Dear Christy Clark

Dear Christy Clark,

My name is Chris.  I teach at Tamanawis Secondary in Surrey.  I love my job, but I am angry.  Let me tell you why.

Some background: when I last worked in the private sector, in 1998, I worked for a forestry contractor and made $5,500 a month, working 12-hour days, and E.I. for a few months in the off-season. When I started teaching, I made $2,400 a month, working 12-hour days, and was laid off in the summer.

I didn’t become a teacher to get rich.  I became a teacher because I love kids and I love teaching.

Since 1998, the time I devote to voluntary activities to help kids and school– above and beyond what I am paid to do– has increased.  Same goes for my colleagues.  I run our school’s Gay/Straight Alliance and our Poetry Slam Club, I sit on Staff Committee, I train languages teachers in comprehensible input methodology, and I am a Union rep. My workday– now that I have been doing this for fourteen years, and have some of my lessons figured out– is, for half the year, about eight hours long, and for the other half about eleven. I am marking, answering email, planning, collaborating, and helping kids, sometimes at nine o’clock in the evening. I do this because it’s what needs to happen to make a classroom and a school run.

But you know what?  My workload pales in comparison to other teachers’.  Our coaches regularly work sixty hour weeks when teams are in full swing. Our music, dance, drama, art, Advanced Placement and special-needs teachers are often at work ninety minutes before the bell, and here as late as 9:00 PM. These people– who have partners and kids– are busting a gut, day in and day out, so our kids can learn the skills that fine arts and sports and political activism teach: that community empowers us, that working together– with instruments, voices, lab partners or team-mates– is what people do, that kids can make a difference, and that we can make something worthwhile and beautiful and successful together.  My admin are no different.  I can send and receive email at eight o’clock on a Thursday– or Sunday– evening, and I’ll get a response.  From newest teacher to Principal, our staff is working all the time.

And you know what? I don’t know a single teacher who complains about the workload. We do what we do because, at the end of the day, we want to share our passions and knowledge with B.C.’s future citizens.

And we succeed.  Recent graduate Missy Martin, after networking with banks, businesses, families and elementary schools, delivered hundreds of care packages to Downtown East Side people– the same ones your party threw onto the street after 2001, Ms Clark.  Sofia Walia has become one of the first Indo-Canadian athletes to play elite-level field-hockey at the Junior and Senior national level and now plays for Rutgers.  Tamanawis Calculus teacher Suminder Singh’s student Sargun Bajaj received a perfect score on the international Calculus exam; one of six scores in the world.  And the rest of his class was not far behind.  I could go on.  Any B.C. teacher could go on, because B.C. teachers– like teachers anywhere— want to see our awesome kids excel.

Do you think, Ms Clark, that what these young people accomplished happened during class time?  Can you imagine a calculus teacher, who is preparing students for an international test, finishing work at 3:15 pm?  Does hockey training end when the bell goes…or does it start?

I enjoyed becoming a B.C. teacher in 1998 and I’ve continued to love my job. But things have gotten more difficult–much more difficult– over the last fourteen years.  And in large part, Ms Clark, that’s because of you.

From 1998 until 2014, B.C.’s consumer price index went up by about 36%, while my wages went up by about 22%.  During this period, my workload increased. From 24 kids in an English class to 30, to online reporting, to the introduction of email, to a steadily increasing number of special-needs kids and a steady decline in the number of librarians and special-ed teachers and assistants, the workload has grown.  In other words, I do more work for 10% or so less money.

Meanwhile, Provincial MLAs from 2006-2008 got increases of 20% over two years, while then-Premier Gordon Campbell got a 35% raise in one year.  MLAs have seen raises of about 50% over the last 14 years, while senior bureaucrats have seen double-digit increases in some cases in one year.  Ms Clark, you make about $190,000 a year, but you made a bunch less in 2002 when you were Minister of Education.  Would you have opted for the Premier’s job if you had been told that you’d receive a wage cut in exchange for doing more work? 

In 2001, when your party was elected, the biggest resource boom in thirty years was getting underway.  Oil, lumber and natural gas prices were rising.  B.C. was in a position to benefit…but the governing party cut both income and corporate taxes.  The top five or so per cent of B.C. taxpayers saw savings of $40,000 a year; the rest of us much, much less.  In 2002, my own M.S.P. premium went up exactly as much as my tax bill went down.  The Liberals also invested massive sums in the Olympics, in highway infrastructure, and in a B.C. Place roof, among others.  The commodity boom, and the massive cuts in income and coporate taxes, plus low post-9/11 interest rates, resulted in a property boom, which disproportionately benefited the wealthiest and made life much more difficult for poorer people.  Have you ever tried to live in Vancouver on $20,000 a year, Ms Clark?

Not only did the government cut taxes, it also cut expenditures, mainly by sidelining unions, cutting parks programs and maintenance, delaying raising the minimum wage, throwing people with mental challenges onto the street, kicking people off welfare, and so on.

The results– outside of education– have been, well, less than spectacular, especially if you aren’t rich.  B.C. has a chronic nursing shortage.  One in six B.C. children lives in poverty.  Income inequality and homelessness, by any measure, have risen.  Post-secondary costs are through the roof.  The worst thing, Ms Clark, is that B.C. is not a poor province.

In 2002, a lawyer friend married to a banker told me that her and her husband’s tax cuts, for that year alone, were worth about $90,000.  With those, they put down payments on two new Jaguars, and, the following year, on a Whistler condo.  In 2002, another friend– who taught E.S.L. in a public school, to recent-immigrant kids, in Richmond– was laid off.  Nobody begrudges people their luxuries, but you don’t have to look very hard to see who gained and who lost as a result of Liberal tax policy.

In education, the problems have grown.  (For now, let’s ignore the illegality of government contract-stripping, Court-declared bad-faith bargaining, and the subsidisation of private schools, to name just a few…but you can read an independent analysis of how duplicitous your government has been here.)

Let’s just focus on the in-class facts, Ms Clark.  B.C. has lost about 1,500 librarians,  special-needs teachers and counselors in the last 12 years.  When the government was ordered by the Courts to restore some of this funding,  through the “Learning Improvement Fund,” only about 1 in 10 positions was restored.  Class sizes, by any estimation, are up.  When the BCTF and the government dispute class sizes and student-teacher ratios, the discrepancies are easy to explain:

  • the government counts every person with a teaching license, including administrators, superintendents, etc,  in their teacher counts.
  • the BCTF counts only teachers who have regular contact with kids: classroom teachers, counsellors, librarians and special-needs teachers.

In B.C., the average class has three more students per class, or twenty-one more students during the year, than in Alberta.  If it takes, say, ten minutes per week of marking per student– and that’s conservative, as any English or Math teacher will tell you– B.C. teachers have three more hours of work outside of class than do their Alberta counterparts.  On top of this, B.C. teachers also have an average of 200 minutes per week of preparation time, half of what Alberta and Ontario teachers get.  Ok…more work, less time.  Is there any salary compensation to make up for that?  No…B.C. teachers are now near the bottom of the pay scale nationally.

In terms of funding, B.C. spends about $1,000 a year per student less than other provinces.  This is showing up not only in a lack of special ed funding, library books, etc, but also in terms of poor infrastructure maintenance (my own school building turns 20 this year and has never had the full-building makeover its architects deemed necessary).  You can blow off the painting, the steam cleaning and the heating-duct scrubs…but when they do need doing– and they will– the bill is always higher for maintenance delayed.  And guess where the money will come from?  That’s right– classroom services.  Maintenance issues aren’t even an ideological question, Ms Clark.  They are one of simple economics:  pay and maintain now, good deal; defer and fix later, more expensive.

So, Ms Clark, why am I angry as hell?

I am angry because I cannot spend enough time with special-needs kids, or send them to specialists who can help them.

I am angry because there aren’t enough counsellors in our school– 1500 kids and 3 counsellors– to help the kids with family or social stress.

