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In a 74-page decision, arbitrator James Dorsey has compensated BC teachers for violations against the government’s legislated class-size and class-composition standards, BCTF First Vice-president Susan Lambert said today.

“This is a win for teachers, classrooms, and students across British Columbia,” said Lambert. “Arbitrator Dorsey has ruled that the government and school districts cannot ignore the class-size limits set in law or the required support levels for children with special needs. In his decision, Arbitrator Dorsey said teachers should not have to bear the burden of overcrowded classes.

“Teachers are not looking for extra time off,” said Lambert. “What teachers want is a government that lives up to its own legislation and follows its own rules. Ultimately, oversized classes and a lack of support for children with special needs impact students and their education.”

The remedy was based on an arbitration first awarded in August 2009. That arbitration dealt with a series of grievances by the BC Teachers’ Federation from the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years. In all, teachers grieved 546 classes from the 2006–07 school year, and 1,122 classes from the 2007–08 school year that violated the limits set by government legislation. By agreement between the two sides, the arbitration only looked at a small number of representative cases.

The remedy applies to 21 cases and will be used now as a guide to settle the outstanding grievances. Using a formula constructed by Arbitrator Dorsey, teachers with classes that violated the legislation will be compensated with paid time off.

“These decisions on class-size and class-composition violations show the government’s legislation is not working,” said Lambert. “The government, by stripping these matters out of collective bargaining in 2002, has created a dysfunctional system that is wasting valuable time and resources that would be better spent in the classroom. The BC government legislated class-size limits and standards of support for children with special needs, but never provided the funding to get the job done. As a result, there are more overcrowded classes today than ever before.

“Teachers want to work to provide the best education possible for every student,” said Lambert. “But as this arbitration has shown, the government’s refusal to fund or improve their own legislation has put districts in an untenable situation with teachers and students forced to deal with the consequences.”

In his decision, Arbitrator Dorsey stated:

  • “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.
  • “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.
  • “Review and analysis of the particulars of all classes in dispute in both school years has drawn me to a four-tier formula with a limit on the total number of paid release days as a reasonable balance among the interests of equitable compensation, an efficacious formula, and potential for settlements that minimize disruption for students.” Paragraph 170.

View the entire decision here:

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

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