BCTF calls for more school funding in budget

Iker: not all problems solved by teachers' collective agreement

Following a bitter months-long labour dispute between the two parties that ended in September, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has urged the provincial government to allocate more funding for schools in the 2015 budget.

In a submission to the all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, which is preparing a report due Nov. 15 with budget recommendations for the Minister of Finance, the BCTF made five broad recommendations.

They include: increase funding for grades K-12 to the Canadian average; increase funding to meet the needs of students with special needs; fully fund all aspects of the collective agreement, as well as inflation and downloaded costs; provide adequate funding to support ministry-directed program and curriculum changes; and provide capital funding to school districts for additional schools in rapidly growing communities, and to complete seismic upgrades.

Teachers want to make sure the government and the public do not think all of the problems are solved just because there is a collective agreement in place,” says BCTF president Jim Iker in a news release.

For too many years, school boards have been forced to make cuts to pay for downloaded costs from the provincial government. It’s time for the government to fully recognize its obligations and provide new funding to ensure students get the smaller classes, improved class composition, and access to specialist teachers they were promised.”

The recommendations are separate from what was negotiated in the recent contract, in which salaries and classroom size and composition were some of the main issues of dispute.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Association president Murray Helmer says that while the contract created an Education Fund that put an additional $828,000 into this district for hiring teachers, the money still doesn’t go far enough to address the needs of students.

“Last week, we sat down and took all the submissions that came from all the schools [in the district] and allocated the money we had. The requests were far in excess of the money we had [available] to allocate.

The submission by the BCTF is one of more than 1,800 made to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services during a recent public consultation period.

Committee chair Dan Ashton, a Penticton B.C. Liberal MLA, says it received a “tremendous response this year from all across the province on a broad range of issues.”

Ashton added he couldn’t comment further on the BCTF’s recommendations until the committee finalizes its report and tables it in the legislature.