I am angry because I live in one of Canada’s richest provinces and yet one in six kids is poor and because poverty has only negative impacts on kids and their education.

I am angry because lots of schools no longer have enough librarian time to help kids with the free voluntary reading so crucial to autonomous literacy.

I am angry, Ms Clark, because your government has forced my well-meaning administrators and school board trustees to choose what to cut.

I am angry because when you visit schools, you visit private schools like St George’s (where your son is enrolled), and not public schools, where you might atually see the problems your policies have caused.  Ms Clark, did you enroll your son in St George’s because it has classes of 30+ kids, many of whom are special needs, and/or E.S.L., or because you didn’t want him in such classes?

I am angry because, Ms Clark, as the Courts have found, your government has repeatedly lied to and cheated both B.C. taxpayers and the B.C. Teacher’s Federation.

I am angry because the Liberal government refuses to bargain meaningfully.  Your Minister Factbender’s repeated assertions that the BCTF’s position has not changed are flat-out lies; beyond abandoning your ludicrous (and unanaimously-panned) ten year deal, B.C.P.S.E.A. has made no real changes to your position, even while lead negotiator Peter Cameron makes $225/hr for repeating himself and not moving negotiations forward.

I am angry because the Liberal Lockout interferes with my students’ end-of-year education, and my salary, to no meaningful end.   My colleagues and I would rather be helping our kids at lunch than standing outside my building.  I do all the work I am contractually obligated to do, yet the Government refuses me some of my wages.  And for what?

I am angry because my Social Justice 12 students whose Action projects– volunteering with the homeless, and in women’s shelters and food banks, and at Sikh food charities– have been selflessly done to benefit other people but they may not have the chance to present or receive credit for these projects.  And how many other end-of-year projects– theatre productions, graduations, art shows, film screenings– will your government cancel as part of its “lockout?”

I am angry because I am expected to do more work, with fewer resources, for less money, than I did fourteen years ago, while you and other politicians have seen double-digit raises.  While I don’t want to be rich, I would appreciate if I didn’t lose salary to inflation every year.

So there, in case you’re unaware, you have it.  I don’t really enjoy feeling this way.  But I do.  Because of you.  And I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings.


Yours Truly,


Chris Stolz



  1. it is so true but I have to make a correction on one of your comments, Gordon Campbell ( & I hate to use capital letters when I use his name ) He gave his Liberal leaders up to 35 % increase in wages BUT he gave himself a 54% … if only more people of B.C. & Canada were aware of what this lying Liberal Party is doing to our Province . Even the Seniors are suffering ! ! ! They care only of themselves …

  2. I am sorry but I do feel you are complaining, I do support the teachers to a degree, Christy Clark can do better for you, but you can do better to the children and not stop their year end activities. As for you teachers you choose to do out side activities with the kids and I am thankful for that, if you like doing it stop complaining that you don’t get paid enough. Don’t tell me you don’t get paid for 12 months because I know teachers that budget it to 12 months and live quite well, and I believe you make more than you say, think of daycare providers they make next to nothing have to put in lots of prep work and don’t get paid for it, plus they have a lot of regulations they have to follow from the government or they get their fingers slapped. Think of the people that bag your groceries or the waitress that waits on you, and all these people listen to other people treat them terribly some times. Stop crying take what’s on the table and get your union to listen to you teachers and make a solid contract for every two year with wage increases. Take a look at your Union leaders and see how much money they make maybe they can give up some of their high wages for you hard working teachers that deserve it, I agree with class sizes being smaller because children are different than when I grew up, and some parents want you to raise their child for them and I know this from running my own group daycare of 72 children. Chin up and start looking in a direction that you can win with, not all with Christy Clark and I do think Christy Clark needs to start thinking of children.

    1. Hi Kathy–

      Thank you for writing. I appreciate your time. If you have 72 kids in a daycare, wow, that’s hands-full for sure!

      Just to clarify one thing: in terms of you suggesting the teacher’s union make “a two year contract with wage increases,” the primary issue is not wages (although my colleagues and I would like to have cost-of-living increases). The main issue, really, is class composition and size. This means (a) how many special-needs kids can be in a class and (b) how many kids TOTAL can be in a class. There has been lawfully-negotiated language in the collective agreement between Union and Province about this for many years; in 1998 teachers actually gave up salary increases to have fewer special needs kids per class (or more special-ed teachers, which is pretty much the same thing).

      The contract language was stripped by the Liberals in 2002. When the Court found that illegal, they basically re-wrote the same bill with the same stripping. When THAT was found illegal AGAIN, they appealed.

      Class size and composition are big concerns for teachers and we are hoping that the government will allow us the funding to make classes workable for us and for kids.

      1. Class size and composition and anecdotal evidence have become the siren cry that is supposed to cover the fact the teachers are reluctant to move to a balanced school year (which is proven to increase outcomes in education) because they WANT 8 weeks in the summer. And they want to complain they don’t get paid, which I just don’t buy either. No one else I know gets 8 weeks off every summer. I make what a starting teacher makes but without all the extra benefits they get and I don’t get 14 weeks off a year. And I have yet to meet a teacher who works the 600 hours of over time that would put them at my yearly work hours – where I work in the public, for the disenfranchised, for community children and for the good of the community. With difficult people mentally ill, drunks, and so much more. I would like help in my work place too – unfortunately, it’s called security.

        Class size is not as big an issue as teachers make it out to be, social science is not on their side on this issue. 25 in a class – be grateful some of them are good – they are from the middle classes where your tutelage is a booster to the informed life of their home life. Focus on the disenfranchised, trust me, my kids won’t mind. They learn at home too and don’t need your extra attention. and they certainly don’t need a field trip every other week – try a walk around the school yard, it might help some of the more active and attention seeking members of your class.

        PS I too have more education than I did a decade ago, do similar work and get paid less – it’s called reality – and like you, have 6 – 7 years of advanced education. Zero % budgets are the new norm. More education generally means a moderate salary in our world. Get used to it – I have spent 60-70 education myself over my lifetime to achieve the job I wanted – oh wait, and I don’t get professional days. My son’s teacher didn’t even understand basic oral to narrative language transitions until she took a pro d session last year, I nearly choked when I heard raving about this new technique (um Vygotsky anyone?)

        Literacy is important, education is important yet your salary and 14 weeks off every year is not important to me. And for the record, your own ministry states that starting salaries are $49,000 PLUS you get a lot of benefits – sick time? Extended medical? Pension contributions from the province?

      2. Hi Julie–

        Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am not complaining about my wages. Regarding class size, and composition, the research is basically unanaimous: bigger (and too many special-needs kids) is worse. Minister Factbender’s studies cherry-pick data. Here is a summary of the research, collated by Surrey teacher Michelle Marie. This is good stuff– peer-reviewed, data-driven, etc. What do you think?

        “Research published by Oxford University states that “reducing class size induces a significant and substantial increase in test scores” for the 4th and 5th graders in the study. (Angrist and Lavy, 1999)

        Harvard University published a paper that showed that smaller class sizes have impacts beyond test scores. For eighth grade students across the United States, lower class sizes correlated with higher levels of student engagement. This effect was still evident 2 years later. (Dee and West, 2011)

        A team from the University of Notre Dame in Australia reviewed the current academic research on class size and educational outcomes. The paper concludes: “There is a general belief that small classes increase student academic performance… This is a strong statement to make. However it is supported by both a careful and accurate interpretation of research results.” (Watson, 2013)”


        from: Watson et al. (2013). Globalizing the Class Size Debate: Myths and Realities, Journal of International and Comparative Education, 2(2), 83-85.

        Achilles, C. M., Nye, B. A., Zaharias, J. B., & Fulton, B. D. (1993). The Lasting Benefits Study (LBS) in grades 4 and 5 (1990-1991): A legacy from Tennessee’s four-year (K-3) class-size study (1985-1989), Project Star, North Carolina Association for Research in Education, Greensboro, North Carolina.

