Shaping the future of education in B.C

Noel Herron, Vancouver Sun

Last year the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that legislation stripping the province’s teachers of the right to negotiate class size and composition was unconstitutional and invalid.

The so-called “corrective” measures introduced by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon in his recent budget under the heading Learning Improvement Fund, are unacceptable for the following reasons:

1. The $30 million being returned to the system in year one (next year) of a three-year plan may bring back a few hundred teachers to the province’s 60 school districts, but viewed in the con-text of the loss of 1,500 learning specialist teachers since 2002, and the loss of legitimate negotiating rights, it underscores how unbalanced and unfair this (about to be imposed) first step is.

2. Consider the cumulative and devastating impact of the following breakdown of the 1,500 specialist positions eliminated by Victoria since 2002: teacher-librarians (277); school counsellors (106); special education teachers (736); English-as-a-second language teachers (328); Aboriginal education (10). All of this leading, both directly and indirectly, to the cur-rent 12,240 overcrowded classrooms. 3. The total “restorative” funding of $165 million, spread out over three years until 2015, does little to restore the massive $30 billion withdrawn (on average, $300 million a year) by the province, over the past 10 years, from public schools.

This parsimonious funding guarantees thousands of special needs kids, due to instructional erosion and fragmentation, will continue to be deprived of the skilled assistance of experienced professionals who in the past adapted programs and ser-vices to meet their varied abilities and interests.

It also guarantees a race for scarce resources among parents, schools and boards plus the deepening sense of dismay among struggling classroom teachers.