New opportunities for B.C. teaching grads with Supreme Court ruling

Milton McClaren, a professor emeritus in the faculty of education at Simon Fraser University, says the B.C. government's obligations will create changes for university students studying education.

But expert says universities could face challenges training enough teachers to meet obligations

Teachers who recently graduated have often had to spend years on substitute teaching lists before landing more permanent positions — something that could change because of the Supreme Court ruling. (iStock)

The B.C. government has committed to hiring more teachers to meet the conditions of a Supreme Court ruling — and an expert says it will mean significant changes for young graduates and university students.

The 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling allows teachers to bargain class size and composition. The B.C. government will have to restore staffing to 2002 levels — when the dispute began.

The province has already committed $50 million to hiring new teachers, approximately enough for 1,100 new teachers.

Milton McClaren, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University's faculty of education, says in the past most graduating teachers have faced a tough job market.

Many new graduates would get on a substitution list or an on-call list, sometimes for years, before finding a more permanent position.

With the new ruling, these teachers have the opportunity to secure permanent positions.

But McClaren said it could almost be too much of a good thing.

"The high-growing districts — like Surrey — are using up their pool of teachers that have been on the on-call list for a long time, so they're having to find new people to move into those positions," he explained.

McClaren says B.C.-trained teachers will be particularly sought-after.

"British Columbia has very high standards," he said. "It's not easy for someone who got a credential from another province or country to move into the province."

But the new demand could also trigger changes at the university level.

Education enrollment rates have dropped in recent years in response to the job market, McClaren said, and with that the number of faculty members also dropped.

"There would have to be funds made available at the university level to [remedy that]," he said.

The teachers' federation says the province will need to pay an additional $250 to $300 million a year to get back to 2002 staffing levels.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled How will university education for teachers change in B.C. after Supreme Court ruling?