Chronology of education legislation and actions by the BC Liberal government
Description and impact of legislation and actions
May 11, 2006 (3rd Reading)
Bill 33 - Education (Learning Enhancement) Statutes Amendment Act
Establishes new class size limits and addresses requirements for consultation and reporting. Amends provisions for distance education courses, now termed “distributed learning”. (Source: B.C. Legislative Digest)
The government has not provided school districts with any new funding to implement the legislation. Many secondary students are still waiting for smaller classes and students with special needs at all levels are waiting for the support they need.
The number of classes in 2007 with four or more students with special needs grew by almost 8% over last year. The ministry reports that 10,313 classes had four or more students this year, compared to 9,559 in 2006/07.
The number of classes with more than 30 students decreased only slightly — from 3,242 in 2006 to 3,179 in 2007. That means that only 63 more classes met the class size limit in 2007.
Despite the decrease being quite small, the minister’s spin is that the number of classes over 30 has decreased 66% over two years. This is based on there having been 9,253 classes over 30 reported in the 2005/06 school year. She said that there should not be an expectation that class sizes will continue to decrease in size in the future.
Members are experiencing Bill 33 as a “failed promise” and that there will not be significant improvements in class size and composition unless funding is increased.
Bill 33 also had significant sections that redefined the situation with distributed learning in BC and provided the legal framework for the policies that would shape the new look of online learning. Bill 33 defined “distributed learning” in a way that combined the traditional correspondence courses with a delivery of education by various new media, including online programs.
Bill 33 also required school boards to fall in line if they wanted to offer distributed learning and brought a new blending of the public and private school systems. The legislation opened more “choice” for Grade 10, 11, and 12 students who could now take distributed learning courses from any school district program approved by the ministry.
There are serious workload issues for distributed learning teachers. The nature of work in distributed learning has not been addressed at the bargaining table and no provisions specific to distributed learning exist currently. In addition, the class size and class composition limits defined by legislation explicitly exclude distributed learning from those provisions.
With the growth of distributed learning, it is essential to address issues of concern about working conditions.
October 2, 2006
BC Supreme Court decision upholds a section of the School Act prohibiting the charging of fees for materials that are required in courses leading to graduation.
It is the second time the courts have ruled against user fees in the public education system. The court has found fees may be charged for extracurricular materials and events not considered necessary by the teacher or the school. However, it prohibits school boards from charging for materials such as musical instruments and other equipment required for completion of any course.
The government has not provided adequate funding to support the court ruling and boards continue to grapple with underfunding, even though the minister of education claims the government is providing “the highest funding ever.”
November 28, 2006
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has again found the BC government in contravention of international labour law by interfering in collective bargaining and undermining the province’s collective bargaining system.
The ruling is the fourth in a series that condemn the BC government’s treatment of teacher bargaining rights. The ILO states the government actions “can only, in the long term, prejudice and destabilize the labour relations climate” in BC. In this latest decision regarding the 2005 imposition of a contract on BC teachers, the ILO says it “deeply regrets” the government’s “continuing interference in collective bargaining through legislation aimed at stripping the BCTF of its collective bargaining rights.”