When the school bells start ringing across the province next week, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming says he expects things to feel pretty familiar despite ongoing contract negotiations for teachers.
The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the province are in the midst of mediated talks to find a new deal after the old contract expired in June.
“Our government is respectful of the mediator’s wish to have a blackout around commentary in terms of what the content of those negotiations are right now,” Fleming said Wednesday. “We are continuing to hold to this compass of serving vulnerable students better in B.C.”
WATCH (Aired September 5, 2017): B.C. education minister on public education priorities
The possibility of a teachers strike is looming over the talks considering students were out of the classroom for weeks in 2014, the last time teachers hit the picket lines.
But Fleming pointed out it is an NDP government at the negotiating table this time around, not a B.C. Liberal one.
“We are prepared to take the time and exchange views and I think at the outset of negotiations, and it continues to be the same, that we have a lot of shared views with the B.C. Teachers Federation.”
Although Fleming is taking a positive tone, the BCTF have been using social media and ad space to launch preemptive strikes against the government.
The ad campaign has not deterred Fleming from being “hopeful and optimistic” that a deal can be reached.
The education minister also pointed out that in “conservative governments” in other provinces, there have been substantial cuts to the system.
“For parents, and I appreciate that as well, the Teachers Federation has said school will start normally, there will be no disruption,” Fleming said. “We are not in the same kind of strife you are starting to see in other jurisdictions in Canada.”
Aside from the ongoing labour dispute, Fleming is focusing on a new high school curriculum for grades 11 and 12. The curriculum moves away from traditional reliance on math and English skills and focuses on “real life skills.”