An interim settlement of the long-standing dispute between the B.C. government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation over staffing levels is being hailed by both the Central Okanagan School District and the local teachers association as a win for public education here.
The agreement, announced by Education Minister Mike Bernier Thursday afternoon, has allocated an immediate $50 million to pay for up to 1,100 more teachers across the province.
And some of the new teachers to be hired here as part of that plan could be in place as early as the beginning of February, said School District 23 secretary-treasurer Larry Paul.
Final language of the deal has yet to be set but based on interim agreement between the province and the BCTF, both Paul and and Central Okanagan Teacher’s Association president Susan Bauhart said they expect to see the Central Okanagan, with about four per cent of the provincial population, get about $2 million of the new funding. That could mean—depending on the level of qualification of the teachers hired—between 25 and 40 new teachers here.
“This is good for our students,” said Bauhart. “This is what the court case was all about.”
The could decision that prompted Thursday’s agreement was delivered by the Supreme Court of Canada in November, restoring language from a 2002 union contract between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province, that then Education Minister Christy Clark—now B.C.’s premier—removed concerning class size and special needs support staffing ratios.
Bauhart said she feels the addition of new teachers will help all students, not just those with special needs.
From the district’s point of view, Paul said the new funding will help get more resources into classrooms, something SD23 has wanted for some time.
“I think it’s a win-win,” he said.
Central Okanagan Board of Education chairwoman Moyra Baxter also expressed happiness with the announcement of more money to hire more teachers but has a word of caution, saying space is tight in Central Okanagan schools and where the new teachers and their students are going to go has yet to be worked out.
As part of the interim agreement, a special committee with representatives of both the school district and the teachers association has been set up to figure out the local details of the additional teachers.
Baxter noted that the Thursday’s agreement is an interim measure that till needs to have its language finalized. All three said they expect to see the interim funding replaced with permanent, ongoing funding to pay for the teachers hired this year in future years.
“It’s a complicated issue,” said Baxter. “But this is a good news story.”