The teachers of BC want to congratulate Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Peter Fassbender on his appointment to serve in cabinet as minister of education.
“We look forward to working with Minister Fassbender as we continue our efforts to negotiate a collective agreement that meets the needs of students and teachers across BC,” said Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation.
The BCTF bargaining team has been in talks with representatives of the BC Public School Employers’ Association since the beginning of February. Negotiations have been moving forward on a number of issues, but there is uncertainty due to the lack of resources at the table to meet the clear need for a fair deal for teachers and better support for students, especially those with special needs.
In the past decade, per-student funding in BC has fallen to the lowest in Canada. It is now almost $1,000 per student below the national average, according to the latest Statistics Canada data. With the lowest student-educator ratio in the country, it would require BC to hire 6,600 more teachers just to get up to the national average.
Last week the BCTF wrote to Premier Christy Clark requesting a meeting to discuss the challenges facing public education in BC. Lambert noted that Clark has publicly stated that she wants to work with the labour movement and especially that she wants to achieve labour peace in schools.
“More than anyone else, teachers want harmony and stability in our public education system,” Lambert said. “However, any successful agreement will have to address the chronic underfunding in BC schools that has left parents scrambling to fundraise millions of dollars to supplement inadequate learning resources, and teachers struggling to meet diverse student needs in overcrowded classrooms.”
Lambert also stated that any fair deal would further respect teachers’ right to free collective bargaining, a right that has been reaffirmed by the BC Supreme Court in a landmark ruling. “We recognize that massive change can’t happen overnight, but we do need to see a commitment to a plan that will mean smaller classes, more support for students with special needs, and a fair deal for teachers,” Lambert said.