Letters to the Editor: June 4

The teacher's job; education data; Federal, provincial, municipal; Forestry lands

The teacher’s job

This letter is in response to Neil Matheson’s letter of Monday, June 2. The comment that I would like to address is the one that really felt like a personal assault. Mr. Matheson could not be further off base with his comment “pampered and privileged.” I know very well what it is like to work in the private sector. I worked for the same company in the service industry for 20 years, until I decided to go back to school to pursue my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. I then worked for several years as a teacher-on-call, and then several more on temporary contracts. This has been my first year with a continuing contract.

What I didn’t understand until a few years ago was how much it would cost me to have my own classroom. I supply all the books for my library, all the puzzles, games, and building toys for my learning centres. I purchase all the learning resources that I use, and all the things that make my classroom a warm, inviting place. I supply all the school supplies for the students who come to school without enough or any. I scour thrift shops and sales for extra clothing for students who come to school in the winter without proper attire. When students come without a recess snack or a lunch, then I must scrounge up something for them to eat.

I do it not because I am “pampered and privileged.” I do it because I feel like I am one of the lucky few who get to work at a job that I love. I get to start each day with smiles and hugs, and somehow, despite whatever challenges my students and I have faced each day, we always end the day with smiles and high fives.

The cuts to education in B.C. over the last 12 years have made it difficult to access services for the students in my class with special needs. After much time spent meeting with other professionals, testing the students, and filling out paperwork, the students may end up with a label that goes into their file, but there is little or no extra funding to help support that child. Within my classroom we work hard while we struggle to deal with numerous behaviour issues and learning difficulties, but we also sing, dance, laugh and play. Although I may stay up late into the night worrying about a student or pondering the challenges of the day, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world. So no, Mr. Matheson, I am not a “pampered and privileged” teacher, but I am definitely one of those thousands of teachers who are “privileged” to work with the children of British Columbia.

Deanna Ford/Proud Cranbrook teacher

Education data

I suspect that Mr. Matheson is not an educator, with experience teaching children in the public education system. His determination to represent a realistic perspective without this background is, to put it politely, optimistic.

His first use of data — “that B.C. records the second-lowest spending per pupil in Canada, after PEI” — supports Ms. Ryeburn’s claim. Spending approximately $1,000 less per pupil is significant in terms of the number of children within the public education system, each requiring a variety of program services and support.

I don’t know where Mr. Matheson found his 2010 data on teachers’ salaries, but Global News recently used current government statistics for its comparison and found that B.C. teachers were behind both Alberta and Ontario, particularly senior teachers who had taught longer.

Teachers who work with children in the public education system have experienced the true nature of funding cuts in terms of support for their students. Music and art programs and other elective courses are on the chopping block as districts struggle to cope with funding that does not keep pace with past program funding, or the rising cost of inflation.

It is possible to increase funding dollars yearly and still fall further and further behind in terms of funding as a per cent of the annual B.C. budget. Using data to prove one’s point is an old shell game, but it doesn’t hide the fact that students with learning challenges, or those that may succeed with just a little additional support, are now in longer line-ups to receive it. This is the reality that real practitioners, teachers, know all too well.

B.C.’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the Liberal government illegally stripped class size and composition from teachers’ contracts in 2002. These are working rights that have been restored within a legal, binding contract. I would remind Mr. Matheson that Canada is still a democratic nation that values the charter rights of its citizens — at least, that’s what we teach our students!

Wendy Turner/Cranbrook Teacher

Federal, provincial, municipal issues

It seems members of Cranbrook City Council keep writing letters defending their positions on topics that are the responsibility of higher levels of government.

I think we have a very good MLA, who takes the interests of our citizens to Victoria and advances our causes in a manner that provides progress to our community. The same can be said for our MP in dealing with federal issues. We elected those two gentlemen to look after our interests at the provincial and federal levels of government and they are doing a good job at it. We did not elect City Council for those roles.

City Council must be involved in issues that are the responsibility of the city and ensuring our tax dollars are spent wisely, effectively and efficiently.

The deer issue is one that council continues to stick their nose in a provincial issue and wastes City of Cranbrook tax dollars and staff time in an area where they should not be. The safety and wellbeing of Cranbrook residents and Cranbrook visitors are the responsibility of the City of Cranbrook only to the extent of what is under their jurisdiction. Wildlife is a responsibility of the province of B.C. and any wildlife concerns are properly addressed to our MLA. Potholes are a responsibility of Cranbrook City Council and yet council seems to be doing a rather substandard job of ensuring our safety is not compromised because potholes are not being repaired in a timely fashion.

How would Cranbrook City Council have reacted to our MLA or to our MP standing up in the Legislature or House of Commons and saying the City Council in Cranbrook spent about a half million dollars prepping and paving a 1.2 kilometre double lane road (used by only a few cars a day) to their sewage pump house, while many roads, used by hundreds of vehicles a day, within the City of Cranbrook are in a deplorable condition? At the time the paved road to the pump house came to light it appeared to me that all of City Council was totally unaware of this half million dollar expenditure, yet they seem to be on top of the change of postal service, urban deer and child care.

Council has been given advice from taxpayers to look after the interests of the citizens of Cranbrook that is within their jurisdiction instead of writing as members of council justifying their personal positions.

Larry Hall/Cranbrook

Forestry lands

The provincial government is recommending changes to how logging takes place in British Columbia. These changes will increase control and management of our forests to corporations, making public input into the use of provincial lands even more difficult.

The current practice of allocating companies a volume of wood to be cut (Volume Based Tenures) could be replaced with Tree Farm Licenses that would give companies long-term rights to manage the land for forestry.

Our forests are in trouble, but the current proposal does not address the root cause of the problem: we are logging our forests at an unsustainable rate and not accounting for all the benefits our forests provide. We need to broaden the discussion and engage British Columbians in a real discussion for the long-term health of forests and forest communities.

The provincial government’s current proposal does not meet their own objective of improved forest management. The Forest Practices Board, the independent watchdog for sound forest practices in British Columbia, says the proposed changes will not help, but will hinder the ability of government to manage the long-term sustainability of our forests.  Even some industry leaders such as Canfor’s CEO Don Kane have recognized the folly of the proposal and requested that government not go ahead with the proposed changes to tenure.

It is critically important that British Columbians demonstrate that we care about our forests and all of the benefits that they provide. We do not want public land use to be further controlled by private companies. The government’s proposal is a simplistic response to timber supply shortfalls and unsustainable harvest rates. The proposal to create new Tree Farm Licenses fails to recognize that government and public oversight is important for the health of our forests and the long-term health of our communities.

John Bergenske/Wildsight