According to the provincial government's latest data on class size and composition, learning conditions in BC schools continue to deteriorate. Classes are getting larger and class composition is getting even more complex. Even though enrolment has gone up by 6,559 students, the government cut $29 million from school districts this year and will cut $25 million more next year. BCTF President Jim Iker said the result is that all students, especially those with special needs, are being let down by the BC Liberal government.
“Two years ago, Premier Christy Clark said improving class composition was her number one priority, but her continued underfunding of education has actually made things worse,” said Iker. “Teachers had hoped the premier was sincere, but these new numbers show she hasn't lived up to her words.
“BC teachers are working so hard to support every child and meet each student's unique needs. However, the number of classes in BC with four or more children with special needs has gone up to 16,516-the most ever. Even more concerning is that the number of classes with seven or more children with special needs now is 4,163, an all time high. There are also 4,840 classes in BC with seven or more English Language Learners (ELL), formerly known as ESL. When classes become too large and overly complex, all students lose out on time with their teachers.”
The new statistics show that classes in BC are getting more complex and the government's underfunding and forced cuts are to blame. Last year the premier sparked outcries from school districts when she suggested they could simply go after “low-hanging fruit” in order to make the $29 million cut imposed by Victoria. An additional $25 million cut is in the plan for the budget to be released tomorrow.
It is time for this government to stop the cuts,” said Iker. “Premier Clark needs to actually come through on her promise to make class composition a priority. Enrolment isn't on the decline anymore, so government no longer has that excuse to underfund public education. It's time to invest in our kids and fund BC schools.”
Other data highlights more serious concerns with the state of education funding in BC. The number of students went up this year by over 6,500 and more than two thirds of them-4,300 students-are identified as having unique learning needs. Of that number, 1,352 students have a special needs designation.
Despite this sharp increase in students with special needs, the number of classes in BC with an assigned Educational Assistant went down by 432 even though the overall number of classes in the province went up by over 500.
On class size, conditions in BC have deteriorated this year as well. The number of classes with 30 or more students has gone up this school year by 25% compared to 2014-15.
“Enrolment in BC schools is up and statistics show that trend is going to continue for many years to come,” said Iker. “The era of cuts and underfunding must come to an end. Teachers' working conditions and our students learning conditions need to be improved if we are going to successfully implement the government's revised curriculum.
“There is a lot at stake in tomorrow's budget and it is time for BC to finally stop letting kids down. The system needs new funding now to reduce class sizes, meets the needs of a growing population, improve class composition, and hire more specialists like Learning Assistance teachers, English Language Learner teachers, and special education teachers,” Iker said.
Click here to view the class composition chart with statistics back to 2006.