Underfunding, oversized classes are key concerns about public education, poll

BCTF News Release

Seven out of 10 British Columbians believe funding for public schools is too low, and almost two-thirds (64%) believe there are too many students per class, according to a recent province-wide survey on education issues and teacher bargaining commissioned by the BC Teachers’ Federation.

The study also reveals that British Columbians are concerned about cuts in services to students with special needs, and the impact of those cuts on class composition. Almost 7 out of 10 British Columbians (69%) said they are concerned about reductions in the number of resource teachers working with students who have learning problems and need extra help.

Asked about education priorities for the new BC Premier, 70% of respondents said the government should rehire learning assistance and resource teachers, school counsellors, teacher-librarians, and ESL specialists.

“These results show us that British Columbians understand why teachers are speaking out about the deteriorating teaching and learning conditions in our schools,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “We are deeply concerned about the impacts of a decade of underfunding on students’ educational opportunities and teachers’ professional morale.”

Even more important in the minds of British Columbians is returning civility and stability to the education landscape, the survey found. Ensuring more co-operation with teachers, parents, school boards, and other education partners should be the top education priority for Premier  Clark’s government, according to 79% of respondents.

On questions relating to teachers’ bargaining rights, 87% of British Columbians believe it is important that the teachers’ contract protects learning conditions such as class size and composition. Eighty-four percent of respondents said it is very (57%) or somewhat (27%) important that the right to negotiate such aspects of their working lives should be restored. In 2002, the Campbell Liberals passed legislation prohibiting teachers from bringing issues related to large class sizes and untenable class composition to the bargaining table.

“Again, we see that parents and citizens understand that the right to full and free collective bargaining results in better learning conditions for students,” Lambert said. “As we go into the next round of negotiations, we are determined to assert our labour rights and our professional duty to advocate for improvements that benefit teachers and students alike.”

Respondents also identified as high priority restoring funding to programs to improve graduation rates among Aboriginal students (61%) and stopping school closures (54%).

The survey found that a majority (58%) of British Columbians support teachers’ right to strike, with one-quarter strongly supporting this right.

More than 800 adult British Columbians were interviewed between February 2 and 12, 2011. The survey, conducted by Viewpoints Research, has a margin of error of plus or minus ±3.3%, 19 times out of 20….