Teachers across British Columbia are breathing a sigh of relief on learning that the provincial government has decided not to appeal the landmark April 13, 2011 ruling of the BC Supreme Court, which declared substantial portions of Bills 27 and 28 to be unconstitutional.
“This news is good for kids, who now can hope to have their learning conditions restored in time for the start of the new school year,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert, who said she sincerely thanked Education Minister George Abbott for the role he played in helping government arrive at its decision to allow the BC Supreme Court ruling to stand.
“Now, rather than wasting time and money on further court action, we can move forward immediately to bring resources into the system for students,” Lambert said. “If the political will is there to respect the court decision, we must at the very least restore the funding to achieve the learning conditions that existed before the legislation. We’re eager to get down to work on it so school boards can plan for September.”
She noted that today’s Grade 10 students were in Kindergarten in 2002 when the legislation was imposed to remove from the teachers’ contracts all provisions relating to class size and class composition, along with staffing ratios for non-enrolling teachers including school counsellors, teacher-librarians, learning assistance, and other specialist teachers.
“Throughout almost all of their school careers, these children have experienced deteriorating learning conditions, overcrowded classrooms, scarce learning resources, closed libraries, and a terrible lack of support for students with special needs,” Lambert said. “Now it’s time to restore the quality services and staffing levels that were eliminated in order to cut hundreds of millions of dollars a year out of the education budget. Why make students wait another year?”
Lambert noted that the Supreme Court ruling also restores teachers’ ability to negotiate improvements to class size and class composition through the collective bargaining process. “The number of children in the classroom, and the complexity and diversity of needs they present are two fundamental elements in terms of teachers’ working conditions, which are also student’s learning conditions,” Lambert said.