Experienced educators understand the critical importance of maintaining healthy class size in schools, and the significance of understanding the needs of each child. After a long struggle to restore negotiated language on class size and competition was resolved by the Supreme Court of Canada, these standards are once again at risk.
On behalf of members of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, President Gerry Tiede recently wrote the following letter to BC Premier John Horgan, and addressed this issue. As part of our mandate to champion the cause of public education, the BC Retired Teachers’ Association strongly supports active teachers in their need to maintain workable class sizes with proper support for the needs of students.
100 – 550 WEST 6TH AVENUE · VANCOUVER, BC · V5Z 4P2
June 19, 2019
The Honourable John Horgan, M.L.A.,
Premier of British Columbia
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT
I am writing to you today as President of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, representing over 17,000 retired educators who have spent a lifetime in public education. We understand as well as anyone the conditions in which kids learn and thrive. Our association is working wherever we can to be champions of public education in British Columbia.
So as informed observers, parents and grandparents we are reaching out to you today to express our concern regarding a critical issue that once again seems to be at play in your talks with active teachers: class size and composition.
Class size and composition is not just another line item to discuss – it is the balancing point for all our hopes for effective teaching.
Because we have lived through the changes in public education in recent years, we are especially keen to not see mistakes revisited and to preserve the high goals that we sought in the classroom. In the last quarter century, some important and ambitious standards have been set, including:
- More personalized learning for students
- Greatly expanded PLOs
- Emphasis on better graduation rates, especially for marginalized populations
- Adapting to the changing needs of students in a digital-speed environment
- Integration of students with special needs into classrooms
We worked hard to make all these improvements possible, and the results have been remarkable. What is the common factor required to effectively address all the trends noted here? Attention. To give quality attention to the needs of students, teachers should not be rushed for prep time, divided in their goals, stressed by the uncertainty of support, or forced to choose which students to neglect.
Please also remember it is public schools where children with the greatest challenges come to learn. Private schools accept public funds much more quickly than they accept students with special needs.
You have been a close observer of the previous government and the real headwinds facing public education over the past few years. Stability and respect for education was in short supply for over a decade. The faulty thinking of that regime was repudiated in fifteen minutes by the Supreme Court of Canada, but the injustice visited upon teachers and students lasted for fifteen years.
Premier, degrading BC’s standards for classroom size and composition would not just be a disservice to teachers but would strike at the hopes for meaningful learning for the children of our province. It seems surreal that we are revisiting this issue. If there is any infrastructure that our society must build and preserve, surely it is the hearts and minds of our young.
Like you, we have set our identity on standing up for the needs of our society. For us, that meant serving those who turned to us for the most essential help there is – an education. BC’s teachers and students have endured uncertainty and mismanagement for decades. What happens next will be pivotal for the next generation of BC students.
Please, don’t fail them now.
BC Retired Teachers’ Association