Heat on teachers in report card dispute

The bargaining agent for B.C. school districts is expected to seek an order forcing teachers to provide report cards.

Education Minister George Abbott

VICTORIA – Two months into a work-to-rule campaign by B.C.’s public school teachers, the bargaining agent for school districts is seeking an order forcing teachers to provide report cards.

Education Minister George Abbott declined to comment on reports that the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association wants to have the option of cutting teacher pay by up to 20 per cent if they don’t produce report cards and perform other duties. But he agrees that reporting on student progress should be an essential service.

“Report cards and reporting generally are hugely important to us,” Abbott said Wednesday. “It is not acceptable to me, nor to the ministry of education, to have children and parents in British Columbia not understanding how they are progressing.”

The ministry has directed principals and vice principals to send out report cards, but Abbott acknowledged that without teacher input, they may contain little more than an attendance report.

The employers’ association was expected to apply to the B.C. Labour Relations Board Wednesday for a declaration on report cards and the option of reduced pay for reduced work. Teachers are also refusing playground supervision and most routine contact with administration, with little progress on talks for a new contract.

The last contract with B.C.’s 41,000 public school teachers expired in June. In addition to wage and benefit increases, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation wants restoration of class size and special needs support rules, after a court ruling gave the government a year to consult with teachers on appropriate levels.

Abbott also presented legislation Wednesday to dissolve the B.C. College of Teachers, reducing the BCTF’s power to protect and reinstate teachers facing discipline for misconduct.

Last year former deputy minister Don Avison reported on the function of college discipline and found that the BCTF-dominated discipline committee “appeared to minimize the severity” of offences. BCTF president Susan Lambert has disputed his findings.

Avison highlighted two cases where teachers had their certification restored, one after being convicted of sexual assaults on students and another after serving six years in prison for trafficking cocaine.

The legislation creates a new B.C. Teachers’ Council with a commissioner to oversee complaints. Discipline panels would no longer have a majority of BCTF appointees.