Understanding the Education Issues in BC Pt.3

The first two articles (Pt.1 Pt.2) in this series sought to explain the history of teaching and education in BC as well as give a little background on the history of the bargaining issues and difficulties that have arisen between the BCTF and the BSPEA (and the third intervening party the provincial government).  The third part to the series gives a brief explanation of the very present day situation (with respect to the Parent Voucher program), and then attempts to explain a possible solution to the stagnated bargaining process and the unfunded inefficient educational system.

 

Two days ago from this writing the Minister of Education Peter Fassbender issued this statement. Basically saying:

…..the parties are too far apart for mediation at this time…Unfortunately, the BCTF leadership has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal and they have even refused to give teachers a chance to vote on suspending the pickets while an agreement is mediated…Negotiating a settlement requires union leaders to stand in front of their members and explain what has been achieved at the bargaining table…I worry the BCTF leadership is actually counting on government to legislate an end to this strike so they can avoid having a difficult conversation with their members about what is realistic and achievable….Legislating an end to the dispute is the wrong thing to do…

 

These are interesting expressions from the Minister representing the provincial government.  It is difficult to fathom those representing the BCTF are not actually inline with the BCTF.  It is also difficult to believe the teachers are unaware of what has been achieved at the bargaining table, and that the teachers are not knowledgeable about what is real and achievable. The teachers also have won a constitutional battle against the government imposing its’ will against the rights of its citizens-nobody is counting on back to work legislation. It’s not only the wrong thing to do, it’s against our rights and ultimately won’t be held up in the Supreme court.

This message was posted on the same day August 30, 2014 by the BCTF President Jim Iker.

Here is a letter from the BCSPEA to the mediator of the process Vincent L. Ready:

As primary advocates for students, we are calling for schools to be open on September 2nd. Students deserve to be in classrooms that are free from this continuing and acrimonious labour dispute. We hope a negotiated settlement at the bargaining table can be reached with your help via earnest and respectful negotiations without resorting to any measures that directly impact our children.

 

The BCSPEA seems to have the interest of the children at heart, and in reality it may not be the BCSPEA’s fault at all that the school system ceases to function normally.

And here is where we are at now on September first where parents are facing the possibility of having to file for subsidy in lieu of proper education for their children based on a possible strike adjustment made by the government announced earlier this summer:

The B.C. government is offering the parents of each public school student under the age of 13 years $40 a day if the provincial teachers’ strike is not over by the start of classes in September.

 

And so the registration begins, not for school but rather the “social program” Here are some key aspects to this “temporary benefit”:

The government said in July it would aim to pay out the money quickly, possibly in early October. On Sunday, a ministry spokesperson clarified the funds would be paid out within 30 days after the strike comes to an end.

The government deemed students older than 13 ineligible for the payments because the province considers they are more able to access online or other educational resources and do not need as much supervision as younger children.

The government estimated that the program will cost the government about $12 million a day, which it said was roughly the same amount of money it costs to run the school system.

These 3 points are important for the information and explanation that will follow.  The government aims to pay out the money as quickly as possible, possibly in October, but actually now 30 days after the strike ends.  Children older then 13 don’t receive this subsidy because they have sufficient access to online materials. The provincial government admits $12 million is about the cost per day of our school system.

These are not insignificant points, in fact they confess a great deal.

But first we must discuss Milton Friedman’s concept of Educational Vouchers:

The public purpose is to provide education. You are a producer producing a product. If you wanna subsidize the production of that product there are two ways to do it: you can subsidize the producer, or you can subsidize the consumer.  In education we subsidize the producer, we subsidize the school.  If you subsidize the student instead you could have competition.  The student could choose which school (they) would go to.  And that would force the schools to improve to meet the tastes of their students.

Literacy today in the United States is almost surely less than 100 years ago…before you had any government involvement at all…

…it ought to be a local matter, but it ought to be a parental manner.  The responsibility for educating children is with their parents. 

…in order to make it a parental manner, you have to have a situation in which the parents are free to choose the schools their children go to…

…As I said in 1955…take the amount of money that we are now spending on education, divided by the number of children, and give that amount money to each parent…

 

That’s what we are now spending, keep spending that, but spend it in the form of vouchers going to all parents.

 

Milton Friedman’s concept of School Vouchers was not to be confused with an ends, but rather it was a means of dealing with the already failed education system in the United States.  It certainly is some form of socialism however it does bring with it an expected change from the radical reform it proposes. This is quite significant in relation to recent government admissions that children have a increased accessibility to online learning programs, the government does have a system for paying out some kind of monies from the “educational coffers” to the parents whom qualify for this subsidy, and the cost of education is roughly $12 million per day.

The author would like to suggest this is the perfect time in the history of BC education for all parties to stop and consider the effects of the following:  We are one very small step away from enacting the advice of a great economic thinker Milton Friedman, as well as putting ourselves inline with some of the greatest economic thinkers of mankind’s history. The bargaining process is deadlocked and the entire population and both sides as well as the government know this.  How do you end a deadlocked negotiation?  By introducing a granular solution in some form of a free flowing market, and that is exactly what these school vouchers can force the educational system to become. 

Is our school system keeping up with the current educational demands today’s technologically advancing society imposes?  Might it be possible our current learning system is an archaic culture of fundamental beliefs of a very different time? It might actually be time for radical reform.  The government already recognizes the ability of a 13 year old to pursue an education online.  Perhaps these bulky brick and mortar buildings are quickly to become a thing of the past.

Imagine instead a free flowing market as described by Adam Smith and more specifically in regards to the educational system by Milton Friedman, where teachers effectively become contractors, competing locally for their right to teach in exchange for monies parents can directly pay to the teachers of their choice.  This is not much different than homeschooling (which is an option for SOME parents), but instead parents can land a dedicated yet qualified teacher for their child.  Teachers can choose the number of students they would like in their classroom, and the hours they would like to work, in return for an agreed upon price negotiated locally between the parents of the given class and the teacher.

This is the great granularity that can bring about the ideal mutually beneficial solution to the bargaining process. Teachers have a chance at educating the parents on the fundamentally important aspects of a child’s formal education and parents can take an advanced role in this education.  Children can be free to pursue the type of subjects they appreciate the most, and they can learn with the formats they feel most comfortable with from the teachers that most suit the child’s needs.

The internet is changing the education system dramatically every day. Education at higher levels can be solely pursed online. Does our current education system prepare our children for this type of learning by sending them into underfunded buildings and programs? This is not the future of our Universities, so why should we continue to hold on to this tradition for our children’s educational experience?

With a voucher program and a free education market to barter in, our province would have a realistic and fair shot at creating an educational system based on the ideal criteria for meeting the educational demands our society faces.  The current method and system does not work, has never worked, and will continue to slide if we take this path of no path.  Today we are simply burning up more and more of our financial resources spent arguing over unsolvable conflicts. The provincial government has opened a Pandora’s box with this new initiative…

It is the author’s understanding that the peoples should run with it.

 

 

 

 

 

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