B.C. teachers and government negotiators have reached a deal to add $50 million dollars to the system this year to “jump start” negotiations. Neither side wanted “children and schools to suffer” while complex negotiations went on.
But what is this money? Is it a small down payment on a larger debt, or “new money” as chronically tone deaf Minister Mike Bernier posits? Will government try to sell it to voters as “new money” or what it actually is – a small portion of returned heist money?
And unless what it represents is clear, the beatings at the hands of the government will continue, despite their embarrassing and long overdue trip to the woodshed at the hands of the Supreme Court of Canada.
While $50 million dollars will be a welcome first drip in refilling the education bucket kicked over by Christy Clark in 2001’s contract stripping, the money represents different things to different people.
To public school advocates and educators, $50 million is a quick down payment on a much larger settlement, to be negotiated later. The B.C.T.F. has conservatively pegged the amount taken from schools over sixteen years at $300 million (it’s likely closer to $2 billion). Teachers think negotiations have just begun, and that more money will be forthcoming.
To the B.C government, $50 million is merely a strategic political move.
First, $50 million allows the government to buy educational altruism in the minds of voters fed up with sixteen years of B.C.’s education wars.
“The Supreme Court said we’ve been bad and mean for sixteen years; but now we’re excited about investing more money in children because now we suddenly care about public education- families first!” ( somewhat paraphrased)
$50 million buys the government a tube of culpability ointment which they will apply liberally (pun intended) from now until May’s election.
Second, to the government, $50 million is not a down payment, it’s a cap. Because there’s a provincial election in May they won’t ever be required to give a higher sum than $50 million.
Were the government to lose May’s election, they need only sit in opposition and snipe about why the new government wasn’t following the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment, a process which their government had magnanimously just begun?
And should the government win May’s election, they will be purged of all sins and be able to claim a mandate for their prudent educational governance.
And don’t forget the card teachers have just dealt the government. If pressed, the government can now finally point to a successful, meaningful negotiation with teachers.
They also have the “taxpayers can’t afford anymore/ no one can negotiate with this militant union” strategy, which they can easily resurrect, having given so much new money to education.
Armed with a new mandate, how expeditiously might we expect further negotiations to go? Having won the election while touting a huge, $50 million dollar infusion of “new money” into the system, does anyone actually think they would immediately offer more the following year?
In the unlikely event they were forced, by the public, the media, or whatever Supreme Court police assure people comply with court rulings, a media honeymooning government might toss another $20 million of “new money” at education in year two, and perhaps a few million the following year.
To the government, this $50 million agreement represents at least a settlement cap, at worst, the final solution.
Let’s be clear. This provincial government has proven its dishonorable intentions since Christy Clark’s original sin in 2001 and sixteen years of pogrom and obfuscation.
B.C.T.F President Glen Hansman, social media and even Vaughan Palmer have adamantly described the $50 million dollars as a small refund on money unconstitutionally taken from schools.
But in discussing the $50 million dollar agreement, Education Minister Mike Bernier emphasized repeatedly that the $50 million was “new money ” piled upon the substantial 5 billion plus the government already gives to public education, despite plummeting enrolment. (up significantly since 2001 zzzzzz..)
The Supreme Court settlement is the only thing teachers have that can get this government to put any money into education.
By allowing government to take education off the front burner for this election cycle and tout $50 million dollars of “new money” as meaningful atonement for their sins, teachers may have sold their leverage at a bad time and far too cheaply.