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BC teachers are calling for a meaningful commitment in the BC Budget to solve acute staffing shortages in the public education system—and they say solutions are within reach. 

No student should have to go without the supports that would enable them to succeed, but that’s what happens when there aren’t enough teachers. When teachers on call aren’t available, specialists like school counsellors and librarians are pulled from their core duties to cover classroom absences, or uncertified teachers are called in. Too often, our most vulnerable students are the first to lose programs and services.

That’s why the BC Teachers’ Federation is calling for funding in the budget to support a multiyear workforce strategy that would tackle recruitment, retention, and training—similar to what’s been introduced in other public sectors like health care. An election-year budget, scheduled for release next week, is the perfect opportunity to prioritize what matters.

“Educators’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions,” BCTF President Clint Johnston said. “All students deserve safe and supportive school environments, and that means enough care and attention from fully qualified teachers to help them engage, learn, and grow.”

The BC government’s own statistics show that the K–12 system will need a staggering 20,000 teachers and 7,000 teacher assistants over the next 10 years—and that just covers growing enrollment and replacement of retiring staff. Retention is a key piece of the puzzle too, and that means ensuring positive working conditions so that teachers don’t burn out.

Johnston added that funding gaps for inclusive education mean the students who need support most are sometimes the first to lose it. Inclusive education typically costs around $350 million more than the province allocates to school districts for special education each year. School districts must find the money somewhere to close that gap, which often means cutting important programs and services. 

In addition to closing the funding gap for special education, a workforce strategy should include:

  • a comprehensive loan forgiveness program for teacher education candidates.
  • rural and remote incentives to retain the teacher workforce.
  • expanded access to certification for individuals living outside urban centres, including bridging opportunities for those who need to continue working.
  • funded mentorship of new teachers to encourage their long-term successful employment.
  • time and support for teachers adapting to new initiatives introduced by the government, including the new reporting order, curriculum changes, and other projects.
  • permanent teacher-on-call contracts within schools or regions to provide consistent coverage for staff absences and reduce the impact of service gaps for students.

“Teachers are doing their best, but they need help,” Johnston said. “It’s time for a serious investment to ensure students get the quality education they deserve.”

For a full copy of the BCTF Education Funding Brief, presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, click here.

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