COLUMN: Taxpayers deserve better treatment

NANAIMO: Parents becoming fed up with public school system.

It seems like every day I meet more parents who are fed up with our public school system and with organizations like the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

I have a daughter in high school with just three years left before she graduates. She goes to a good school staffed by teachers and support staff I’ve found to be consistently dedicated and professional. But if I had the income, I have to say I’d seriously consider sending her to a private school.

Like most parents, I can’t afford that, but then again I shouldn’t even have to be considering it. I, and every other taxpayer in the province, whether they have kids or not, pays for – and therefore rightfully expects to have – a properly functioning education system.

We pay through the nose for services we’ve entrusted the government and the people it employs on our behalf to provide, but each year the quality of services and programs are further diluted or are eliminated altogether.

Now, before readers pick up their phones to give me an earful or boot up their laptops to post nasty comments about my opinion, let me make it clear the intention of this column isn’t to exclusively bash teachers, the government or anyone of any political or ideological persuasion.

The dispute between the BCTF and government just happens to be the issue I’m focusing on for the purpose of this article. There are plenty of similar issues to go around, so everyone else who is currently demanding more money and benefits from taxpayers in exchange for equal or less production while supporting a labour organization, political party or private interest to further its agenda can consider  themselves equally bashed. OK, now you can start calling.

I’m fed up with hearing assurances from the BCTF and teachers associations that ongoing job action, threats of strikes and the stress and uncertainty perpetuated through these give-us-what-we-want-or-else tactics has the end goal of somehow benefitting our children. How many strikes and job actions – all usually blamed on whatever party has formed government at the time – have there been in the last 40 years?

Show me where any of this has improved B.C.’s education system for our children.

“It’s for the kids,” has become a slogan for the cynicism and frustration that is growing among parents and rising numbers of students over this ongoing squabble between government and the BCTF that is being dragged on by both sides to force the political agendas of the opposing parties and their supporters.

Both sides are a long way from being lily white in this mess and one thing that’s as sure as death and taxes is that when it ends, our public education system and our kids will be worse off than when it started.

As for the teachers … As in the case of my daughter’s school, there are many fantastic, dedicated people working in this school district. Some are even finding ways around job action directives, such as showing up as ‘invited guests’ to support their students at certain voluntary extracurricular functions.

For those who don’t want to? Fine. Don’t. I won’t be the one to tell people to perform work they’re not paid for. But they’d better be doing the job we are paying them and our government to do; provide the education system taxpayers – who are their actual employers – have paid for.

It’s high time British Columbians demanded full value for their money and demand a stop to the shameless waste of shovelling money into endless disputes and ever upward-spiralling wages and benefits costs.

Schools, hospitals, fire departments, highways, police departments and other publicly-funded facilities and agencies are the property of the people who pay for them and not the property of government and special interest groups.

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