In its written submission to the BC Legislative Assembly’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, the BC Teachers’ Federation put forward five key recommendations to ensure the government meets its provincial obligations under the new provincially negotiated collective agreement and improves overall funding to help teachers meet the needs of students.
“For over a decade, BC’s public education system has struggled with underfunding,” said BC Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker. “Teachers want to make sure that the government and the public do not think all of the problems are solved just because there is a collective agreement in place. We need to stay vigilant and ensure that the agreement is properly funded so school boards do not have to make any additional cuts as a result of downloaded costs. In addition, the BC government must fund all other mandated and downloaded costs such as increases to BC Hydro rates or changes to education programs like new curriculum.”
“For too many years, school boards have been forced to make cuts to pay for downloaded costs from the provincial government. It’s time for the government to fully recognize its obligations and provide new funding to ensure students get the smaller classes, improved class composition, and access to specialist teachers they were promised.”
The BCTF’s full funding brief can be accessed at: EdFundingBrief2014.pdf. In it, the Federation makes the following five broad recommendations:
- increase funding for the K–12 public education system to at least the Canadian average
- increase funding to meet the needs of students with special needs
- fully fund all aspects of the collective agreement, as well as inflation and downloaded costs
- provide adequate funding to support ministry-directed program and curriculum changes
- provide capital funding to school districts for additional schools in rapidly growing communities, and to complete seismic upgrades.
“One of the key areas that got much-needed public attention during our strike, and still needs focused government spending, was the lack of support for children with special needs,” said Iker. “Our brief shows that the number of children with special needs continues to grow at a time when specialist teacher support for those students has actually declined.”
Iker explained that although some gains were made with the Education Fund in the new collective agreement, the amount will still not meet the needs of all students and districts. In fact, BC’s two largest school districts, Surrey and Vancouver, have said the teachers hired from the new Education Fund will mostly replace teaching positions that districts eliminated to offset budget shortfalls in their 2014–15 budgets.
“It’s time for the provincial government to increase the overall education budget to ensure our system is able to properly support all students,” Iker said. “Teachers, parents, and many others in the education community will be looking for increased spending in February 2015. The most recent StatsCan data show BC’s education system is funded $1,000 less than the national average. That must be improved and we will hold Premier Clark and her government to the public commitments they made during the strike about improved learning conditions for students.”