Job action could sink school sports

Teachers to vote on B.C.-wide extracurricular ban

Teachers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will be joining their counterparts around B.C. next week and voting whether to ban all extracurricular volunteering as part of their ongoing contract dispute with the provincial government.

However, some school coaches warn the move could irreparably harm school sports, and some programs may not survive.

Andrew Lenton is a teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary School and is the commissioner for Fraser Valley Track and Field Association. Last month, local teachers voted to voluntarily withdraw extracurricular volunteering in protest of the provincial government’s back-to-work legislation, and the damage has been immediate.

“Normally we have 80 schools taking part,” he said. “Right now we have 15.”

Lenton believes that if the ban goes province-wide, many school sports, which have faced years of erosion, could crumble entirely.

“School sports have already had to deal with declining volunteerism, fewer teacher-coaches, increased bureaucratic demands, coach recruitment by community programs, and little or no compensation for school athletic directors,” said Lenton. “The withdrawal by teacher-coaches … will very likely be a death blow for many sports.”

Lenton believes many coaches and athletes will move to community programs.

“There’s nothing wrong with community programs, but they are more expensive,” he said. “The long-term impact of this action will be that many sport programs will simply not exist at local schools. The net result of this will be that kids will do less, parents will drive more and pay more.”

Teachers across the province will vote April 17 and 18 to adopt the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s “action plan,” which also leaves open the possibility of an illegal strike. However, that would require a second vote by B.C. teachers.

While the current local extracurricular ban is voluntary on the part of teachers, should next week’s vote be successful, teachers would have to comply.

“It would be no different than crossing the picket line,” said Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra. “They would be subject to sanctions and there could be suspensions.

“But that’s in the extreme. We generally don’t do that.”

Pitt Meadows athletics director Rich Goulet doesn’t want the teachers’ union dictating what he does in his spare time.

“When the BCTF took over… one of the first things to go was extracurricular [compensation],” he said. “Now we have to do it on our own time, and they want to take that away. It’s hypocritical, if you ask me.”

Goulet said the extracurricular ban will hurt the culture of schools and won’t help the BCTF in its fight with the province.

“I’ve seen my rights deteriorate, and no one is speaking up for me,” said Goulet.

“This is a political fight between the BCTF and the provincial government, and the kids are getting hurt,” said Goulet. “Take the fight to the next election and get rid of the Liberals. But don’t take it out on the kids.”

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