As discussions on implementing the BCTF's Supreme Court of Canada victory continue, BC teachers are turning their minds to the February 21 provincial budget and calling on the government to properly fund all of its obligations, BC Teachers' Federation President Glen Hansman said.
"Discussions between the BCTF and the employer on implementing our landmark Supreme Court of Canada victory are ongoing,” said Hansman. “February 21 is going to be very significant because that is when the government will announce its budget and we'll see if they are putting forward the funding needed to get the job done.
“After 15 years of fighting for our rights and students' learning conditions, this is the budget that must finally deliver on the necessary funds for class size, class composition, and ratios for specialist teachers.”
Hansman estimated that the provincial government needs to come up with at least $300 million in new funding to implement the collective agreement language that the Supreme Court of Canada recently restored. That $300 million must be on top of the recently announced $50 million interim measure and the $80 million Teacher Education Fund negotiated in 2014.
“School districts will need the financial resources to fully implement the restored language,” said Hansman. “It's time for the province to ensure all the funding is there so we can see the smaller classes, new specialist teachers, and extra support for children with special needs that come with our restored language.”
Increased education funding is a priority for British Columbians. For several years in a row, the Legislative Assembly's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has made numerous recommendations to increase education funding. And in the past week, hundreds of British Columbians flooded the government's budget consultation page asking the government to fully fund the restoration of teachers' stripped collective bargaining language.
“The upcoming budget must be a turning point in education funding in BC,” said Hansman. “That means not shortchanging school districts or leaving them to scramble and make more cuts from other areas.”
Fully funding the outcome of the Supreme Court of Canada decision is not the only issue. This has been a very challenging year for BC teachers, with multiple major initiatives brought forward by government without all the necessary supports. BC teachers and parents will also be looking for funding to address seismic safety and the implementation of the revised curriculum.
The BCTF's full brief to the Legislative Assembly's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services (presented in September 2016) contains more detail about the state of education funding in BC and what is needed. The submission is available online. Below are the nine main recommendations.
That the Ministry of Education act on the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services of the past two years that have called for adequate, stable, and predictable funding for K-12 public education.
That public education funding be increased to ensure that teachers are added to increase support for areas of greater need.
That K-12 public education funding be increased to cover all the costs downloaded to school districts, as well as inflationary costs.
That the Ministry of Education provide grants to school districts based on a minimum $1,500 per teacher per year ($60 million) for each of the three years to support time and learning resources needed for the current implementation of the redesign of the entire curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
That the Ministry of Education provide substantial new funding to ensure that learning resources reflective of every First Nation in British Columbia are developed and readily accessible, in English and French, for all grade levels and all subject areas.
That tuition-free education be reinstated for adults taking adult education to upgrade secondary courses and for adult English language learners.
That funding be provided to address issues of student mental health.
That funding and resources be provided to support the early identification and designation of students with special needs and that appropriate funding be provided for all designated students to ensure that all students have access to an appropriate educational program.
That public funding for independent schools be eliminated, over a four-year timeline, with a 2017 funding reduction to 35% and 20% of the per capita local school district rate for qualifying Group 1 and Group 2 independent schools, respectively.