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Government ready to deal, says education minister

Public perception that B.C.'s learning conditions have deteriorated to unmanageable levels under the current government is "dead wrong," says Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

"I don't buy that. I don't see that," he said, Wednesday. "There are challenges, but our learning outcomes are some of the best in Canada and the world."

B.C.'s teachers are doing "very well" but, he explained, a BCTF media campaign has besmirched the reputation of public schools.

"I think one of the unfortunate things is that part of the BCTF media campaign before the election was saying that our classrooms are in abysmal shape and we are not doing well … and they were criticizing their own members in doing that," he said.

"The facts don't support that. Does that mean we should be complacent? No. Should we work on composition issues? It's as not simplistic as saying, 'just give us more teachers.'"

Fassbender said it's time for the government and teachers to work on improving learning conditions together.

"We're willing to put class size and composition on the table," he said.

"We have put the offer on the table for $375 million over the life of the contract for class size and composition,."

Where the government and the teachers' union differ, he said, is on the issue of wages and benefits.

The BCTF, he said, need to align themselves better with the other 150,000 employees in the public sphere.

"If the BCT F was to come with a reasonable proposal, we would be …in an affordability area where the mediator could see we were close enough to warrant mediation," he said.  "Let's get classes going."

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