[posted to The Tyee http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/08/30/Reasons-Not-to-Cool-Off/ on story "Three Reasons Teachers Must Keep Picketing to Keep Pressure on BC Gov't" by Bill Tieleman.]
$40 Oils The Slippery Slope To Vouchers
Maybe that’s why John Fryer, long time public sector union organizer and now professor of Public Administration, U Vic, counseled BCTF to go back to work but keep bargaining. Parents are to be paid $40 for every strike day come the new school year. That first payout would be the beginning of the end — a “post public universe” as Tom Fleming, historian, predicted 3 years ago in his book “Worlds Apart: BC Schools, Politics & Labour Relations Before & After 1972 (Bendall Bks).
Imagine abolishing the Ministry of Education — vouchers paid out by Finance and a Department of Standards and Regulations to monitor accountability. Massive reduction of bureaucrats!
Imagine no more public school teacher strikes, as the monopoly would no longer exist.
However, Fryer might actually be experiencing a “conflicted” mind as a report for the federal government that he headed actually discussed the proper role of government as being to “steer, not row the boat.” So vouchers (or any of the other choice mechanisms working in other jurisdictions) would be in that direction. So, his counsel to return to work may have been just a way for BCTF to gain favor with parents, not to forestall per diem payouts from the education fund. Not sure how Fryer actually sees the $40 idea.
But in the history of BC, vouchers have been an item. In 1973, NDP Premier Barrett and MLA Bob Williams “privately looked with favour on the voucher system, whereby each parent would receive a voucher for the year’s cost of a public school education and would have the choice of whether to apply this in public or non-public schools.” (The 1200 Days, 1978, Kavic, Nixon)
A Vancouver Sun story (School voucher system mulled: plan aimed at choice over schools, Oct 27’87) had then Social Credit Minister of Finance, Mel Couvelier, forming a committee to examine “the total education budget to determine if there are ways to spend money more efficiently.”
The moment I heard about the $40 idea (July 31, 2014), I immediately could see good policy implications and provided 7 reasons to support the initiative. I sent my comments to a number of media outlets in early August. See my blog for “Education Debit Account Idea Explained” http://www.parentsteachingparents.net/2014/08/education-debit-account-idea-explained/
Apparently there is some pretty frantic bargaining going on right now. Wonder if the looming $40 payout to parents is front and center or just in the back of the bargainers’ minds.
Whatever, the emergence of parents as a third force in BC during these hectic and troubled times is such a welcome sign,. I do hope, for the sake of parents and their desire for long term stability and choice in seeking the best education for their children that the voucher idea sticks around for serious discussion, promotion and implementation.