According to reports from school districts to local teacher associations throughout BC, more than 150 full-time teaching positions will be lost next September, despite the much-vaunted Learning Improvement Fund (LIF).
With the overall education budget frozen, the public education system needs an additional $100 million simply to keep up with inflationary cost increases. Under Bill 22, the government earmarked $30 million in the LIF for next school year and then added another $30 million saved during the teachers’ three-day strike in March. This total of $60 million is anticipated to offset some cuts, but the overall result will still be more than 150 full-time teaching positions cut.
“Looking ahead to the 2012–13 school year, we can see that these looming cuts are clearly going to have a negative impact in schools and communities across the province,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
She noted that the 150 teaching positions lost this year come on top of over 3,500 full-time positions lost in the last decade, especially teacher-librarians, school counsellors, learning assistance and resource teachers with specialized training. “That is an enormous amount of professional expertise, personal caring, and individual attention lost to the students of BC,” Lambert said.
By contrast, few school boards are cutting administrative positions and indeed many are increasing the number of district administrators.
Lambert called upon the provincial government, especially Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister George Abbott, to reconsider their negative response to her direct appeal to meet with the BCTF and help reach a fair compromise in the ongoing labour dispute. As required by Bill 22, Lambert and other BCTF representatives are meeting with Dr. Charles Jago, the individual appointed by government to try to mediate the dispute. However, Clark and Abbott have both stated government’s intention to legislate teachers’ terms and conditions of work even though discussions are still ongoing between the two parties.
“Legislation will only exacerbate already tense relationships and won’t do anything to improve conditions for students,” Lambert said. “Teachers have always said that everything is negotiable, and we are willing to compromise. We believe it is still possible to find common ground if government will meet us half way. Let’s work together to resolve this now, before the school year is over.”