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Despite attempts to spin the numbers, the government’s own data on class size and support for children with special needs show the BC Liberals refuse to live up to their own legislation and promises to improve classroom conditions, said BCTF President Irene Lanzinger.

“Once again, the BC Liberal government is breaking their own legislation and breaking their promise to BC’s students,” said Lanzinger. “Even worse, Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid and her government are trying to spin the numbers into a good news story. There are more overcrowded classes now than in 2006 when limits were set in legislation. Before that, there were no limits because the government stripped teachers’ collective agreements. The data put forward by the minister shows her government has no plan to improve classroom conditions.”

The data presented by the minister of education show 3,229 class-size violations with more than 30 students for the 2009–10 school year. That is down a mere 100 classes from 2008–09, but still higher than 2007–08 when there were 3,179 violations. The numbers show the government has failed to make any progress.

Of greater concern are the numbers around class composition, the term used to describe the number of students with special needs in a classroom. The government’s own legislation sets a limit at three students with an Individual Education Plan per class. In 2010, there are close to 12,000 class-composition violations. That is up from 11,000 in 2009 and 10,000 in 2008.

“It has been more than four years since BC’s teachers went on strike to improve classroom conditions,” said Lanzinger. “But year after year, the government refused to fund their own legislation. The result is more overcrowded classes than ever before and cash-strapped school boards forced to make damaging cuts to our education system.”

Earlier this month, Arbitrator James Dorsey ruled on a series of grievances about class size and class composition. In his decision, he clearly pointed out how government is failing to fulfill its duties. He stated:

“If boards of education are not funded to enable them to fulfill their legislated responsibility and duty, then the funding provincial government must be accountable or the Legislative Assembly must expressly enact relief from the class-size and composition standards and explain to parents and teachers why the standards are no longer desirable or achievable.” Paragraph 73.

“When a board of education exceeds grade level size and composition standards for a class and does not meet the requirements with respect to the class, the burden of the breach is primarily borne by the teacher(s) of the class, not the principal, superintendent, trustees, or even individual students.” Paragraph 141.

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).