BC teachers are disappointed to see the provincial government’s 2023–24 budget released today lacks the targeted funding needed to address the acute teacher shortage in a meaningful way.
While public educators are pleased to see provincial support for recently negotiated wage increases, increasing enrolment, school food programs, new schools, and seismic upgrades, teachers need urgent relief from the pressures of understaffing.
“We’re very happy to see that health continues to be a priority. The recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted what many of us knew—that health care is essential. We’re pleased to see investments to recruit new doctors and nurses. However, we’re disappointed that the same attention hasn’t been given to public education,” BC Teachers’ Federation President Clint Johnston says.
BC’s future doctors and nurses—careers that are a focus of recruitment and retention efforts in this budget—are currently being taught in our K–12 system. This foundational education needs more investment to ensure every student has a certified teacher and to protect the system against erosion.
In a survey of members by the BCTF, 73% of teachers working in person in BC schools reported their workload had increased since before the pandemic. More than one-third said they were now more likely to leave the profession in the next few years.
While teachers are happy to see Budget 2023 includes $480 million over three years to close skills and labour gaps through the Future Ready Plan, Johnston says they are concerned that the $6.5-million portion flowing through the Ministry of Education isn’t enough to support needed staffing levels.
“Teachers are making magic in classrooms every day, but behind the scenes they are burning out.”
BCTF members made historic gains when they ratified a new collective agreement in December that provides for salary raises, better extended health benefits, and increased professional development funding and preparation time. Teachers are pleased the government is honouring its commitment to fully fund the agreement so school districts aren’t left to find the money elsewhere.
Expansion of school food programs will also support families feeling the pressure of rising grocery costs and provide students with the healthy meals they need to flourish in schools. Significant capital investments mean more new schools and seismic upgrades, and the BCTF also hopes it targets upgrades to ventilation systems given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and increasing climate threats like wildfire smoke.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BC BUDGET
- $3.4 billion in capital funding to build new schools to respond to enrolment growth, and maintain and seismically upgrade schools
- $1.96 billion to fund public school wage lifts related to the 2022 Shared Recovery Mandate
- $214 million in new funding for school food programs to help families with rising food costs
- $161 million in funding under the Classroom Enhancement Fund.
MISSING FROM THE BC BUDGET
- Enough dedicated funding for recruitment of new teachers and retention of experienced ones
- Special education funding that aligns with identified needs, including targeted funding for early identification and designation of students with disabilities and other unique learning needs and per-student funding amounts for high-prevalence designations.
The BC Teachers’ Federation will be releasing a detailed analysis of the provincial budget in the coming days.