Editorial: Schools get back to the real job

The summer holiday is over and school kids are back in the classrooms for another 10 months of education.

The summer holiday is over and school kids are back in the classrooms for another 10 months of education. Along with the ABCs and three Rs, this year they might even get report cards.

This year students and their parents don’t have to worry about scrapped after-school activities or navigating the simmering tensions between teachers and administrators.

In September 2011, students entered classrooms with teachers on a work-to-rule job action. Instruction didn’t stop, but teachers didn’t write report cards, wouldn’t host parent-teacher conferences after school hours and in some cases, coaching for sports teams was taken over by volunteer parents.

In the Saanich and Sooke school districts, for one, the administrators – principals, vice-principals, superintendents, managers – scrambled to cover watching elementary kids at recess and after school. A three-day strike in March capped off a terrible year in public education.

This year classrooms are somewhat back to normal, but the labour war between teachers and government remains – especially with the issue of class size and composition. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is suing the government to regain bargaining rights over these points, and to challenge the hated Bill 22. BCTF has a court date in December.

This kind of posturing could be moot. Education Minister George Abbott said that he expects the next round of bargaining with teachers to begin next March or April 2013, mere months before next provincial election. By then Abbott, and many other high-profile Liberals, will be coasting toward retirement.

This awkward gap between the start of the school year now and the likely demise of the ruling Liberal government means it could be a quiet year for labour relations in education.

The BCTF won’t waste its time seriously negotiating with a lame-duck administration when it could re-start negotiations with a more labour-friendly NDP government. Outgoing Liberals will be more than happy to hand this hornet’s nest to their friends across the aisle.