It is a grey Monday morning, and the dispute continues, seemingly both sides more entrenched in their positions than ever, with no sign of a truce. It appears that I will be writing quite a few of these before I return to my school work routines, and quite possibly, a good piece of Fall will be behind me. As rumors of strategies and action plans run rampant on social media and on the picket line, public school students remain at home.
What has the cost been for students while this dispute continues?
In high school, the cancellation of summer school has meant that students who failed classes did not get an opportunity to ‘get a second chance’ and repeat the classes so that they could stay with their grade and potentially graduate on time. Routines, structures and consistency have all been on hold. Of course this effect is greatest on the very students teachers are fighting for when advocating for class size and composition guidelines. While public school is closed, students in specialized classes, or students with special needs and their families, these are the communities that are compromised most when public services shut down.
Parents now are doing what they can to find programs and educational plans while all of these adults figure out what is best for them.
In the meantime, education, and especially the delivery of education is changing – quickly. Students and parents have more and more choices as to how they learn. The proliferation of private education opportunities, especially online and blended options will only increase.
Public schools must be one of the educational options and it should be a program of attraction, not, as it is now operates in some American School districts, as the option of last resort.
Disrupting school time weakens that option.
Right now, there is an active dismantling of public education by the current government, with a specific agenda in creating a three-tiered system of education. And lets be clear, this job dispute has been a very careful, sophisticated, calculated and successful procedure by the Government in bringing this about. The forty dollar a day per student incentive is just the beginning and we will see Clark and the Liberals roll out more of the plan in the weeks to come.
We need to keep our students at school, in school, at all costs. Striking and removing our services worked in a different time period but it doesn’t work now. It works against public schools and that is the heart of or should be the heart of our communities. Communities need to trust and know that public education is a constant. Public schools need to build a reputation based on consistency, innovation, risk taking and “a sure thing”.
In this new era of learning, these are the values that are going to matter most.
Mediation needs to happen outside of the classroom and it should be easy. Both sides bring their best pitch to an independent party who picks the best one. Done. Of course this would require both sides to share their power equitably and that is not going to happen anytime soon.
We can save all that money on public opinion campaigns, lawyers, mediators and general silliness.
We need to keep our students in public schools. This needs to go beyond an “essential service”. This needs to be a sacred trust where regardless of what political party exists, we promise our children they can count on school.
I have no idea what the end game for this strike is, but what I do know, is that the loss of wages will be the least of our worries. It will be winning back the trust and the support of students, parents and community members.