        Bascia, N., Connelly, C., Flessa, J., & Mascall, B. (2010). Ontario’s Primary Class Size Reduction Initiative: Report on Early Implementation. Canadian Education Association.

        Bascia, N., & Fredua-Kwarteng, E. (2008). Class size reduction: What the literature suggests about what works. Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1-32. Available at [Accessed on 2 July 2013].

        Betts, J. R., & Shkolnic, J. L. (1999). The Behavioural Effects of Variations in Class Size: The Case of Math Teachers, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 193-214.

        Blatchford, P., Goldstein, H., & Mortimore, P. (1998). Research on class size effects: A critique of methods and a way forward, International Journal of Educational Research, 29, 691-710.

        Blatchford, P., Baines, E., Kutnick, P., & Martin, C. (2001). Classroom contexts: Connections between class size and within class grouping. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, 283–302.

        Blatchford, P., Goldstein, H., Martin, C., & Browne, W. (2002). A study of class size effects in English school reception year classes. British Educational Research Journal, 28(2), 167-185.

        Blatchford, P., Russell, A., Bassett, P., Brown, P., & Martin, C. (2007). The effect of class size on the teaching of pupils aged 7-11 years. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 18(2), 147-172.

        Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., & Brown, P. (2008). Do low attaining and younger students benefit most from small classes? Results from a systematic observation study of class size effects on pupil classroom engagement and teacher pupil interaction. New York: American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, 1-29.

        Casbon, C., DeMeester, K. & Nalley, D. (Ed.) (2002). Class Size Reduction. The Regional Educational Laboratory at SERVE. SERVE: North Carolina.

        Cho, H., Glewee, P., & Whitler, M. (2010). Do reductions in class size raise students’ test score? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota’s elementary schools. Available at [Accessed on 2 July 2013].

        Cho, H., Glewwe, P., Whitler, M. (2012). Do reductions in class size raise students’ test scores? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota’s elementary schools. Economics of Education Review, (31) 3, 77-95.

        Dee, T. S., & West, M. R. (2011). The non-cognitive returns to class size. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(1), 23-46.

        Education Commission of the States. (2005). State Class-Size Reduction Measures. Denver, Colorado: Education Commission of the States.

        Finn, J. D., & Achilles, C. M. (1990). Answers and questions about class size: A statewide experiment. American Educational Research Journal, 27(3), 557-577.

        Finn, J. D., & Achilles, C. M. (1999). Tennessee’s class size study: Findings, implications, misconceptions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 97-109.

        Funkhouser, E. (2009). The effect of kindergarten classroom size reduction on second grade achievement: Evidence from California. Economics of Education Review, 28(3), 403-414.

        Galton, M. & Pell, T. (2012). Longitudinal effects of class size reductions on attainment: Results from Hong Kong primary classrooms. International Journal of Educational Research, 53, 360–369.

        Graue, M. E., & Oen, D. (2009). You just feed them with a long-handled spoon: Families evaluate their experiences in a class size reduction reform. Educational Policy, 23(5), 685-713.

        Grissmer, D.W. (1999). Class Size Effects: Assessing the Evidence, Its Policy Implications, and Future Research Agenda, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 231-248.

        Hanushek, E. A. (1989). Expenditures, Efficiency, and Equity in Education: The Federal Government’s Role, American Economic Review, 79(2), 46-51.

        Hanushek, E. A. (1996). A more complete picture of school resource policies, Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 397-409.

        Hanushek, E.A. (1998). The evidence on class size. Public Testimony, Washington, DC.

        Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.

        Hedges, L. V., Laine, R., & Greenwald, R. (1994). Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Student Outcomes, Educational Researcher, 23(3), 5-14.

        Hoxby, C. (2000). The effects of class size on student achievement: new evidence from population variation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(4): 1239–1285.

        Jepsen, C., & Rivkin, S. (2009). Class size reduction and student achievement: The potential tradeoff between teacher quality and class size. Journal of Human Resources, 44(1), 223-250.

        Konstantopoulos, S. (2009). Effects of teachers on minority and disadvantaged students’ achievement in the early grades, Elementary School Journal, 110(1), 92-113.

        Konstantopoulos, S. & Chung, V. (2009). What are long-term effects of smaller classes on the achievement gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study. American Journal of Education, 116(1), 125-154.

        Krueger, A. B. (1999). Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(2), 497-532.

        Krueger, A. B., & Whitmore, D. M. (2002). Would smaller classes help close the black white achievement gap? In J.E. Chubb & T. Loveless (Eds.), Bridging the achievement gap. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press. Lankford, pp. 11-46

        Maasoumi, E., Millimet, D. L., & Rangapprasad, V. (2005). Class size and educational policy: Who benefits from smaller classes? Southern Methodist University. Available at [Accessed on 2 July 2013].

        Milesi, C. & Gramoran, A. (2006). Effects of class size and instruction on kindergarten achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(4), 287-313.

        Mitchell, D. E., & Mitchell, R. E. (1999). The impact of California’s Class Size Reduction initiative on student achievement: Detailed findings from eight school districts, California Educational Research Cooperative, University of California, Riverside: CA.

        Molnar, A., Smith, P., & Zahorik, J. (2000). 1999-2000 Evaluation Results of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) Program. Milwaukee, WI: Centre for Urban Initiatives and Research, University of Wisconsin

        Molnar, A., Smith, P., Zahorik, J., Palmer, A., Halbach, A., & Ehrle, K. (1999). Evaluating the SAGE program: A pilot program in targeted pupil-teachers reduction in Wisconsin, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 167-177.

        Molnar, A., Percy, S., Smith, P., & Zahorik, J. (1998). 1997-98 Results of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) Program. Milwaukee, WI: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

        Mosteller, F. (1995) The Tennessee Study of Class Size in the Early School Grades, The Future of Children, 5(2), 113-127.

        Nye, B. A., Hedges, L. V., & Konstantopoulos, S. (1999). The long-term effects of small classes: A five-year follow-up of the Tennessee class size experiment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 127-142.

        Prais, S. J. (1996). Class size and learning: The Tennessee experiment – what follows? Oxford Review of Education, 22(4), 399-414.

        Pritchard, I. (1999). Reducing Class Size, What Do We Know? Available at Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. [Accessed on 2 July 2013].

        Schanzenbach, D. W. (2007). What have we learned from Project STAR? Brookings Papers on Education Policy, 205-208. Available at [Accessed on 2 July 2013]

        Scudder, D. F. (2002). An evaluation of the Federal class size reduction program in Wake County, North Carolina –1999-2000. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, April 1-5.

        Snook, I., Clark, J., Harker, R., O’Neill A., & O’Neill, J. (2009). Invisible Learnings? A commentary on John Hattie’s “Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement”. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 44(1), 93-106.

        Stecher, B. M., McCaffrey, D. M., & Burroughs, D. (1999). Achievement. In G. W. Bohrnstedt & B. M. Stecher (Eds.). Class size reduction in California: Early evaluation findings, 1996–1998. Palo Alto, CA: CSR Research Consortium.

        Stecher, B. M., & Borhnstedt, G. W. (2000). Class size reductions in California: The 1998-99 evaluation findings. Sacramento, California: California Department of Education.

        Stecher, B. M., McCaffrey, D. F., Burroughs, D. Wiley, E., & Bohrnstedt, G. W. (2000). Achievement. In B. M. Stecher & G. W. Bohrnstedt (Eds.) Class size reduction in California: The 1998-99 evaluation findings. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.

        Stecher, B. M., McCaffrey, D.F., & Bugliari, D. (2003). The relationship between exposure to class size reduction and student achievement in California. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11(40), 1-26.

        Woßmann, L., & West, M. (2006). Class-size Effects in School Systems around the World: Evidence from Between-grade Variation in TIMSS. European Economic Review, 50, 695–736.

