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staffroom confidential: Standardized testing: a pillar of privatization

It’s FSA season again. Every year in British Columbia, every student in grades 4 and 7 has their regular classroom schedule put on hold for two weeks while they complete the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) — a collection of standardized tests mandated by the provincial government. Every student, parent, teacher and citizen should oppose these tests. There is a litany of reasons for this, but top among them is the role standardized tests play in the very destruction of public education itself — by privatizing a public service. Masquerading as a test for system quality, they are in fact an (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: Badass Book Review: The Future of our Schools, Teachers Unions and Social Justice by Lois Weiner

Badass Book Review: The Future of our Schools, Teachers Unions and Social Justice by Lois Weiner

Since the massive public sector upsurge in the 60′s and 70′s, teachers unions in the US have been in a long steady decline in power. Only very recently, with the 2012 Chicago teachers strike, have we seen any resurgence in teacher union power. Why is this?

Weiner presents an overview of the pitfalls of teacher unionism and what teachers can do to revive their organizations. For any teacher anywhere, frustrated by the untenable working and teaching conditions we now face, this book is essential (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: Badass Book Review: Raising Expectations & Raising Hell, by Jane McAlevey

Book Review: Raising expectations (and Raising hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement, by Jane McAlevey

It’s been a tough couple of decades to be a trade unionist. Since the early nineties, with Paul Martin’s cuts to transfer payments, through the Mike Harris’s assaults, to the BC Liberal’s ripping up contracts and the Harper Tories legislating them, it seems increasingly hard to find strategies that win.

Yet paradoxically, since about 2011, there has been a notable upsurge in progressive movements: teachers in Wisconsin, the squares of Egypt and Turkey, the world wide Occupy movement, the Maple Spring, Ferguson, and (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: ‘Tis the Season to Rethink Our Charitable Giving

This op-ed by yours truly was published in The Province. The examples are BC-specific, but the message is much broader: donating to charity is not enough, we also have to change the status quo that forces so many people to turn to charity in a rich country like Canada.

It’s December, the season for charitable giving. Wherever you turn you see boxes and bins collecting non-perishable food items for the local food bank or toys for the less fortunate children in our communities.

The cashier asks if you want to add a $2 donation to your purchase. You donate (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: BC’s Site C Dam – Another stack in the LNG house of cards

The BC government announced today that they were going ahead with an $8.8 billion commitment to build BC’s largest dam – “Site C”.

Critics of the project consist of most of the province that isn’t involved in the building and resource extraction industry. First nations oppose the project. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs was one of the first to condemn the decision. Local communities oppose the project. The nearest municipality of Fort St. John cannot handle an influx of so many workers and faces strains on public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. (Read more…)

Staffroom Confidential: The Mind of Christy Clark

My colleagues and I were somewhat perplexed at the lunch table this week to grasp the motivation behind the latest decision of the BC Liberals to end funding for adult graduates to upgrade their high school courses.

OK yes, it is obvious they want to fund less and charge more fees. But how does this fit with the grander scheme of grooming BC’s youth towards a life of resource extraction? Surely getting those extra credits in Math and Science are part and parcel of the path to trades school and the LNG highway?

It is easy to forget about Christy’s (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: CGE models and carbon tax incidence

A colleague of mine pointed out a relatively new paper about the distributional impacts of BC’s carbon tax. In my work, we look at actual energy expenditures by different household groups, and because lower income groups spend a greater share of their income on (carbon-intensive) energy, any carbon tax is regressive. But that regressivity ultimately depends on what you do with the revenues, and can be compensated with a credit. In BC’s case, when the carbon tax was instituted, there was a decent low-income credit that made the overall regime progressive, but as the tax increased from $10 to $30 (Read more…)

Cowichan Conversations: Bloomberg: Russia-China gas deals spell big trouble for Canadian LNG

 

 

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Damien Gillis- Common Sense Canadian sent this along and it tells the story of how badly the Christy Clark BC Government has handled this from the get-go. The good news is that the potential profitability of fracking is negated by market forces, geography and sheer fantasy on the part of the BC Liberal government.

Imagine Putin sizing up Harper while Steve was mouthing off about Ukraine. The China-Russia gas deal was strategic, necessary and nuts BC’s and the rest of Canada’s fracking plans.

Now, finally, even Premier Christy Clark and her cheerleading pitchman Rich Coleman (Read more…)

Left Over: November Is the Cruelest month…

Unable to find affordable housing, 82-year-old living in Victoria shelter

SARAH PETRESCU / TIMES COLONIST OCTOBER 29, 2014 09:58 PM

All I want is a room somewhere

Far away from the cold night air

With one enormous chair…..

