In lieu of school, how does $40 a day sound? That’s the offer Finance Minister Mike de Jong put on the table for B.C. parents last month, and it has generated plenty of controversy.
De Jong announced that the cash will be paid using savings made from not having to pay teachers during the strike. The program will cost the government about $12 million a day, which is about the same amount of money it costs to run the school system, said de Jong.
De Jong says parents will be able to claim their $40 per day per child through a website set up by the provincial government and may use the money however they see fit.
“There are costs that occur to families and parents when their children aren’t where they should be, which is in school,” said de Jong. “Parents can utilize that money to acquire tutoring for their children, they can use the money to explore other educational opportunities as they see fit and for some parents, it’ll be basic daycare.”
De Jong said the government would pay out the money quickly, possibly in early October, although he hoped the contingency plan wouldn’t be needed and a settlement would be forthcoming.
BCTF President Jim Iker called the move a ‘blatant and divisive attempt to prolong disruption in B.C. schools.’ Iker called on the government to resume negotiations in a meaningful manner.
That however, may be hard to accomplish. Thus far two mediators have rejected offers to become involved in the dispute, saying both sides are too far apart for mediation to succeed, and the only provincially-appointed facilitator has stepped down citing a lack of faith from the BCTF.
Local SD 49 Union Representative Coleen Fraser said she didn’t believe the government was being sincere in their $40 offer, stating it was more likely a move to goad teachers in the middle of the summer.
Fraser also said that she believes the government is more interested in splintering the union and dismantling public education, citing the millions of dollars the government is spending to appeal the two recent court rulings that have upheld the teachers’ position on contracts.
“The government isn’t sincere about coming to an agreement because their intent is to break the union so that there isn’t a strong voice for public education,” said Fraser. “What they would really like is for the BCTF to be out of the way.”
However, the BCTF isn’t out of the way and if past action is any indication, that won’t be happening any time soon. “It isn’t about our wages or benefits, it is about standing up for the kids in our classes, making sure that they get the services they need,” said Fraser. “A government that claims to put ‘Families First’ needs to be willing to actually invest in them!”