        Word, E., Johnston, J., Pate-Bain, H., Fulton, B. D., Zaharias, J. B., Achilles, C. M., Lintz, M. N., Folgar, J., & Breda, C. (1990). Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR): Tennessee’s K 3 Class-size Study. Nashville, TN: Tennessee State Department of Education.

    2. It is insulting and disappointing that some people can compare teachers to daycare providers, waitresses, and the “people that bag your groceries”. I am not being disrespectful to grocery baggers, since I literally used to work as a grocery bagger just last year, but I would like to assert that teachers are MUCH more important than any of the professions you listed. Kids spend nearly one-third of their waking hours with teachers during the school year, so it is, in a sense, the case that teachers are kids’ other “parents”. It is unfair to tell teachers to “Stop crying and take what’s on the table”–You’re entitled to your opinion, but if you truly think that’s the solution, I’ll let you know that this overly simple solution has clearly been rejected.

  3. Dear Chris,

    I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree and have a job at a bank. I started at $20,800/yr and after 2 1/2 years now make $24,960. I hope one day to make it to bank manager. They make on average $67,000/yr. I work my but off to work my way up the ladder, 12 hour days, 50 weeks of the year. Yes thats right I get only 2 weeks of paid holiday. And maybe when I make it to bank manager I’ll get 3 weeks paid holidays. Unlike teachers. Their salaries in Canada* in 2013/2014 ranged from $41,451/yr – $114,744/yr for an average of $70,000/yr and they get roughly 3 months off at summer, 2 weeks off at Christmas, 2 weeks off at Easter for a total of 4 months of paid holidays per year. For teachers to say they are “laid off in the summer” is misleading as that is simply a choice of theirs how many months they wish their pay to be spread out. It does not affect the annual figure. Whether they get $8750/mo over 8 months or $5800/mo over twelve months that is their choice.

    So I’m sorry i find it very difficult to sympathize with teachers claims of being overworked and underpaid. We had kids in the public school system and what the teachers call 12 hour days looked a lot more like 7 hour days. It was rare to see a teacher in before 8:30am and the hallways were empty by 3:30. There were some good teachers but for the most part the rest were going through the motions, reusing notes and overheads from years past that were beyond dated. If they actually did put in an extra 1-4 hours/day (to make 8-12 hour days they claim they work) then their lesson plans could be up-to-date and practical. But sadly this is not the case. Most teachers are content with their 7 hour days , 8 months of the year and feel this justifies their handsome salaries. In fact they want a raise. I think these teachers need to spend a little time in the real world working a regular 8-12 hour a day job with 2 weeks of holidays a year and lower pay, so they can make an informed complaint and stop embarrassing themselves with continued claims of hardship!!!!!

    And to use the kids as pawns is beyond understanding. The public education system is broken, the kids have been forgotten and the teachers are out of touch with reality. Hopefully the government can work to make private schools more accessible to all!!!

    *Source BCTF:

    1. Geena, thanks for your reality check, some teachers and the BCTF act like the rest of the world is at Club Med all the while making Millions. I have no pension, no sick days with pay, no paid days if someone dies, no 4 months off a year. Teachers also have the option to get a job through the summer and subsidize their income. If teachers and the BCTF are so concerned with kids then get back to work and settle this in the summer. Or would that cut into their beach time? This Union fights with every government in power, Liberals or NDP they don’t care. If you think you are over worked and under paid, start a business you will find out very quickly what you are really worth.

      1. Hi Mandy–

        Thank you for your thoughtful and informed comments.

        Two corrections: the teacher “workyear” is 9.25 months, at about 9.5 hours/day…as noted in another comment, teacher workloads are very similar to other professions.

        A majority of first and second-year teachers do work during summers, because the pay ($40,000 or so to start) plus student loans (typically six years for a Uni degree plus teaching degree) make it impossible to live on beginning salary. More experienced teachers also typically have summer Pro-D. Many beginning teachers also don’t get full-time work. A staggering number are on teacher-on-call duty (irregular hours, lower pay) or stitching together part-time work.

      2. In your world you would eventually be competing with third world standards of pay, vacation and benefits, (or lack of). In the past 20 years unions have declined and pay has matched this hand in hand. If you don’t support better circumstances you and your family will be working a sixty hour, six day week for the same pay. Be careful on what you think is fare and how many people are going to have to work into there mid seventies to survive. The middle class In B,C. is in decline and our Canadian kids are moving to Alberta and other more lucrative locations in Canada because of the slant for low taxes for the corporate sector and low wages for public professionals. Good luck on the Asia/Canada life style… it is so wonderful to have so many poor born Canadians while rich immigrants drives up the cost of living and competition for education, housing and work in B.C.

    2. Geena, you’re going to tell me that you work 60hrs per week at the bank? And you mention a salary for those hours of work – do you also make commissions or bonuses?

      Additionally, teachers in BC work until the last Friday in June and return the very first week of September, which is typically 9 weeks in the summer, not 3 months. Also, not every district has a 2week spring break (though that was forced onto districts due to funding problems – they don’t have to pay support staff during those extra weeks so they save money).

      While teacher holidays are generous, it’s a perk that everyone is aware of and it is ridiculous to complain about. If being a teacher is so amazing, why don’t you become a teacher? Why toil everyday for the bank if they’re abusing you so badly?

      I also have a Bachelor of Commerce degree along with my B.Ed. I decided that devoting my life to working with teens was more important than fighting to make more money. I can tell you (without hesitation or question) that teaching is the most difficult job I have ever had and the time considerations during the year far out measure the summer off. If you think you can prepare lessons for young people that engage and result in learning with only an extra hour or two per day (let alone start marking and offering feedback, preparing reports, etc.), then you should try it.

      Become a teacher and show yourself how easy it is and how amazing the salary is.

      Last point: teachers want a raise. They do. That’s not unreasonable, since costs have increased steadily for a number of years and increases have been at zero for 4 yrs now. But MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, the teachers want the government to respect the system and properly fund education in BC. Allow supports for students that need them and specialist teachers that will give all BC students a chance to learn in an environment that is healthy with a government that respects the courts, the law, and the people.

      1. Well put, mrthompson21. I’m so tired of hearing people talk as if they KNOW what it’s like to be a teacher. Just because you’ve been a student in the past does not mean that you know what being a great teacher entails. Also, most teachers I know go back to work at least a week or two early to begin setting up their classroom and getting it ready for their new group of students, so really a teacher has about 1.5 months of summer vacation. That said, I don’t think people realize that teachers NEED those weeks of vacation to recharge themselves… teaching is both emotionally and mentally draining, seeing that teachers not only educate but also do a lot of what is normally categorized as “parenting” duties– they discipline, nurture, and counsel. IMHO if people had to step into the shoes of a teacher for a week, or even for only a day or two, they’d realize that the work that teachers do isn’t shown enough respect and goes far beyond what some people are capable of handling.

      2. @mrthompson21-well said!! To the point, clear and informative. My sentiments exactly. Kudos to you!!

    3. Hi Geena–

      Thank you for your detailed response.
      The teacher workyear technically is 9 1/4 months, not 8: summer is 2 months, X-mas & Spring Break 2 weeks each. Please note that the year used to be “longer:” Spring Break (in most BC districts) was extended to 2 weeks because of– yup– budget shortfalls. The Districts save money on heating, custodial, etc costs if they do the same amount of teaching in one week less. The time “lost” at Spring Break– by law; the School act specifies yearly and per-course hours of instruction– has been added “back” into the timetable in various forms in various districts.

      In terms of workload hours, the data (BCTF has info; there are also independent sources) suggests that the “typical teacher” day is 9.5 hours. This varies; mind: some people (e.g. the coaches at my school) put in MUCH more; some teachers do very little outside of class time; almost every teacher I know has extracurricular things going on. For a 9.25 months year, at 20 days/month, the “typical teacher is (by my calculation) doing 1760 hours of work which comes out to 220 8-hour days. Someone (a “typical earner”) who has put in 5-7 years in the private sector and gets 4 weeks/year off is putting in 240 days.

