British Columbia

B.C. goes to court to retain class sizes at current levels

The B.C. government is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to stay parts of a recent ruling to keep cabinet documents confidential and maintain flexibility on class sizes and composition, pending their appeal of the original ruling.

Province seeks injunction to put on hold court decision restoring class sizes to 2001 levels

The B.C. government is seeking an injunction on a court order that could restore 1998 class size and composition regulations. (CBC)

The B.C.government is asking the court for permission to keep class sizes at their current levels while it appeals a recent B.C. Supreme court decision restoring them to 2001 levels.

The court had given the government a year to comply with its earlier decision that government legislation stripping teacher's of their collective bargaining rights was illegal and unconstitutional.

But last month it found the government had done nothing to correct the situation and levied a $2 million fine. It also told government its time was up and ordered it to immediately reinstate the old class sizes.

Victoria says the ruling is 'completely unaffordable' for taxpayers, requiring thousands of new teachers to accommodate smaller class size limits.  It says the court order would create 'huge disruptions' in schools and prevent districts from providing the right mix of supports for students.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton filed the Notice of Motion along with 10 affidavits, requesting the court stay two terms of the controversial ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin last month.

The first part of the motion asks the court to suspend an order to restore the deleted parts of the B.C. Education Improvement Act affecting class sizes.

The government is arguing that if the order was followed and those parts were deleted, it would lead to the immediate restoration of rules around class sizes and composition dating back to 1998.

These rules capped class sizes and regulated class composition, meaning more classes, teacher and special needs and teaching assistants would be required and in turn cause the costs of school boards to skyrocket.

One affidavit from the Surrey School District says restoring the 1998 class sizes and compositions would mean hiring 445 new teachers at a cost of $40 million per year.

A second affidavit from Kamloops says that district would have to immediately install 16 new portables to accommodate the new classes.

The government estimates the told cost of the changes could be more than $1 billion for school districts across B.C.

The second part of the motion asks the court to stay Justice Griffin's "unprecedented" order permitting the BCTF to publicly distribute an unredacted written submission to its members which quotes extensively from confidential cabinet documents.

In the motion the government did not ask the court to stay the $2 million award the government was ordered to pay the BCTF. The government has already stated it intends to appeal the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

On Wednesday in the legislature the NDP opposition released court transcripts from the hearings that they say show the government deliberately tried to provoke a teachers's strike in 2012.

The B.C. Teacher's Federation opposes the government appeal.  it says Victoria is just trying to block needed improvements to the system.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has denied the allegations.

Document: B.C. government argument

Affidavit from Surrey School District superintendent