Tomorrow our union votes. This may be the most important union vote I have taken in my 10 year career, and is most definitely the most difficult. Voting to stand up for fully funded public education and lose many weeks of pay was easy. This is hard. Through marathon bargaining session the BCTF and BCPSEA (i.e. BC Liberals) came to tentative agreement. But does it give teachers and students what they deserve? Not even close. Does it really address the issues that we went out for? Hardly. Most of what it does is prevent further cuts to the system. Yet with a government that seems intent on dismantling public education, not losing might just be winning.
Being realistic, I think this is the best we were going to do. All the stars eventually aligned and we had the best mediator in the business, tremendous public support, moral and financial support from unions across the country and internationally, pressure from international students and a Premier that needed to save face after causing this mess–before she leaves on a trade mission to India.
There are many reasons to vote no (http://goo.gl/GDAq6h, http://goo.gl/ccsh7n, http://goo.gl/a5BkYr), but then what? What’s the plan to move forward? Will the stars stay aligned? I doubt it. Voting no will alienate the parents who have stood by teachers throughout this. They are the basis for public support. Vince Ready is gone. Finances can only hold out so long. Union leadership will come into question.
There are also many reasons to vote yes, (http://goo.gl/qSwlVZ, http://goo.gl/TL6Pzt) and I think we need to look long term here. We have brought the issues of class size and composition to the forefront. More people than ever before are beginning to understand the complexity of teaching and the environments we do it in, and they are supportive of making public education better. By voting yes we can leverage that support for continued positive change. We can activate apathetic voters for bigger change. We can keep education a key public policy. In the short term, we can get kids back into classes to learn. We can do what we are passionate about, and collect a modest paycheque while doing so.
Reluctantly, I will be voting yes, but yes nonetheless. I encourage my colleagues to do so as well.