      These stats, however, are clouded by a few variables: the workload of beginner teachers (basically anyone in their first 5 years) is MUCH higher. There is also a lack of time– despite four teacher-directed professional-development days per year– to do the professional development one needs. Workshops often require 2-3 days– plus travel– and this has to take place during summertime. I could be miscalculating here but the difference between the “typical teacher” and the “typical earner” is probably somewhat less than 20 days/year.

      In terms of salary, I surveyed my friend circle. Included in this circle are an engineer, a couple of nurses, a nurse practitioner, a lawyer, an accountant, some teachers and some people in various business roles (marketing, etc). The pattern is clear: if you are in a profession, and you have 6-8 years of training, you are making around $70,000 and up a year after 3-5 years on the job. Everyone has an undergrad degree and then a professional year (or two, or three) on top of that. Teachers are in the low end of this: all have an undergrad degree, all have a teaching degree (1-2 years) and some have also done low-wage work overseas, or tutoring, etc, before getting into the public system. The main difference is, the private-sector people can– if they have more than an undergrad degree– make MUCH more than a teacher will ever hope to. Getting an M. Eng, a Master’s in Nursing (or in N.P.), an M.B.A., an accounting certification, a law degree, etc, provides a significant salary boost.

      I should be clear here: teachers are reasonably paid– I am not complaining– but I cannot see how the government’s policy of lowering our pay (as noted, CPI 1998-now = +36%; teacher wages 1998-now = +22% which equals a loss of 12-13%) is justified.

      In terms of workload, one of the issues on the table is the ratio of special-ed kids to regular kids, and also of special-ed teachers to regular teachers. To put into context how this plays out, imagine a class of 30 kids (which is pretty typical in my– and most– schools for the academics, like English, Math, sciences, History, languages, Geography, etc). In one hour and 15 minutes (one class), any kid without special needs will want– in my experience– two minutes for questions. Some examples would be “I don’t understand ____ in fractions” or “How come the Nazis invaded ____ before ____?” or “I don’t get how to make my thesis statement more specific.” To simply address those questions, plus setting up and debriefing a lesson, can take your entire 75 minutes. Now add in the ADHD kid– who will require 7-10 interventions per block– and the kid with the hearing challenge, and the kid who is experiencing severe home stress (and cannot concentrate because of lack of sleep) and the two E.S.L. kids who are keen but who have trouble reading informational text– and it can feel like there is no time, I mean literally no time to present the lesson, help kids, deal with the inevitable unpredictable stuff, etc.

      While there are loads of strategies for dealing with a lack of time– collaborative inquiry in various kinds, peer editing, peer-to-peer reading, etc– it becomes very challenging very quickly to meet everybody’s needs. What I find challenging is not just helping the high-needs kids, but also finding time for the so-called “average” kids, and the occasional gifted child. I guess the question is, what kind of class would a parent want their kid to be in?

      Your wish that private schools should be “more accessible to all” is interesting. Private schools (in B.C.) ARE accessible to all– by law; they cannot discriminate other than on mission-specific criteria (e.g. a school for kids of ____ religion can refuse admission to non-____ religion kids)– but “all” in a private school means all with money. The typical B.C. private school– and not just the super-elite ones like St George’s– has higher costs than does a public school. They have smaller classes, more staff, more specialists, more coaches, etc etc. If we wanted all our kids to have a private-school-like (or private school) experience, we would have to spend much more money…which brings us back to the present dispute between B.C. public-school teachers and the government.

      Anyway thank you very much for writing. I really do appreciate when people take the time to talk about B.C. education issues.

    4. I’m glad to be a tradesman. The rolls have turned. I make teachers’ wages based at normal 8 hour days, 5 days a week, no weekends. When I come home, I’m actually done with work, other than household chores. I get three weeks paid holidays a year. I feel for those that have to work a lot longer than me, and having to pay off study loans. It can’t be easy, certainly when being a parent.

    5. Your comments seem misguided as to salary and compensation for bank employees and teachers. I can say that I know bank employees who make more than you, and you can say that teachers make too much. That is not the point. When you go home from your 8 hour day, you are not taking at least 2 hours more work home with you. I wouldn’t think that you are at your child’s sport event counting money whereas I am often there marking papers. I haven’t ever had my bank manager pull me aside for 1/2 an hour and explain to me how my mortgage is calculated and then check with me the next day and the week after to make sure I understood it. How many times are you providing your own furniture such as bookshelves, office materials such as paper and pencils, and lunches to your employees or customers? This happens all the time to teachers. I know people can’t believe that at my school all the extras come out of the teacher’s own pocket. So, as much as I love teaching and the students and the colleagues, I cannot keep up to the needs of my students, and neither can my pocketbook. Another thing, we are paid for 20 days each month. Some months there are more workdays and some months less( but I know as a banker you know these things). So the time off during the year can be calculated to include days worked, as well as longer bell schedules. Its not all holidays!

    6. So I get four months off a year? And we average 70 000? You are dreaming! What bank pays you 20 000 a year to start for fifty hour work weeks with only two week vacations? I call b.s.!

    7. Geena,

      Your post is filled with disdain for teachers which shows an obvious bias to begin with. Teachers do not get three months off in the summer, perhaps you should consult a calendar before making “factual” statements. Teachers get more time off than most jobs however and you are correct on that point. Regarding the schools being empty before 8:30am and after 3:30pm I would find hard to believe. The halls may be empty as teachers are working in their classrooms so of course you wouldn’t see them. Other teachers may take their work home in order to see their own children before they go to bed and continue working hours in the evening, which is very common for teachers with younger children.

      I commend you for achieving a bachelors of commerce and that wage you started with is ridiculously unfair to someone with that level of education. I decided to do the math though, and if you work 12 hour days for 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year then you would work 3000hrs a year (60×50=3000) which would have started you at $6.93/hr. I then have to assume you are misremembering the numbers or were making commission on top of salary. I have friends who work in banks and started at the bottom and were paid far more than that to start. Regarding making it to bank manager and making $67000 with “maybe” 3 weeks holidays is quite off base as well. My mother in law is a bank manager and makes far more than that and enjoys nice benefits and double the vacation you seem you would be happy with. Your company sounds like they are taking advantage of you and perhaps you should be fighting for a better standard of living rather than bemoaning others who are trying to stand up for themselves.

      I wish you the best of luck with your career advancement.

    8. Geena, regarding the “3 months off in summer” — please don’t exaggerate to make your point. After the students finish classes in June, there is clean-up, organizing, etc. Teachers need to start the new school year in August in order to be prepared for Sept. opening of school. It would be closer to 7 weeks of time away from school.

  4. Read your letter to Christy and stumbled ontothe sources of oft quoted research. Un gros merci pour les bons mots et pour le beau surpris à la fin de ta lettre. Anne

  5. You said everything I think, feel and do. Thank you for your eloquent article and I hope more people read this informative piece.

  6. A well thought out and articulate letter. I agree with everything you have expressed here. I would like to think that Christy will read your letter but have my doubts she will. It is my belief she knows quite clearly what you have said here is true but it is easier to stick her head in the sand and continue her disrespectful behaviour. Unfortunately, there are those who get great enjoyment from demeaning and disrespecting others. I believe C.C. falls into this category.

  7. Get Real… None of us parents that are pissed off at the Teachers Union can say anything because we have kids in the middle. I do not want them to suffer because I start bad mouthing a Union that strong arms it members into unrealistic desires. Get your facts straight. Do you think we would have been better off with Adrian Dix? Of course not? What is the common denominator in the years and years of labor strife. The Teachers Union! If you don’t like it go back to your Forestry job… because you know what there are 2700+ teachers certified every year… that is more than 3 times the amount of jobs available. Really fed of up of the teacher love fest.

