By: Korie Marshall
Instead of kids going back to school on Tuesday September 2, teachers are again on the picket lines, even though strike pay has run out.
On Sept 7th, the school district posted this message on its website: “Due to the current strike, schools in School District No. 57 will remain closed for the period September 8 12, 2014. Parents wishing to register their children for school are asked to contact the neighbourhood or choice school via telephone. All curricular and extra-curricular activities normally associated with schools in School District No. 57 have ceased during the strike.”
Some parents have been offering child care to other parents on local social media, and some parents say their older children will either be studying or will be available to babysit younger students. Susann Friesen has offered to start a day home in the Valemount area. She says she has always worked with kids, though she has none of her own.
The Valemount Community Church was planning to offer a bible study class for $20 per day for elementary aged children, but children must be registered before Tuesday. Marion Plummer, one of the organizers and members of the church, said it would run from 9-2:30 this week at the Community Church on 5th Avenue, and children would have to bring a lunch.
Amanda Kemp from the Valemount Daycare says the preschool will run as usual starting on September 2, and parents can check with the daycare for availability. The closure of Stepping Stones Daycare, the only one in McBride, was announced last spring. Beth Dubeck from the Robson Valley Support Society said last week it wouldnt likely be reopening in time for the start of the school year.
After little news from either side over the summer, Minister of Education Peter Fassbender issued a statement on Thursday, August 28th, saying he had urged union president Jim Iker and the employers lead negotiator Peter Cameron to get into mediation as soon as possible.
On Saturday, mediator Vince Ready the parties were still too far apart for mediation, but Fassbender issued another statement saying Legislating and end to the dispute is the wrong thing to do.
As hard as it is, we have to stand firm and hope the union leadership comes around to getting serious about negotiating a fair agreement, said Fassbender in the statement.
However on Sunday, the BC Teachers Federation issued a statement saying Iker was calling upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a fair settlement before September 2. The statement says the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million over the weekend in talks with Ready, but the BC Public School Employers Association did not bring anything to the table.
Furthermore, the government is demanding a court case escape clause that would in effect nullify two class size and composition wins in the BC Supreme Court and any future decision in teachers favour, says the statement.
The BCTF recently put out ads saying the heart of the dispute is the need for a strong public education system that works for every student, and the government is refusing to invest what is needed. The ad campaign asks parents and the public to reach out to Premier Clark and Fassbender and tell them to negotiate with the teachers union. The BC Federation of Labour has also taken out radio ads urging the government to negotiate class size and composition.
Parents can get $40/day/child
Parents of public school students 12 years old and under can register at http://bcparentinfo.ca/ to receive $40 per student for each day school is not in session due to the ongoing labour disruption in B.C. public schools.
The Temporary Education Support for Parents (TESP) program is intended to help parents with the added cost of learning and supervision for the duration of the labour disruption.
Parents and primary caregivers are eligible to apply. Primary caregivers can include step-parents, legal guardians, foster parents, host parents for international students, caregivers with temporary custody arrangements, and family members who normally care for the student, such as grandparents.
To register parents and primary caregivers will need to provide the name, address, date of birth, school district number and school for each eligible student.
Payment will be made by cheque in a single payment mailed to the address provided during registration. Most payments will be processed within 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends. Payments for students attending kindergarten, and for students who are new to B.C. public schools, will also be made after the labour disruption ends, once enrolment for the current school year can be confirmed.
Eligible parents will have four months from the end of the month in which the labour disruption is settled to register for the temporary education support. No new registrations will be accepted after this date.
For those without access to a computer, registration by paper form is also available by calling 1 877 387-3332 or 250 387-3332.
The payment is not taxable and will not affect provincial and federal tax credits and benefits such as the new BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit, BC Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit, Sales Tax Credit or the federal Canada Child Tax Benefit or GST credit.
The payment will not impact other provincial support assistance such as income or disability assistance, child care subsidy, subsidized housing, MSP subsidies, or Fair Pharmacare.