As the new school year begins, teachers across BC are anxiously wondering about their classes. How many students will I have? What gifts and challenges will they bring to my classroom? How will I be able to meet their diverse needs?
BC teachers have long advocated for smaller classes so they can give all students the individual attention they need, but this year’s concerns about class size are magnified by Bill 22, says Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation.
“Bill 22 proposes a new scheme to pay some teachers more for taking classes with more students than are allowed under the School Act. We believe this is an attempt to co-opt teachers into accepting learning conditions that are unacceptable,” Lambert said.
The Ministry of Education is proposing to pay teachers an extra $2,500 per year per student over 30 in Grades 4–7 classrooms; and an extra $312 per student over 30 in some secondary school courses. They’re offering teachers more money, but students will get less time. It’s not right. Any amount of money to the teacher won’t make those overcrowded classrooms okay for kids,” Lambert said.
Both of the BCTF’s key democratic decision-making bodies—the Representative Assembly and the Annual General Meeting—have voted to reject the idea of more cash for bigger classes.
“Teachers don’t feel it’s ethical to personally profit at the expense of students’ learning conditions. It would be a violation of our professional Code of Ethics,” Lambert added.
She also questioned how school boards will find the necessary funding for this scheme. “The provincial government froze the 2012–13 education budget, creating a $100 million funding shortfall due to inflation. That means boards are going to have to cut programs and classes will inevitably be larger,” Lambert said.