The BC government's plan to keep investing record amounts in K-12 capital projects like new schools and seismic upgrades is strong, but the budget for operational funding is likely to fall short, said Clint Johnston, Second Vice-President of the BC Teachers' Federation.
“New schools and seismic upgrades are critical to proper learning environments and the safety of students and teachers,” said Johnston. “It's good to see this government pushing ahead with record capital investments after years of school closures and stagnant funding by the previous government.”
Johnston welcomed the announcement of $550 million of new funding over three years but cautioned the year-over-year increases will fall short of what's needed to meet immediate needs like addressing the ongoing teacher shortage. In 2019-20, the government projects a year-over-year increase of $182 million and a commitment to maintain that amount without any future significant increases.
“As enrolment continues to grow and new funds are required to make improvements to class-size, class-composition, and specialist teacher staffing ratios, BC will need to build on the funding increases announced in Budget 2019.
“The 3,700 new teaching positions funded by this government to date are a result of the BCTF's Supreme Court win. The restoration of our collective agreement language is what's driving the reduction of class sizes and the increase in supports for children with special needs. After 16 years of cuts under the previous government, those caps and ratios now need to be improved.”
Affordability measures will benefit teachers and their families
On the government's ongoing efforts to address BC's affordability crisis, the BCTF's Clint Johnston said many teachers in BC will benefit from initiatives like accessible childcare, the elimination of interest on student loans, and the new BC Child Opportunity Benefit.
“BC teachers are some of the lowest paid in all of Canada and live in some of the most expensive communities. It's one of the reasons why teacher recruitment and retention is such a challenge. The effort to reduce costs and make life affordable for individuals and families will help many of our members. While BC needs to see more specific action to address the teacher shortage, I applaud this government for their commitment to tackle the province's affordability crisis.”