Ah, wouldn’t that be loverly?

I have been indulging myself in creepy fantasies of just this sort of thing happening to me, and others like me..

I am lucky to have a partial pension from work, but it doesn’t do very far, and it just covers my rent (but not utilities…)

I realize that, compared to this woman, I am doing okay, (Read more…)

Terahertz: Tell Christy Clark: Don’t rush through Societies Act reforms

Please write today to tell the BC government not to press through its reforms to the BC Societies Act. Email fcsp@gov.bc.ca before the end of 15 October 2014.

Clark’s Liberal government is looking to overhaul the law that regulates over 27,000 non-profit societies, including almost every active freethought organisation in the province. Many of the reforms are likely good ideas, like allowing societies to be registered and file documents electronically; however, at least one section would potentially allow members of the public to sue non-profits if they feel they are “carrying on activities that are detrimental to the (Read more…)

Left Over: BC’s Future Goes Back to the Past…

Temporary foreign workers needed for B.C.’s future, says premier Christy Clark: ‘There’s going to be a spurt in the number of workers that are required.’

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press Posted: Oct 03, 2014 10:23 AM PT Last Updated: Oct 03, 2014 10:23 AM PT

 

Living on the Island, where it is almost impossible to find a decent paying job, even part time, and forcing our kids to leave to find work, have to wonder what it is that Clark is talking about..we don’t need more foreign workers, we need decent pay, benefits and local (Read more…)

Left Over: Your Call Is, Truly, Unimportant to Us, Stay on the Line..or Hang Up, we Don’t Care…

Customer service is becoming more Kafkaesque by the day Companies like to deflect problems with call-centre bureaucracy then use social media to show they’re just like us. They’re not Oscar Rickett theguardian.com, Thursday 2 October 2014 14.26 BST

 

 

Here is an article i read in the Guardian, and though it mostly centers on corporate phone reps, governments everywhere have truly learned much at the foot of their corporate masters….

I realize that it helps no one to point this out, but it’s truly Kafkaesque, all over the world now.. Even so-called local phone reps cannot (Read more…)

Staffroom Confidential: BC Teacher strike – Lessons learned

On the evening of the vote results, I found myself, with great difficulty, repeating the tried and true advice: “Don’t mourn, organize.” Because it is correct. There is much to do. And there are always setbacks and disappointments on the way to a better world.

That said, it is also worth some analysis on the strike to guide the future. Here are my thoughts.

Longest teacher strike in BC history

Despite the outcome, perhaps the most incredible thing about this strike was the resolve of teachers. Although long strikes are more common in the private sector, for a public (Read more…)

Left Over: Back Door Justice on a Friday Afternoon….

NDP forces Commons debate on murdered, missing indigenous women Conservative-controlled committee didn’t recommend public inquiry but NDP seized debate opportunity

By Kady O’Malley, CBC News Posted: Sep 19, 2014 2:44 PM ET Last Updated: Sep 19, 2014 5:12 PM ET

http://montrealsimon.blogspot.ca/2014/09/the-ndp-forces-debate-on-missing-and.html

Ffinally, the NDP comes through in a wonderfully calculated move that both highlighted the need for a public inquiry, and beat the Cons at their own game..timing is everything.

Anyone who thinks that the NDP isn’t ready for Prime Time better think again…

Probably your best blog to date, Simon..I feel exactly as you do.. (Read more…)

Left Over: The Emperor’s (ap)Prentice Magically Transforms First Nations Support

Jim Prentice says many Alberta First Nations are behind new pipeline projects ‘Amongst the strongest allies that Alberta has at the table are the First Nations of this province’

CBC News Posted: Sep 16, 2014 9:25 PM MT Last Updated: Sep 17, 2014 6:20 AM MT

 

Great that you have First Nations behind the Cons and Chinese in Alberta (I don’t believe it, but whatever…) Another reason to keep all that filthy bitumen in-Province..why not build a refinery right there, on a supportive rez? Still think you’d have First Nations support?

“Art Sterritt, executive director of British Columbia’s (Read more…)

Staffroom Confidential: Will the Education Fund improve classroom conditions?

The tentative agreement negotiated this week includes an Education Fund which replaces the Learning Improvment Fund (LIF). Will this improve classroom conditions? Not much, if at all.

The BCTF did an excellent analysis of the failure of the LIF, which I won’t repeat here. But suffice it to say there are four main problems with the LIF:

1. it is about 1/4 of the funding needed for class sizes that match our previous language2. some of the funding is spent on non-teacher resources3. there is no method for fair allocation4. there is no change in how classes (Read more…)

Staffroom Confidential: Class composition: a human rights perspective

Christy Clark enraged teachers and surprised many when she tweeted that class composition was one of her primary concerns. Those of us working in schools who have for twelve long years been trying to bring this issue into the public discourse thought: well, it’s about time.

