It's time that education be declared an essential service

“THE right to swing your fist,” goes the old saying, “ends when it touches my nose.”

Depending upon your perspective, the fist is either the BC Teachers’ Federation or the provincial government when it comes to their current contract dispute. Clearly, however, that fist has struck that nose so the question is how is that right defined.

The teachers are betting everything on two court decision wins which found that the province  acted wrongly through legislation removing class size standards and specialized instruction for vulnerable students. In doing so, the courts affirmed the right of teachers to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions.

The province, citing the economic cost of redoing the public school education system, is appealing. There’s also the issue of management rights.

But if teachers have rights and so does the government, at what point do the rights of citizens who pay taxes in the expectation of a public school education system and of the rights students who should be receiving an education come into play?

As unappealing as it may be to the parties involved, every consideration should be given to declaring education an essential service.

Easy to say, hard to accomplish and the ramifications are immense. But there’s a strong argument to be made that at the heart of it all, schools should be forever freed of continual and disruptive battles.

Editorial, The Terrace Standard, Sept. 17, 2014

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