In response to the government releasing the report on the education funding review, Glen Hansman said more work needs to be done-so it is good to see the government taking a slower approach and not implementing any decisions right away.
“I am thankful to the Minister for outlining the next phase that allows for more consultation and collaboration,” said Hansman. “The entire education community needs to have an informed conversation about these recommendations, and I welcome the opportunity to do so over the coming year. I hope that the process will lead to changes that enhance both services to students and teachers' working conditions-regardless of where they live and work in our province.”
In addition, Hansman said the focus now needs to be on negotiating a new collective agreement for BC teachers by June 30, 2019, when the existing agreement expires.
“Since the Supreme Court of Canada restored teachers' collective agreement language around staffing minimums, class sizes, and support levels for students with special needs, BC has seen real improvements in learning and working conditions,” said Hansman. “What the last year and a half has confirmed is that collective agreement language for teachers improves teacher-student ratios, reduces class sizes, and improves support levels for students with special needs.”
“Our restored collective agreement language has led to the hiring of more than 3,700 new teachers who provide direct supports to students. When you look at those numbers, it's easy to see how the former BC Liberal government's approach to contract stripping and concessions harmed BC's education system and short-changed an entire generation of students.”
Hansman also explained that significant gaps in services for all students remain because many school districts do not actually have collective agreement for language staffing minimums or class-composition, and because of ongoing funding challenges.
“Despite the improvements since the teachers' court win, some students and their teachers are still waiting to see a positive change,” Hansman said. “This is because in some school districts class-size language never existed from grades 4 through 12; and, in many school districts, class-composition language never existed. This has led to equity issues that need to be addressed.”
“To address these inequities across the province, BC needs to expand the protections for working and learning conditions, not remove them as some school districts seemed to suggest in the funding model review. Removing or reducing recently restored protections for class sizes, class-composition, and staffing ratios would be a step backwards for students and teachers.”
“The government's priority should be ensuring similar protections are available in all 60 school districts and by providing appropriate funding so that supports are in place for all students, especially those with special needs. Every student can learn, and every student is entitled to an appropriate and full range of education services in their community-in all regions of British Columbia.”
Hansman concluded by saying the ongoing consultations around the funding model should not delay action on addressing the teacher shortage and other issues like the need to adequately fund the government's new curriculum. He also welcomed the government's commitment to take a closer look at how Distributed Learning programs are funded and structured, and how Adult Education programs can be better supported and expanded in BC school districts.