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COMMENTARY · 15th April 2011
Robin Austin
The true character of Premier Christy Clark was revealed by the B.C. Supreme Court this week with a ruling that showed that the B.C. Liberals broke the law when they stripped teachers of their right to fight for better classroom conditions for children.

This illegal legislation that Christy Clark supported hurt our children, by increasing average class sizes, and reducing the number of supports for students like ESL assistants, teaching-librarians, and special needs aides in our schools.

Christy Clark, who was education minister at the time, told parents that the legislation was intended to give them more choice, but the courts found that the biggest reason that the B.C. Liberals passed the legislation was so that they could cut money from classrooms. The evidence presented in the Supreme Court shows that far from putting families first, the illegal legislation that Ms. Clark strongly supported put cuts before kids.

Instead of working with teachers to reduce class sizes and increase supports for children, Ms. Clark supported illegal actions that were aimed at cutting the education budget. What's worse, is that she told parents one thing, and did another.

Christy Clark claims parents supported her actions, but the Supreme Court ruling shows that Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal government misled parents. The Judge who struck down the law even went so far as to say that as far as the B.C. Liberal government's evidence was so poor that "it would be unfair to give it any weight for the truth of its contents."

This ruling shows that Christy Clark was more interested in slashing education funding than ensuring our children get the best education available. We live in a time when it is more important than ever for our children to have access to high-quality public education in order to ensure that they will be able to meet the continuing challenges of an ever-changing and interconnected global economy. Our children deserve to have access to the best education we can give them, and our society needs our children to be prepared for the challenges of this century.

New Democrats understand the important role that education plays in the lives of families and children. Christy Clark talks about putting 'families first' but actions speak much louder than words. By fighting against teachers who wanted to ensure that our children get the best education possible, and misleading parents while doing it, she showed that she can't be trusted to act in the best interests of our children.

This shouldn't be surprising. Ms. Clark was the education minister who created the funding problems that school districts have today. School districts budgets used to be set more realistically, based on the costs that they had to cover. Ms. Clark changed it to an arbitrary formula which fails to ensure schools are given the basic, core funding they need to deliver services. That is why year after year school districts are making cuts.

Budget pressure makes it more difficult for school districts to adapt easily to changing times, conditions and the needs of parents. For example, there is a lot of demand for Chinese language programs in our schools, but many times school districts have to struggle to offer these programs despite the demand. It is difficult to add new programs, even very popular programs if schools are trying very hard to find ways to deliver core services.

Ms. Clark needs to take immediate action to act in compliance with the law and the B.C. Supreme Court judgement, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because the education of our children is hanging in the balance. If Ms. Clark chooses to fight with teachers instead of acting in the best needs of our children, parents will be certain that her talk of putting "families first" was nothing but more empty B.C. Liberal rhetoric.

By Robin Austin