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Stand united in valuing education

November 1st,2023 | Valley Voices

By Jen Bardell

An Open Letter to the Public

I write to you today not only as an experienced teacher but also as a concerned citizen and parent who has become increasingly infuriated by the state of education in our province. We find ourselves at a critical moment in Quebec’s education system and it is incredibly important that each and every one of us actively engages in this conversation. Education is too important to be deprioritized, and as citizens it is our collective responsibility to recognize its value and defend it accordingly. 

I imagine many parents are feeling frustrated by the impending strike action across the province, and I can tell you that teachers are also frustrated. We are frustrated that society has allowed teachers to be undervalued and vilified by our government. We are frustrated by the impossible expectations placed on our shoulders and the lack of qualified support in our classrooms. We are frustrated that the government wants to have special needs students included in regular classrooms but is not offering teachers the support these students require. We are frustrated to be among the lowest-paid teachers in the country with no dental insurance, no personal days, and only six sick days per year. We are frustrated that Quebec’s politicians just voted to give themselves a 30 per cent raise but are refusing to grant us a below-inflation increase of nine per cent over three years. We are frustrated that our pensions are being adjusted and decreased, despite a financially healthy plan. We are also frustrated that the burden of advocating for a sustainable education system seems to be falling directly onto our shoulders. We are so frustrated, in fact, that many teachers have already left the profession altogether. 

There is currently a massive teacher shortage in Quebec. This concerns me much more as a parent than it does as a teacher. As a teacher and university-educated professional, I have the option to leave the profession and join the private sector or public service. However, as a parent of school-aged children who live in this province, I have fewer options. 

The Quebec auditor general revealed that, during the 2020/2021 academic year, a shocking one-quarter of teachers in our province were unqualified. Teachers without proper qualifications, although they are definitely a cost-saving solution for the government, present a significant risk. The value of qualifications in teaching should not be underestimated; it is essential for the quality of education our children receive. This practice is a slippery slope that devalues the investment and education of qualified teachers and threatens the very foundation of our educational system. 

This impending strike action is not just a matter for teachers; it’s a matter for all of us. You can choose to leave this in the already overflowing hands of teachers, but it is our children who will pay the ultimate price. It is our children who will have unqualified and potentially incompetent teachers. It is our children who will not have their needs met in our “inclusive classrooms,” which pretend to meet the needs of all children while often not meeting any. 

I urge you to recognize the gravity of the situation and join hands with our teachers in their fight for fair compensation and the betterment of our education system. It is no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye. Change will only come when the public stands up and demands it. 

Jen Bardell is a teacher in west Quebec and a concerned parent in Wakefield. 

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