B.C. education minister’s letters didn’t address teacher concerns

George Abbott's piece in the PNR didn't respond to frustrations in other letter

Re: Abbott welcomes inquiry into teacher bargaining (Letters, Feb. 22)

I was excited to learn that Education Minister George Abbott had replied to K. Mikkelsen’s letter, published in the Peninsula News Review on Feb. 15. I was impressed that he would be willing to engage in a discussion about tough issues outlined in Ms. Mikkelsen’s letter such as why parent groups need to pay for school essentials such as levelled reading text books for primary students.

My excitement evaporated when I saw that what had been published as a response to Ms. Mikkelsen’s letter was an excerpt from an op-ed piece that Minister Abbott posted to Twitter a couple of weeks ago.

The minister’s pre-written letter does not address any of Ms. Mikkelsen’s concerns, especially with regard to the current need for PACs to fund essentials like texts, not to mention what might be considered “extras” such as technology and field trips.

Parents are paying from their pockets for the nuts and bolts of the education system.

The BCTF has asked for an independent mediator to be appointed. The minister has stated the government is not interested unless teachers first give up most of their requests. If mediation is meant to seek a fair deal, there is plenty of evidence a fair deal has never been in the government’s plans.

The government often points to the bottom line and states that more money goes into education today than ever before and then asks why they should add to that.  What the government doesn’t want to tell you is that education has fallen from more than 26 per cent of the provincial budget in 1991-92, to a little less than 16 per cent currently.  Undoubtedly, there is a happy medium.

I can only express to Ms. Mikkelsen my thanks again for an honest and appropriately blunt letter. I am not sure how she feels about the “response,” but I have to say again that I hoped for more.

Steve MacGregor