On the first day of the new legislative sitting, teachers are urging Premier Christy Clark to fully fund the smaller classes, teaching positions, and services to students with special needs that were cut after the imposition of Bills 27 and 28 in 2002.
“As Education Minister, Clark brought in legislation that was specifically designed to enable her government to take at least $275 million every year from public education. A decade later, that legislation has been found to be unconstitutional and invalid, so she needs to immediately put that funding back into schools to restore what was wrongfully cut,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
Lambert pointed out that right now school boards are building their budgets for the 2011-12 school year. To restore learning conditions to the levels that existed prior to the imposition of the illegal bills, boards urgently need to know that the funding will be there. And, she emphasized, there are sufficient funds available.
The transition budget introduced in February by former Finance Minister Colin Hansen included almost $1 billion in “wiggle room” to allow the new premier to put her stamp on the budget and pay for new ideas and programs. The budget set aside $600 million in contingency funds and $350 million in a forecast allowance for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2011, as well as an additional $1.5 billion over the next three years. “There is certainly room for a new government to manoeuvre,” Hansen said at the time.
And teachers fully agree. “This is a question of priorities, not money. The funds are there if Premier Clark has the political will to make things right for students and teachers across the province by immediately announcing that the funding will be in place to restore those teaching and learning conditions next September,” Lambert said.
“Kids shouldn’t have to wait another year in oversized classes where it’s difficult for their needs to be met,” Lambert said. “Premier Clark said she was going to honour the Supreme Court judgment, so now we are waiting for the actions that will speak louder than words.”