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VICTORIA—The new BC budget plays a shell game with education funding, forces cutbacks on school districts, and increases MSP premiums. It is a broken promise from the BC Liberal government, BCTF President Jim Iker said today.

“Despite a personal promise from Premier Clark to make class composition her number one priority and fully fund collective agreement costs, this new budget increases costs to districts at the same time it forces cuts,” said Iker. “While there is some new money for the settlement teachers negotiated, a significant portion of it is not new funding. The government is playing a shell game. If teachers had not gone on strike, there would be no increase at all.”

Iker explained that the budget does include some additional funding to meet the costs of the new collective agreement and education fund to hire more teachers—gains teachers fought hard for. But much of the money is simply being moved around by forcing cuts onto school districts in other areas. In 2015-16 that cut will be $29 million and it will grow to $54 million in the following years. In addition, the government is increasing the Medical Services Plan premiums by 4%, not covering inflation, and refusing to pay for the new MyEducationBC computer program, all of which will download more unfunded costs to school boards.

“Instead of playing this shell game with education funding, the government should have met its promised obligations and increased funding to public education in a more meaningful way as their own finance committee recommended instead of giving a tax cut to BC’s wealthiest few,” said Iker. “The government says these cuts must target non-instructional programs, but we’ve already seen cuts to adult basic education this year. In addition, districts cut close to 400 teaching positions this year. We were able to save most of them with the education fund we negotiated, but it shows the impact of chronic underfunding on public education.”

Iker also pointed out that after 15 years of a demographic slide among school-aged children (5 to 17-year- olds) in BC, the government’s own projections show we have 15 school districts with increasing enrolment, signalling a new population shift that will require government to invest even more in our schools.

On the government’s new coaching tax credit (worth only $25.30 per eligible member), Iker said, “The province should instead provide a tax credit to all teachers who have spent their own money, thousands of dollars over the years, on basic supplies for their students and classrooms.”

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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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