Mission public schools were behind picket lines Tuesday in the first day of a full-scale strike by teachers.
Hundreds of local teachers stepped up job action after rallying at Fraser River Heritage Park and marching through Mission streets to the school district office on Fourth Avenue the previous day which had been declared a study session by the BCTF.
“We had an information session so our members are informed over what happened with negotiations,” said Mission Teachers’ Union president Mark Bradshaw, who explained all teachers were invited to Monday morning’s gathering to listen to the BCTF president Jim Iker speak at press conference together as it streamed through the internet.
“BCTF put our latest offer on the table at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, but we didn’t receive a response from (employers) BCPSEA until 5:45 p.m. Sunday night,” noted Bradshaw, who criticized the government for not stepping up to the bargaining table sooner over the weekend.
According to Bradshaw, BC teachers are the second lowest paid group in the country, whereas MLAs in this province are the second highest paid in Canada.
There are overcrowded classes and no resources in schools, said Bradshaw.
“The (government) is not making education a priority,” added teacher Scott Susin, who says it’s important for parents to understand what is happening. He hopes the inconvenience of a strike now will improve the system for the future.
School districts are also being underfunded and school boards are forced to cut jobs and programs.
“Funding from the government doesn’t match the increasing costs of a school district,” Susin said.
The school board’s decision to cut nine teaching positions to balance its budget result in reduced library times, less counselling services and put Mission’s ESL program at risk, said Susin.
The two sides are expected to be back at the bargaining table this week.
School board chair Edie Henirichs, vice chair Jim Taylor and trustee Shelley Carter were also at the teachers’ rally along with parents and some children.
“The school district has no control over BCPSEA or the bargaining,” said Taylor. “We’re spectators.”