    Globe and Mail quote:

    “I can sympathize with teachers who believe they are falling further and further behind their colleagues in the rest of the country. But again, it’s fair to ask just how much they’re really suffering. Provincial data show that between 2001-02 and 2012-13, total compensation for teachers increased by 45.5 per cent to $88,695 from $60,695 (including benefits and employee pension contributions). Over that same period, B.C.’s inflation rate rose by 19.1 per cent.

    Average total compensation for a teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years’ experience is $100,939. And that, we don’t need to remind anyone, includes a pension plan that is becoming extinct in the private sector – not to mention summers off. Try convincing the public that compensation figure should be more than $120,000 in five years’ time. Tough sell.”

    1. Hi Jim–

      Thank you for submitting your thoughtful comments and the Mason link. I looked into it and Mason is wrong on his salary numbers.

      For one, the maximum a B.C. teacher can earn is $81,000/year. Most earn less– that number is for those with both a Master’s degree and at least 10 years’ service. The oft-quoted $81,000 figure includes superintendents, principals, and other non-teaching admin staff. Mason acknowledges his mistake.

      Second, for “total compensation” of ~$100,00 Mason is right but only if we include adminsitrators, etc…but much the same is true in the private sector. An employer is paying some pension and health care costs, sick days, etc as well. The employee you pay $30,000 actually costs you $35,000 (or whatever) when benefits etc are added in.

      Third, you comment on the question of teacher “oversupply.” Historically, Universities produce teachers in abundance because they are cheap: every student a Uni has enrolled gets X amount of $$ from the government. Teachers are cheap to train; engineers and scientists, with their labs and machines, are not; therefore teacher ed, so some extent, “subsidises” other programs. I don’t have the numbers on hand re: supply and demand. It is our experience in the system that “oversupply” is fairly subject-specific: we can never seem to find enough French, Spanish, physics, math and chem teachers, but English, bio and socials people seem in oversupply.

      Fourth, let’s take a look at your “supply” numbers. You say there are 2,700 teachers/year trained in B.C., which are,a ccording to you, three times the number necessary to fill vacancies. There are 41,000 B.C. teachers. Assuming a 30-year typical career, 1/30 of workforces retires per year. There will also be deaths, transitions into other fields, promotions to admin, etc, so attrition is likely between 3.3% and 6.6% of workforce per year. If we have a 4.95% attrition rate, we need about 2,030 teachers/year to maintain workforce. We are also on a slow growth phase– more kids– so that will mean more teachers hired every year. My guess is that– if your numbers are right– we are “overproducing” maybe 300-400 teachers/year. But also note that some of these people move, don’t work as teachers, or go into private systems, E.SL. schools, etc.

      1. Hi Chris,

        Love your article. If doctors argue for higher pay I think you can understand why they won’t receive public support – their pay is much higher than the average Canadian. While teachers are nowhere near doctors by salary, I think it is for the same reason why public support is hard to get on your side. At the end of the day, teachers make more than the average Canadian.

        I think both sides – teachers and government – are spinning the story. You have done great work outlining the government’s guilt. So for teachers – sometimes they downplay salary, as if class size and composition is more important. If this was true, I think teachers would receive overwhelming public support and the government’s hand would be forced to comply. But this would mean teachers removing their wage increase ask from the table, or simply ask for inflation increases.

        As for “total compensation”, remember that pension contribution alone is an additional ~15% on top of your salary ( In additional, I think it makes sense to ANNUALIZE salary by multiplying by 12/10 since teachers are only required to work 10 of 12 months per year.

        So your $84,627 salary becomes $97000 with employer pension contribution, becomes an annualized compensation of $116,000. That is without considering benefits apart from pension.

        If teachers *really* care about class size and composition then they should remove salary talk from the table, and with public support for this altruistic cause, get a deal done! The public supports this part I am sure, it is the salary boost that is a harder sell.

      2. Hi Mr C–

        Thank you for submitting good thoughtful comments. I for one find the class size and composition needs more important than salary. But I do not want to lose money. Under current Liberal scheme, we have had two years of zeros, with two more proposed. That will mean about a 6% wage decrease after inflation. No way is that acceptable or fair. I would HAPPILY settle for guaranteed C.O.L.A. and forgo other raises– but that’s just my view. My understanding of the current position of BCTF is that that is basically all they are asking for…but the Liberals often spin it as “unreasonable.” I don’t see how four years of zeros– what the Liberals want– is reasonable.

        Also please note that teachers HAVE traded wage increases for adjustments to class size and composition– this happened in 1998. I think we should remember that our working conditions are kids’ learning conditions. I mean, if 30 kids per class, plus loads of high-needs kids, makes for a good education,why is Christy Clark sending her kid to St George’s?

  8. Thanks times a million, Chris. I worked ten years at a Canadian top-100 employer company, and your post reflects my sentiments exactly. I feel abused and neglected in my current working conditions, and I feel despair when I look at my students struggling in large class sizes, without specialist French or Math or ELL (ESL) support in primary and intermediate. Our paraprofessionals staffing ratios have drastically decreased, increasing our teaching workloads tremendously.

    I could go on for hours. But I need to sleep. I feel so, so stressed. I haven’t felt this stressed since my dad was in a coma. I love my students SO much, and I am trying to love myself, to take care of myself, to do what I need to do, but I wish desperately that the government would enable our school districts to take care of my professional well-being, and I feel let down. Sabotaged, even. This is breaking my heart.

  9. Well said. This government is destroying equality. But of course you can only see that when your are inside a classroom. Bankers and politicians just see numbers, not people.

  10. If being a teacher in BC is that bad why not quit and do something else equally meaningful? Say teach at Harvard?

    I don’t doubt that there are many great teachers in BC who puts in extra hours day in and day out but it is no different from many other careers.

    If we use Harvard compensation as a direct comparable, one would realize BC teachers are not poorly compensated given the obvious differences in education level, selectivity, academic competency between an average Harvard lecturer and an average BC teacher.

    Typically all the listed jobs require a minimum of a top tier PhD with significant contribution to publications and teaching experience. Take PostDoc Fellow position, for instance, average salary is similar to a teacher starting out in BC but the PostDoc Fellow requires significantly more years of education and arguably exponentially more selective than B.Ed degrees. Guess what, there is no pension and job security for the average PostDoc Fellow position. Hardwork and performance is the only way to advance unlike the BC teacher’s automatic raise based on years on the job.

    Lecturers are successful PostDoc Fellows with years of experience. Surprisingly they are not paid dissimilar to BC teachers with years of experience. Not to mention class sizes are not 22.

    Harvard University Salary

    PostDoc Fellow $44k Average
    Research Fellow $46k Average
    Instructor $84k Average
    Lecturer $74k Average
    Assistant Professor $111k Average


    Unless BC teachers can proof that they out work/ out smart/ out perform an average Harvard Lecturer, it appears that fact would show that BC teachers are fairly compensated.

    1. Hi James–

      Thank you for these solid points and good numbers.

      For me–and most teachers– the main issue with salary is that we don’t get cost-of-living increases. No matter whose wage calculations (BCPSEA, BCTF etc) you use, B.C. teachers get paid less– in real terms– for more work than they were 15 years ago. I do not expect wage increases but cost-of-living seems like a no-brainer.

      The most pressing issues are class size (total number of kids per class) and class composition (total number of special-needs kids per class). These– in no uncertain terms; the research is unaniamous, uness you think Malcolm Gladwell is a scientist 😉 — affect how well kids do in classes, and have a strong indirect effect on teacher health and performance.

      It was for many years teachers’ legitimate right to bargain for class size and composition. This was– illegally– removed from collective agreements in 2002, and again in 2011, and now that we’ve had TWO court decisions reaffirming teachers’ right to ask the employer for class size/composition rules, the Liberal government is appeaking and refusing to dealw ith these issues.

      Parents obviously can be legitimately concerned with the effects of strike action, but should be MUCH more concerned with the long-term negative effects of big classes and less support for special-needs kids. If you aren’t rich, getting help for a struggling son or daughter is EXPENSIVE. And if you have a “regular” kid in the system, he/she is getting less attention from a teacher because of the number of high-needs kids– without support– in his or her class.

