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BCTF, province reach $50 million deal to hire more teachers

The BCTF, BC Public School Employers’ Association and government have agreed to an interim $50 million measure that will create close to 1,100 new teaching positions in the province.

“Since the BCTF won our court case back in November, we have been moving forward with two goals,” said BC Teachers’ Federation President Glen Hansman, in a press release. “The first goal was to get as many teachers as possible back into schools and classrooms as quickly as possible. This $50 million agreement is the first step. It means hundreds more teachers will be in schools working with students across the province in a matter of weeks. The second and most important goal- full implementation of the 2002 collective agreement language-will now be the focus of talks between the two parties.”

Discussions continue on restoration of teachers’ collective agreement language that was stripped from their contract in 2002, which a court has ruled unconstitutional.

According to a ministry of education press release, the funds will go towards hiring additional classroom teachers this school year where it is feasible to do so given current timetable, physical space and labour supply limitations; and hiring additional specialty teachers this school year where it is feasible to do so. This includes, but is not limited to, teachers employed as special education teachers, speech language pathologists, behaviour intervention specialists, school psychologists, Aboriginal support teachers, counsellors including for mental health, ELL teachers, and teacher librarians.

Where it is not feasible to add additional teachers during the current school year, the funding may be used to fund district-level capacity building opportunities such as upgrading existing teacher qualifications during the 2016-17 year, teacher recruitment programs and teacher mentoring programs.

“We have to find a way that is both practical and appropriate for the education system we have today,” said Education Minister Mike Bernier.  “This new funding will help to kick-start the changes we all know are required following the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision. While the positive negotiations continue, we’re going to keep focused on solutions that work for kids in their classrooms.”

He added memorandum of agreement provides districts with the flexibility to work with their local teachers’ union to determine how best to use the funding to provide additional education services for students by hiring new teachers and specialist teachers.

The parties agreed in the last round of bargaining that they would reopen the agreement and negotiate from the restored contract provisions, he added. The parties continue to meet and jointly review the old contract language as well as current district-level information on classrooms and composition.

Hansman emphasized the agreement is in no way a final resolution, nor does it impact a future agreement on full implementation of the restored language. While the new funding is needed, and will help many teachers and students, he said, the government will have to provide significantly more funding to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling.

“With this interim measure agreed to, the parties can now turn to the crucial task of fully implementing all the language that was restored by the court,” said Hansman.

The two sides will be meeting again next week to continue discussions. Hansman said the BCTF’s goal is to ensure these talks are not long or drawn out and that all Boards of Education, schools, teachers, students, and parents have certainty about how and when the language will be restored.

“It’s important for parents and the public to understand how our contract language made a difference for kids. It guaranteed supports for students with special needs, and manageable class sizes for all. It ensured teacher-librarians, counsellors, English language and other specialist teachers were there to give students the individual attention they need,” Hansman said.  “It has been almost 15 years to the day since then-Education Minister Christy Clark first brought in the unconstitutional legislation. The work to repair the damage to public education has only just begun.”

He added next month’s provincial budget will be a telling point.

Key points of the Memorandum of Agreement include:

  • $50 million in new funding from the Ministry of Education to create 1,000-1,100 teacher full-time equivalents (FTE) for the balance of the 2016-17 school year.
  • The new funding will be used to implement two priority measures: adding enrolling-teacher positions and non-enrolling positions in schools (for example: counsellors, teacher-librarians, special education teachers, and other specialists across all grades).
  • Allocation of the net new funding at the school district level needs to be jointly developed and decided through a district committee established by the Superintendent and the local union President. Decisions about what jobs will be posted and where needs to be decided by the local parties. There will also be a dispute resolution process if there is no agreement between local parties.

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