Cash for crowded classrooms dismissed in district

School teachers union president praises administrator for keeping class sizes down

Harj Manhas

Harj Manhas

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Association [CCTA] president Joan Erb says the province’s proposal to pay teachers cash for crowded classrooms likely won’t affect local teachers.

The reason it won’t, she explains, is School District #27 (SD27) assistant superintendent Harj Manhas is ensuring teachers in the Cariboo-Chilcotin don’t face having more than 30 students in their classes.

“[Manhas] has made it very clear to principals that there are to be no classes over 30, and with the Learning Improvement Fund [LIF], he’s got the money to back that demand.”

It’s the only district in the province she has heard of where administrators have received this direction, Erb adds.

“The CCTA is very pleased with Mr. Manhas’ approach in how the [LIF] will be dispersed.”

Manhas says all classes across the district currently remain under that size limit.

“I have instructed my principals I don’t want to see any classes over 30 students.”

He notes SD27 received a total of $678,942 from the LIF for 2012/13 school year, and of that, $84,868 must be spent on support staff for special education.

“That was in the collective agreement with the union, and is about 12 per cent of the total.”

The balance will be used toward providing enough teachers and aids to keep class sizes down, Manhas explains.

“I developed a template that was sent to all principals, and [they] were to meet with the staff and come up with a plan for what needs they had in their schools. [This is] because every school has their own unique needs.”

The assistant superintendent then reviewed the plans and allocated the funds accordingly as he saw fit, and says that was successful.

“Up to this point it’s been very positive. My conversations with [Erb] have been very positive regarding how this money has been implemented, and it went to the schools where they needed the assistance with the students.”

The Ministry of Education says it will pay teachers an extra $2,500 per year for each student over 30 taught in Grades 4–7 classrooms; and an extra $312 per student in some secondary school courses.

However, Erb explains accepting “cash for kids” money leaves students lacking sufficient education resources and that is against the teachers’ code of ethics.

Both of the key decision-making bodies of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation – the Representative Assembly and the annual general meeting – have voted to reject the concept of more money for bigger classes.