On day 19 of his 22-day marathon to protest Bill 22's impact on public education, North Vancouver teacher Ian Cunliffe came through Langley.
By the time he's done, he will have run about 1,000 kilometres through B.C. and said he's hearing stories from various districts about tough conditions.
"We've faced a decade of staggering sustained funding cuts," he told the Langley Advance.
"Kids in my classroom would have been better off 10 years ago," he added. "We've been holding the system together with goodwill and duct tape."
Cunliffe said the government is saving money in the short term but this will have an impact on the future when the students grow up. He's urging parents and others to be more vocal about the importance of public education.
"The government has done a good job of framing this as 'just a labour dispute - pay no attention'," he said.
Cunliffe met with Langley, Surrey and Abbotsford teachers Aug. 28.
Langley Teachers' Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello noted that Bill 22's effects in the classroom will be immediate.
"They're going to notice this September," Chaddock-Costello said. "Large classrooms with challenging compositions are going to be the norm this year."
Education Minister George Abbott held a press conference Tuesday to talk about the start of the new school year. He expects a quiet school year and extracurricular activities to resume since teachers have a collective agreement in place.
"I'm pretty confident it will be a good school year in terms of labour relations," Abbott said.
Negotiations resume in the spring because the deal, retroactive to July 1, 2010, expires June 30, 2013.
Abbott said literacy will be a key focus for B.C. education but Cunliffe noted that many districts around the province have had to cut their library resources and hours.
Chaddock-Costello said that imposed contract strips teachers' ability to question the composition of classrooms and only limits class sizes from kindergarten to Grade 3.
Chaddock-Costello and Cunliffe reject the notion that belt tightening is required in the current economic climate. Chaddock-Costello said B.C. is in the best financial situation in all of Canada and the provincial government opted to pay the HST repayment to the federal government in one year despite having three years to do it.
"It's a sham budget," she said. "There is money in B.C."
The big salaries and spending controversies for senior bureaucrats, ICBC management, Community Living BC and others show that there is money, she added.
She forecasts that in 2013, the B.C. Liberals will find extra money, right before the election.
@ Copyright 2013