It was over twenty years ago that Charter rights guaranteed students with disabilities an education in mainstream classrooms. No longer would students be relegated to special schools or special classrooms. They were legally entitled to be in class with all other students and to experience the equivalent educational opportunities.

The integration of students with (Read more…)

Staffroom Confidential: Class size and composition – a short visual history

I put this table together today to share with parents and community members at our information forum this evening, but please feel free to share.

It is a slight simplification as it doesn’t deal with exempted classes like music, classes in distributed learning, special education class, the “fudge factor” allowing overages in special circumstances and so forth.

But if you want to know the basics of how class size and composition have changed over the last twelve years through three rounds of legislation, this is an overview.

It is based on the Greater Victoria collective agreement.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Should Welfare Recipients Try Harder to Find Work?

This morning the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a new report about “motivational interviewing” for welfare recipients. The link to the full report is here, and the link to the executive summary is here.

Authored by Reuben Ford, Jenn Dixon, Shek-wai Hui, Isaac Kwakye and Danielle Patry, the study reports on a recent randomized controlled trial done on long-term recipients of social assistance in British Columbia. The research took place between September 2012 and March 2013. There were a total of 154 research participants; 76 of the individuals were in the “treatment group,” while 78 were in (Read more…)

Left Over: SuperCrusty and the Lazy Opposition Don’t Come to Blows

B.C. teachers’ strike: Union rejects premier’s demand to suspend strike Union says government remains entrenched, inflexibile and unwilling to bargain.

CBC News Posted: Sep 03, 2014 10:51 AM PT Last Updated: Sep 04, 2014 7:58 AM PT

All of you 5 cent a comment Liberal trolls can say and think what you like, but here are the facts..and how do I know? Because the gov’t tactics mirror those of almost any organization out there with a union that has had enough…ignore them for months at a time, refuse to set any dates for bargaining until a week before (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Will Enbridge’s pipeline ever get built?

You have to wonder why the Harper government bothered with process at all. It’s like there was never any doubt that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would get approved. But historians may look back on this moment as the beginning of the end of pipeline politics.

Opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline is BC’s largest social movement. A large majority of British Columbians are opposed to the pipeline. BC First Nations, who hold the ultimate trump card – the constitutionality of their rights and title, have said no means no. Thousands testified to the Joint Review Panel (and its arguably limited (Read more…)

Left Over: Chretien’s Lesson for the Harper at the Gate(way)

Northern Gateway decision holds no easy political options for Harper On the controversial B.C. pipeline, PM can say yes, no or not yet, but all answers come with a cost

By Max Paris, CBC News Posted: Jun 16, 2014 6:02 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 16, 2014 11:13 PM ET

All this bleating about Harper having such a tough decision is nonsense..and, to cap it off, he will have, in one action, guaranteed himself a chance for re-election by not approving it..just like Christy Clark did by denying support without meeting some tough conditions… Let’s get real (Read more…)

eaves.ca: Government Procurement Failure: BC Ministry of Education Case Study

Apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve been in business mode – both helping a number of organizations I’m proud of and working on my own business. For those interested in a frightening tale of inept procurement, poor judgement and downright dirty tactics when it comes to software procurement and government, there is a wonderfully […]

Left Over: Dirty Oil Wars…..This is Just the Beginning

http://montrealsimon.blogspot.ca/2014/05/stephen-harper-and-final-battle-for.html

 

Here in BC, we appreciate any and all support for this issue..but where is the rest of the country on all the damage this MonsterCon has caused? They can’t all be the drooling knuckle-draggers of Ford Nation, but I have to wonder if it isn’t already too late…the people of Canada, in general, seem so passive that they come across as catatonic.. Where is the energy to fight? I remember back in the 70′s hitting the bricks on a regular basis to fight Trudeau’s price and wage controls, to protest war, to stop the (Read more…)

Eclectic Lip: Pondering a palatable pipeline…

I guest-hosted TWiE podcast episode 137 a few days ago, an episode devoted to the Alberta oil sands / tar sands. If you ask me (and I realize none of you have ) it’s well worth a listen!

The week’s guest was US energy analyst Robert Rapier, who had visited Fort McMurray on a Canadian government junket for journalists. He came back with a five-part essay on his experience, and some valuable, contextualizing factoids.

Shockingly, he showed data suggesting that the Alberta tar sands are now only slightly more greenhouse gas-intensive than “average” petroleum. (In other words, the emissions (Read more…)