      1. Perhaps if teachers focus their attention on how they can do a better job with existing resources and stop blaming external factors for their sub-par performance, then society will pay you for what you are worth. Teachers need to realize that we have constraints as a society. We can’t print money and pay teachers more. Income erosion happens to the best of us as we grow uncompetitive as a nation. Teachers ain’t excluded. If you look at salary for many professional jobs such as architects, physicians, and accountants over the last 30 years, one will realize teachers have it pretty good especially with the pension. Most of the listed professionals work way more hours than the average teacher. Working 12 hour days or 14 hour days are typical for most professional jobs.

        Over the long run, teachers will be compensated at the market labour equilibrium. Canadian education system becoming less competitive in creating value for the average families. Hence why teachers are not being paid more.

        “Canada has dropped out of the top 10 in international math education standings, a decline that is raising alarms about the country’s future prosperity.”
        – OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment

        How many families have to resort to tutors because teachers ain’t doing an adequate job? Stop blaming the class size. It wasn’t any smaller 10 years ago. Of course we can’t pay teacher more if families have to foot the bill for tutors. Get a grip, clean up your acts, and learn to out perform. Then, you will get your raise.

        I suggest that we should have a fulsome measurement on teacher’s performance and let go the bottom x% of the dead weight go every year to allow fresh ambitious teachers to teach. May the winners come out on top. Reward the good teachers and punish the bad. The current problem is that great teachers deserve more and bad teachers don’t but we don’t have a system to ensure we retain the good ones and get rid of the bad ones.

      2. Hi James–

        People have been saying things like “cut the dead wood” and “evaluate teachers more etc” and here is the data on this. First, note that there are evaluation systems in place– by law– in all B.C. school districts. Teachers are VERY carefully vetted before being hired, evaluated once on job, and then periodically afterward (frequency varies between Districts).

        a) 9% of variation in student achievement is attributable to teacher characteristics. 60% of variation in achievement is due to individual student characteristics (which includes family background etc etc, income etc), and all school input combined (teacher quality, class variables, etc.) account for approximately 21% of student achievement. (Goldhaber, et al, 2010). This was a data-driven study of mathematics achievement in Washington State schools.

        b) “Teacher experience stands out as the most important factor in predicting teacher
        effectiveness, a common finding” (Clotfelter et al., 2006; Goldhaber and Hansen, 2010; Rivken et
        al., 2004; Rockoff, 2004). cited in Goldhaber, etc al, 2010.

        c) Charter-school research (and there is a TON of it from the U.S.) has looked at what happens in schools where, basically, the Principal can hire and fire at will. The result? There is immense turnover of younger teachers…and the result is that kids in charter schools are constantly taught by rookie teachers. The data also, BTW, does not support Charter schools’ claims of “improving” the system. What typically happens is, parents with means ($$) interest etc– who are by definition going to take a very active role in their kids’ education and help them succeed– are the ones who get their kids into these Charter schools. These kids do better…but the system as a whole does not change.

        So…the research seems clear: what you want are experienced teachers. These are your best bet for getting kids good education. (In my experience, within four years of starting work, almost everything I had started doing in class was thrown out the window as experience showed me what worked better than the (generally useless) things I had “learned” in University teacher training.)

        However, teacher quality at best explains 9% of student achievement. The overwhelming factors in student achievement are “outside” teacher qualities, and include how rich a kid’s parents are, class size, the way the school is organised, degree of inequality in society, etc etc.

    2. Year Agency Name Title RemunerationDescending
      2012/13 Fiscal Year Surrey School District STOLZ, CHRIS H. TEACHING STAFF $84,627 Details
      Records 1-1 of 1
      Created with Caspio

    3. Hi James–

      Thanks for the numbers regarding salaries for Harvard etc folks. But please note some differences between teachers and post-docs etc.

      a) Uni ppl lecture and have teaching assistants for marking.

      b) Uni ppl have 1-2 classes plus research work.

      c) Uni ppl do NOT have to deal with…kids who don’t want to be there, poverty, absent parents, ADHD, ADD, fetal alcohol disorder, emotional trauma, etc etc.

      To a certain extent, the comparison is apples and oranges, but also interesting.

  11. Thanks for bringing me to an understanding of how Christy Clark is doing a terrible job: the rich get richer and my kids get screwed out of a good education. Thanks for making me aware of what is happening.

  12. Chris you make a lot of money for working 9 months…lets see if you can be open with this group and post this..

    Year Agency Name Title RemunerationDescending
    2012/13 Fiscal Year Surrey School District STOLZ, CHRIS H. TEACHING STAFF $84,627 Details
    Records 1-1 of 1
    Created with Caspio

  13. Very well written Mr. Stolz!
    To this day I still remember our debates and conversations we had in your Philosophy class, it was my favorite. You are an amazing teacher, koodo’s to you for speaking your mind and putting it out there.
    I hope you all get what you truly deserve!
    Jessica Daly

  14. Class composition, class size come up all the time, but whats not talked about is the increase of 10’s of millions in health benefits the BCTF is demanding, more for prescription drugs, eye care, orthoditcs and massage therapy which they want the max increased up to $3000, this massage increase alone could cost 120 Million! This is money that could be used to address the class composition issue. The issues that teachers so strongly believe in is undermined by all these “other” demands that increase the cost of education. These things are not talked about because of the spin put out there. Mr Stolz, if you and the teachers really care about class composition, size underfunding of the system, then take these ridiculous demands in health benefits off the table and let fund education not a crazy health benefits program thats so unreasonable.

    1. Hi Mandy– thank you again for submitting comments re: benefits, education etc. I don’t know the current state of bargaining re: benefits etc negotiations.

      One thing that’s crucial to remember is that benefits are important to keep the work force productive. People who are sick, overstressed, injured, etc. make others sick, don’t get better, etc. In my experience, the absolute most I could “cost” my employer in one year– if I used all of my allotted massage and physio visits, dental, etc, would be around $2,000. This has happened exactly once in 15 years of teaching, when I had an accident and broke two vertebrae and my iliac crest (read: a summer spent on couch and VERY painful physio). That year, I cost my employer $800 in physio: ten $100 sessions, of which I paid 20%.

      You can google the research on health benefits, sick days, etc, and you’ll find one thing very clear: if people are not supported in their illness, they will come to work sick (and work less productively, and make others sick), and often they will get ill to the point where they are on long-term disability. While sometimes benefits look like “big costs” upfront, the long-term payoff is huge in terms of increased productivity. A general rule of thumb in health care is that $1 spent in prevention = $10 in treatment.

      In my experience, the overwhelming majority of teachers are not “maxing out” benefits (or overusing sick days. I have been teaching 15 years and I have about 160 sick days “saved up;” I typically use two to three per year, generally when my kids’ schedules and illness, plus doctor unavailability after work, make it impossible to make it to doctor/dentist after work. (Believe me, I *hate* missing work: despite the good hard work our teachers-on-call do, the prep for them takes ages and never goes exactly the way one wants it to). ALL of my colleagues are in the same position: people are really focused on classes and extracurricular stuff, and hate to miss them.

      It is important to note that bargaining claims (e.g. “teachers benefit demands could cost $3,000 per employee!”) are just that, claims: I cannot, ever, imagine a scenario where the entire workforce maxes out claims.

      That said, you have a good point: resources are *not* unlimited and we must all keep that in mind.

      1. of course healthy employees is a bonus, the extended benefits I pay personally to the tune of $300 + only includes $500 for massage and I use it because its there. I would imagine many would use the benefits to the max, why not its free! I go in just for a massage at times for some general tightness not because Im working through an injury or something. To your point if these aren’t being used then why ask for so much? Its not reality, taking prescription drugs is not prevention its reactive medicine. Eating right, staying fit and living a balanced lifestyle is the best preventative medicine. But I digress, these items are not being disclosed to the public so the taxpayers doesn’t realize the true costs of the demands. Of course the public wants better class composition, more money for education, No brainer, but why should I pay for $3000 worth of massages? Who in the real world gets that unless they pay for it themselves. Your job isn’t a physical job, what about a drywaller or someone who is an athlete then you could justify it. Our Military and RCMP don’t get this and they risk their lives everyday for the public.

