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ROBBINS poll calls Teachers strike 'on the money'
  Oct 20, 2005

A random digit dialing of 305 respondents between October 15-18, 2005. A specific targeting and audit of parents with a child or children in public schools was also conducted outside the main body of the poll. This survey features a margin of error of 4.5%, 18 times out of 20 @97% competency rate.

Question #1
Which of the following two choices BEST describes you?
I have a child or children in BC public schools (K-12)-    26 %
I do not have children in BC schools    68 %
I have a child or children in an independent BC school    06 %
Question #2
{to respondents who have a child or children in BC public schools}.Are you willing to permit your children to be kept in class during the spring break or part of the summer holidays to make up for lost school time we are experiencing?
Yes    17 %
No    83 %
Question #3
{for respondents who have a child or children in BC public schools}.Are you aware of the term Full Time Equivalent as this relates to class size in BC schools?
Yes    02 %
No    98 %
Question #4
In your opinion which is the most important element of a free democracy?
The Rule of Law    12 %
Open, fair and honest elections    88 %
Question #5
Who should make the laws in British Columbia?
The Courts    09 %
Elected Officials    63 %
The people through referenda    28 %
Question #6
When you consider the democratic principal known as the Rule of Law which of the following statements BEST depicts how you perceive this principle?
People are elected to make laws, and each and every law should be respected equally    36 %
Not all laws are created equally, there are laws on the books that have served us well and others that likely need changing or removal    48 %
Undecided    16 %
Question #7
Who do you support MOST?
The teachers’ civil obedience relating to classroom needs and teachers’ wages    37 %
The BC Liberal governments demand for teachers to return to work educating students and to obey the law    32 %
I do not support either the teachers or the government, frankly I am sick of all of this    26 %
Undecided    04 %
In this poll of respondents residing in the lower mainland of British Columbia we find some interesting results, which once again confirm how public opinion polling such as ROBBINS can cut through the spin of the media, government and special interests and accurately depict (predict) the direction of important political debates. The current teacher’s strike is one of these.
The BC Liberal government is not winning this battle. Although one half of respondents without a child or children in public schools support the government (net of those respondents who said “frankly I am sick of all of this”), parents with children in public schools and (surprisingly) a significant number of parents with children in independent schools do not support the BC Liberal government’s position.
What is most interesting is the fact that parents have no information about one of the central elements of debate around the education system, that of class composition. For instance, if a teacher says that they have 34 students that may not actually mean 34 individual persons. ESL and aboriginal students are counted as 2.5 students (known as FTE’s or Full Time Equivalents). A handicapped student is counted as 3 students. A handicapped ESL or aboriginal students as 3.5. This does not take away from the realities of some of the difficulties associated with these particular FTE’s, however the confusion comes about when the public believes that the ESL, aboriginal or handicapped students are part of that 34 ‘person’ number. The fact is that the class in our example (34) may have 29 individual persons (29 different warm bodies), but two of them may be ESL making the total equivalent (FTE) in the class 34.
Why don’t the competing interests in this dispute properly inform us of this ‘all important’ element of class composition, perhaps the most central argument in this debate? We think that the teachers don’t explain this so that the parents have the impression that their job is unduly burdensome. The government won’t explain this because the equivalents are based on Ministry of Education standards, and class sizes should only be 24-26 FTE’s. This means that a class with two ESL students in it should only have 21 regular kids. (21 regular {21 x 1} plus {2 x 2.5} =24. No wonder there is so little confidence in government!
Further, the education system, which designates funds one time per year, does not have the capacity to make funding adjustments for transfer relating to (particularly) to special students. For instance in School District “A” a special needs student ‘Johnny’ is registered at School #1. That school receives the appropriate funding for that student. Johnny is a hand full for teachers, but at School #1 they have the teachers assistants to help. However Johnny transfers to another school in the district, School #2 but the funding allocated to him, does not travel with him. If School #2 does not have sufficient teachers assistants than when Johnny arrives at the school he is going to upset the status quo (either a little or a lot), possibly affecting dozens of children’s education as a consequence. No wonder the education system isn’t working!
The BC Liberal government and their friends in business have overestimated the public’s support of democratic principles such as the Rule of Law. Slightly more than one third of the population is prepared to accept the BC Liberal government (and business stakeholders) marching orders to the teacher’s to obey the law. Nearly one-half of respondents believe that “not all laws are created equally”, and well over one half of respondents who are not “sick of all of this” (58%) support the “teachers strike and civil disobedience”. The public represented in this poll (and I’m certain the courts) would have preferred it if Gordon Campbell had not obfuscated seeking solutions in the education system by making the courts the bully pulpit for his union bashing. This is simply weak leadership!
Insight-Simply put, there are too many British Columbians living in the lower mainland who do not have a child or children in school who (a) believe the people and not the government or the courts should make laws, and who (b) are of the opinion that “not all laws are created equally” and/or (c) who are sick of the teacher’s and government debate, who deprive the BC Liberals of the type of traction they require to win this battle with BC Teachers and organized labour. The latter group has more solid support amongst respondents in the lower mainland.
The number of parents with a child or children in public schools who are supporting teachers is moving upward, while those who support the BC Liberal government is moving downward. How does one explain the unexpectedly high level of support for teachers by parents with a child or children in independent schools in this poll?
Premier Campbell, and his friends in business on one hand, compared to thousands of people protesting at the legislature, makes this present situation a loser for the government simply because of the larger number of respondents who support the teachers and civil disobedience coupled with the large minority who don’t support either side. (There are too many protestors both on and off the streets).
Whether or not the government can turn this thing around or negotiate its way out remains to be seen, but they are not going to be successful in the court of public opinion the way things are going (at this time). The BC Liberal government is a business friendly government, and they both have forgotten one very important thing. People who own or manage businesses only represent a minority of the population, and the people who work in these businesses don’t necessarily see the world the same way as the bosses do.
Labour Minister Mike De Jong’s recent decision to appoint Todd Bertuzzi lawyer Len Doust as a Special Prosecutor to seek criminal contempt charges against the teacher’s, reinforces ROBBINS theory that this government really has no idea what it is doing. The BC Liberal government has mixed law and politics (a mistake), has legislated the teacher’s back to work before the teachers have even been off one day (a mistake), has paraded business and other like special interest groups to counter the labour protest (a mistake), and now they ‘pump’ another bullet in the proverbial political patient by appointing this special prosecutor. The last time we saw a special prosecutor appointed was with BC Rail, which is still one of BC’s longest running cover-ups. Can we expect a similar dysfunctional outcome from Mr. Doust’s involvement, or is it possible that British Columbians might soon see Todd Bertuzzi out busting unions? How is it that every Attorney General BC has is politically incompetent.
The teachers are winning this battle, and organized labour will have its day in the sun because the Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals have exposed their poker ‘hand’. With other Unions, the Doctors and a host of others looking for pay raises over the next 6 to 9 months, one can reasonably conclude that barring a miracle; the BC Liberals have painted themselves into a corner.
The fact that another election is not expected for 31/2 years should not be a basis for any solace for the Campbell government. After the 2001 general provincial election the BC Liberals enjoyed 77 seats in the legislature, the largest majority ever. Campbell was able at that time to play tough with everyone, and still act sufficiently nice just prior to the May 2005 election in time to receive a (much smaller) majority. His mistake is that he is making decisions as if he still has 77 seats, and he has played his cards too early particularly with HEU, doctors and others looking for pay raises. The biggest problem the teachers will have is holding their confidence through rainy days at picket lines and expecting for a moment that this BC Liberal government is reasonable.

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