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On Friday August 21, arbitrator James Dorsey released a thorough 354-page decision about class size and class composition that highlights the government’s failure to live up to its own legislation and refusal to properly fund public education in British Columbia, BCTF President Irene Lanzinger said today.

“This award is the most definitive analysis of the government’s 2006 class-size legislation,” said Lanzinger. “The arbitration award shows the government’s decision to strip the right to bargain class size and support levels for students with special needs from collective agreements has hurt our public education system. This government imposed limits on school boards but did not provide any new funding to get the job done. As a result, there are actually more overcrowded classes today than before the 2005 strike.”

The arbitration was based on a series of grievances by the BC Teachers’ Federation from the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years. In all, teachers grieved 546 classes from the 2006–07 school year, and 1,122 classes from the 2007–08 school year that violated the limits set by government legislation. During the arbitration process, both the union and BC Public School Employers’ Association agreed to choose representative schools to make their arguments.

The BCTF argued that classes violated the legislated limits and school principals failed to adequately consult with individual teachers as required by law. The arbitrator found that school boards violated the School Act in 21 of the 81 representative classes because consultations were inadequate or there was not a reasonably held opinion the classes were appropriate for student learning. The arbitrator has reserved his right to set remedies if the two parties are unable to agree on them at a later date.

“Class size and the number of students with special needs in that class is a fundamental aspect of any learning environment,” said Lanzinger. “In far too many cases, the limits are being ignored, and principals, forced by budget restraints, are signing off on classes that teachers don’t believe are appropriate for student learning. With this decision, the arbitrator ruled if the class-size limit of 30 or 3 children with special needs per class is exceeded, there must be genuine consultation with the teacher. Currently that is not happening and the minister of education needs to step in and provide clarity about what that consultation should look like.”

Beginning on page 139 of the award, Mr. Dorsey outlines his analysis and decisions, including information on the individual schools selected by both parties. In one example, Thornhill Elementary School in Terrace, Mr. Dorsey ruled that the school’s principal and the district’s superintendent both failed to ensure adequate consultations occurred. At Hastings Elementary Community School in Vancouver, Mr. Dorsey ruled that, “there was no meaningful, informed dialogue between the principal and teacher about the organization of each class.”

“Teachers across BC share the same desire as principals, trustees, and other partners to provide the best education possible for every student,” said Lanzinger. “But the government’s refusal to improve and properly fund their own legislation has put districts and school administrators in an untenable situation with teachers and students forced to deal with the consequences.”

You can find a copy of the entire award at
http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/BargainingContracts/ArbitrationAwards/
ClassSizeAndComposition2006-08Award.pdf

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).

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