        Another thing get rid of the dead wood, there are teachers worth way more than they are being paid and many that just punching a time clock, this is not fair and it doesn’t encourage a culture of being the best and providing the best service and product. Its a form of communism, history has clearly shown it doesn’t work.

        You make 84K for 91/4 months work, you get a benefits plan worth probably $1500-2000 per month, paid sick days, paid mental health days, paid days for bereavement and many more over the top perks that no one gets. One would need to earn over 150K in the public sector to match what you have. You pay a lot less taxes at 84K than if you made 150K.

        At the end of the day the BCTF is not looking after teachers, this strike is costing the teachers way more, loss of pay, declining moral, and even with a hefty raise you never make up the loss in income and many will go into debt. Teachers should go back to work, dump the BCTF, create a new group and negotiate a new deal that is fair and equitable. There is only so much money you can’t continue to go into debt we all need to realize the government can’t pay for everything its impossible.

      2. Hi Mandy–

        Thank you for submitting more comments. Again, I should point out that you do not generally pay for “$3,000 worth of massages.” First, employees pay 20%; second, benefits are limited; third, there is nowhere near maximum use of benefits. It’s basically like your car insurance. You– and every other ICBC customer– has $1,000,000 or whatever in liability coverage. ICBC only works because they know that only 5% (or whatever) of customers will ever call in a claim. If every ICBC customer called in a claim, the system would crash in a second.

        We do not get paid bereavement days– we have the option of taking a day with loss of pay for bereavement– and we do not get paid “mental health” days. (Mind you the benefits packages vary from District to District). The benefits plan is nowhere near $1500-2000 per month. It is closer to $3,000 per year. I am not sure what you mean by “over the top perks.” can you clarify?

      3. Thank you for starting an amazing discussion and allowing for a diverse opinion. A few points in the above response regarding benefits have caught my attention.

        (1) Sick days – you may only use 3 per year, but have accrued 160+ days. Is there a “use it or lose it policy” or are you paid out your sick days upon termination? If the latter, then this is a huge cost/ potential cost to the employer.

        (2) Insurance companies are “for profit” and will increase premiums. So saying that you could cost a maximum of $2000 in a year does not take into consideration that the following year, premiums will increase by 5%-10%.

        (3) I disagree with your causal analysis regarding benefits, sickness, injuries, stress, and productivity because you have not considered that poor morale and a poisoned work environment more often than not cause stress, illness, injuries, and declining productivity.

        In my opinion, solve the problem of a poisoned work environment. I don’t believe that wages, class size and composition will heal the culture that the BCTF has created. In my 30+ years in BC as a student, teacher, and now HR/ Benefits professional, I cannot remember a time when the general teacher population (collectively voiced by the BCTF) has ever been content.

      4. Hi David–

        Thanks for your comments. Ok I’ll try to answer:

        1) sick days are “use it or lose it.” We do not get paid out for them when we retire. From my understanding the vast majority of teachers do not use the vast majority of their sick days. Retiring with 300 unused is quite common. The people who use a lot of them generally fall into two groups:
        a– those who have kids (ie their own kids) with special needs
        b– those with chronic health or mental-wellness issues.

        2) Sorry I do not have data to deal with this question.

        3) I agree with you re: how workplace stress can cause increases in benefit use. I havn’t personally seen a “poisoned” work environment (but obviously there are conflicts sometimes between people as there are anywhere). What I have noticed is, work overload– especially on beginning teachers, and on those who have their own kids– burning people out.

  15. I taught for over ten years and have since moved into a completely different field of work. I get paid less, have less vacation and couldn’t be happier. My employer has provided me with a company car as it requires travel, they pay for my training including hotel and meals. When I taught, I paid for all those things while traveling for professional development. I do not have to do work or (the best part) THINK about work when I come home. In less than three months on the job, I have been treated with more civility and respect then I ever did as a teacher. (Oh how I wish I was kidding)

    You may see an empty parking lot at 330 or whenever, but I can assure you, you did not see those same teachers load up a box of work to take home. Or, you don’t see them return to the school later in the evening to work.

    Just because you were a student and had perceptions of what a teacher “did”, does not make you an expert. Just because I’ve watched a doctor treat a wound does not qualify me to understand everything they do – the rounds, the paperwork, being on-call 24hours at times.

    I fix photocopiers now. I do not have to worry if those photocopiers will kill themselves. I don’t have to worry if their dad will hit them again, or if their mom will gamble away their grocery money,or if they are able to feed their siblings and take care of them at the age of twelve. If you think teacher’s don’t care about those things, you are sadly mistaken.

    Yes, universities graduate a lot of teachers each year, however, burnout rates before ten years are beginning to skyrocket. What this means is a loss of experienced teachers to help mentor new ones, help them keep their heads above water.

    A colleague once said to me (in my first year): “You can’t save them all.” I left the profession changing that to “I can’t even seem to ‘save’ one. There aren’t enough hours in the day.”

    Ask my wife and daughter which guy they prefer: The teacher or the Service Tech.

  16. From reading several posts over the last week with people saying that teachers are just complaining then comparing their own work situation to a teachers…it looks as if many other professions should take a stand for their cause. What is stopping you? What is the main ingredient for building understanding, stable, healthy, informative democratic societies? Education. The minute any person talks down a teachers place on earth is the moment where society starts to fail. Stand up for what you believe.

  17. Chris, there is no way the health benefits package is only worth $3000/yr, I pay $325 per month for my coverage and it comes no where close to what the teachers have already and additions being asked for in this current round. You are not considering the life, disability insurance added in to this Health Benefits package either which is very expensive. I have to pay for this out my pocket to the tune of $300/mo. for a total of $625/mo. for my extended benefits and life insurance policy. You are so out of touch of the true costs of this because you haven’t ever paid for it yourself.

    To David’s point about the rising costs of these Benefits, he’s absolutely correct in that the fees go up every year. I used to pay around $200/mo now I am at $325/mo and it keeps going up, eventually I will probably have to opt out, then I have nothing.

    My experience has been if people have massage, chiro, eye care, naturopathy etc they use it and most use it to the max and thats why the costs keep going up, if no once uses it the fees stay the same or may rise very little.

    This Health Benefits package is very costly and it robs the education system of the very funds needed to keep up. Teachers want smaller classes, composition changed, more money for educational resources, yet are very comfortable taking a Health Benefits package that is so out of touch with reality. I don’t get it, is this about teachers or kids? It looks like its all about the teachers when you factor in the whole package. If a more realistic Benefits package was installed there would be more money for these pressing issues, then we would have less stressed out teachers along with all the other issues that are present.

  18. Thank-you, Chris.
    People don’t realize that teachers, support staff, and principals see the system in a completely different light. They’re not cogs in the machine- they ARE the machine!
    I am always surprised by all the “experts” who come out of the woodwork, telling teachers how much money they should be making and what it’s like to be a teacher.
    Ok non-teachers… imagine your job. Now imagine taking away half the tools you normally use for your job. Now imagine your boss taking 10% pay away from you. Now imagine the entire generation of youth, who will be your future workforce where you live being affected.

  19. This is a great piece, We send our child to a choice school in langley so parents are involved a lot, and from what I see the teachers put in you are grossly underpaid!!!! Also, when as a society did we get so rude as to discuss peoples wages so freely, everyone including grocery store workers in unions (of which i am) ask for raises and to me that is no ones business. You actually could not pay me enough to teach, not that i couldnt handle it but you also have so much to deal with, with the change in society today and peoples attitudes. Class size matters, it does, as do kids with iep’s. Its sad there isnt as much respect for your profession as before.

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