have been out of school for three months and counting. How will the economy be affected in the future if the quality of public education starts to show significant decline?
Schools, teachers and kids are all paying the price for the lack of education funding.
Binding arbitration has been the most concrete proposal to date that the public can get behind to demand an end to this impasse.
If the government has to rearrange its priorities, or raise taxes, in order to find the money the public will understand.