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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 7, May/June 2006

Debate in the Legislature on Bill 33

Shirley Bond: Class size and composition were also central to the two-week illegal strike last fall by the BC Teachers’ Federation. As part of the dispute resolution, Industrial Inquiry Commissioner Vince Ready prepared a report that addressed the issue of class size and composition.

John Horgan: I’ll spend a portion of my remarks giving a brief history lesson on how we got to a point where professional educators committed to children in their classrooms, committed to public education, committed to their community took the significant step of leaving the classroom and going to the streets in defence of public education.

Adrian Dix: I think it’s fair to say that the BC Teachers’ Federation and its courageous leadership have worked hard on these questions. Many of those efforts are reflected in some of the provisions of this bill. I think it is an important thing today to recognize the critical role that the trade union movement, in particular, for the BC Teachers’ Federation and their teachers and members, have played in raising these issues in British Columbia.

Certainly, over the past several years, the leadership of the BC Teachers’ Federation, which has argued again and again and again for limits on class size and changes to the provision around class composition, deserve a great deal of credit for their efforts.

Harry Bains: I want to thank Jinny Sims and the BCTF for taking a stand for education, taking a stand for the children of this province and taking a stand for the future of this province. I might add that they took that stand, and they took huge risks when they took that stand.

David Chudnovsky: Another piece of good news is that those tens of thousands of teachers, hundreds of thousands of parents, and communities across the province who stood together last fall and said that we needed limits on class sizes and additional services for students with special needs: those people are vindicated.

Doug Routley: The teachers can celebrate a great victory, not on behalf of themselves but on behalf of the children they serve, for forcing this government to realize its education policies and funding formula are flawed.

Shane Simpson: The province rose up in support of the teachers last year because they recognized that conditions for their children’s learning and teachers’ working conditions were untenable. They accepted and they realized that smaller class sizes and support for those students who need it the most is necessary for all of our students to succeed to their best.

David Chudnovsky: The question needs to be asked: why is it that the professional prerogative, the professional responsibility, the professional ethics of K to 7 teachers are being recognized in this act and teachers from Grades 8 to 12 aren’t being recognized in this act? It’s an important question.

John Horgan: School boards are saying, they’re appealing to this government, districts in Vancouver, on the Island, in the North to recognize that underfunding is a chronic problem and it needs their immediate attention...I think that the minister’s going to have to reflect a little bit more. I’m hopeful that the Premier, executive council, and Treasury Board will find it in their wisdom to recognize that if they want to achieve the goals they put forward in their strategic plan, if they want to achieve the goal of being the most educated and literate jurisdiction in North America, they’re going to have to put their money where their mouth is...

Shane Simpson: We need to have funding in place to ensure that the conditions of Bill 33 can be met without substantive costs to other critical aspects of our public education system.

Doug Routley: This government has a record of failing to fund important initiatives in education.

David Chudnovsky: Let’s make sure that we provide the resources, that the government is responsible and accountable for providing the resources, that can make this beginning step, a step that we can all be proud of.

Shirley Bond: However, I do want to say, and I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this government has always believed that class size is important. We believed it was so important, we enshrined it in legislation and took it out of contract negotiations, where often students became pawns at that table. We said: "It’s so important, we’re going to make it law in British Columbia, and we know that’s important."

– Excepts from Hansard, debate of Bill 33

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