The province and B.C. Teacher’s Federation have taken the first step in reintroducing class size and composition since the teachers’ big win at the Supreme Court of Canada last year.
Education Minister Mike Bernier says the deal will see $50-million implemented immediately to hire the equivalent of 1,100 teachers.
“Each district is going to end up looking at what’s appropriate for them on who they need – what extra staff that they will require. So $50-million works out to 1,100 FTEs – what it will actually translate to on the ground is how those local negotiations will transpire.”
“What that does is really set the stage to get things moving for school districts around the province while the rest of the negotiations take place.”
Because the negotiations are so complex, Bernier says it will be a while before a final deal is reached.
In addition, Bernier says who districts hire and how fast will vary.
“You know, [it’s] up to each school district as they start doing those postings I think in some, depending on what they’re looking to hire. Some school districts will be faster than others. The main part of it is basically effective immediately.”
But NDP education critic Rob Fleming says today’s announcement is only happening because the provincial government lost their battle in court.
“The extent that this court order is going to create and interim agreement for the government to start adding back resources, that is a good thing. They spent tens of millions of dollars of tax payers money to do that and now they are being forced by the courts to restore some of the resources they stripped out of our classrooms and that is a good thing but that is the context for what is happening today.”
But Fleming says it comes at the cost of a generation of students missing out on the level of education they deserved and millions of dollars in court fees for taxpayers.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in November that the province must go back to class size and composition as it was in 2002 ending the years long court battle.
BCTF President Glen Hansman says $50-million is a good start but more funding is needed.
“We’ve estimated it will be about $300-million dollars to restore all clauses and get those provisions in place if we are talking about a full school year that’s consistent with the estimates government did.”
“We still aren’t all the way there, we welcome this money in the first week of January 2017 but we’re still not all the way there to the full amount or restoring the guarantees that were originally negotiated locally back in the day and provincially.”
Hansman says the two sides will be meeting again next week to continue discussions.
But with B.C. districts now looking to hire the equivalent of more than 1,000 staff, will there be enough teachers to fill the gaps?
Associate Dean of the UBC Education program Wendy Carr says the education funding announcement is great news for teachers in training and those looking for work.
But Carr says some districts are already having difficulty filling some speciality jobs, and that there’s likely to be a real crunch in some areas.
“I think what we’ll find is that there will be some shortages in some areas as is always the case, areas like French immersion, physics, technology education. There are some areas where it’s very difficult to fill all of the positions that there are in B.C.”
Right now, there are 700 students studying teaching in UBC.
With files from CKNW’s Liza Yuzda, Janet Brown, and Niamh Anderson.