I am an asterisk educator.

I looked on in envy as my colleagues shared their excitement about their experiences on the province-wide professional development day last week.

There are no such days for me because I am an asterisk educator.*

I have the same qualifications and teach the same courses as my K-12 colleagues do but, even when I work full-time with an extra two nights each week, I will never make the salary they do. Asterisk educators working full time, 5 days per week, earn 800 hours per year; if they also work 2 nights each week, they’ll earn 960 hours per year.

I am not paid on statutory holidays.

I do not have paid prep time.

I am a second-class member of my profession. 

* In Surrey Teachers’ Collective Agreement, there is the following note: 
Any article or clause in this Agreement which does NOT apply to adult education teachers is preceded by an asterisk (*).

I sometimes wonder if the unjust and inequitable treatment I receive is related to the students I serve.

Asterisk educators have students who come from society’s margins, people recovering from addictions, homelessness, and who have been incarcerated. They come to us seeking a bridge to a better future.

Students also come to us after having fallen through the underfunded cracks in the elementary and the secondary school system–and giant holes in our social safety net. They may have cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities or unstable mental health.

Some of our students have language or learning challenges and are sent to us after they age-out of regular high schools. 

Some of our students are refugees or newcomers who arrive in Canada in their teenage years and do not have the time to learn English well enough to transition into the regular English classes in a secondary school.

Without us, the asterisk (adult) educators, many of these students would be headed for a cycle of poverty and minimum wage jobs. Through education, students can become literate participants in our democracy, and walk on a pathway to a more equitable future.

Why would a government that campaigned on a platform of progressive politics and a commitment to poverty reduction not do all that it could to end the inequitable working conditions of adult educators and the inequitable learning conditions of adult students? Why are our students funded at 64% of what other K-12 students are funded? 

Right now the average age of asterisk educators is 65. It wasn’t always this way but these days, many of us have come out of retirement to teach again. Any new asterisk educator doesn’t stay for long, moving on to the regular K-12 system where they can make more money, get the prep time and pro-d of our colleagues and be freed from the asterisk.

Isn’t it long past time that all adult educators become asterisk-free? 

Our union has begun a new bargaining round with the government. For each bargaining round over the past 20 years, we asterisk educators have campaigned for redress.

We do so again this time.

We are asking our asterisk-free colleagues to support us in our quest for equity.

When the next contract is signed, we would like to have the same rights as our colleagues, we’d like to be asterisk-free.

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