B.C. schools get record funding but teacher shortage remains
2 years after key court ruling, many districts still struggling to hire enough educators
About 600,000 B.C. students will return to class in September with record levels of funding, smaller class sizes and more staffing — but a shortage of teachers continues to plague many districts.
According to Education Minister Rob Fleming, the province's schools had a $580-million funding boost that has enabled the government to hire up to 3,700 new teachers and a number of educational assistants,
But B.C. Teachers' Federation president Glen Hansman said the increase in teachers or funding isn't something Fleming or the new NDP government should get the credit for.
He notes a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2016 forced the provincial government to restore staffing to 2002 levels after it ruled that a former Liberal government improperly took away the union's right to bargain class size and the composition of those classes.
"It's something that the court ordered because of teachers' persistence through the court," he said. "Beyond what the court ordered, there hasn't been any new additional funding on the operational side from the province."
Teacher shortages remain
Hansman said the shortage of teachers and specialists that caused disruptions in the last school year remains, and it is still difficult to find teachers for the Vancouver area because of how expensive it is to live in the city.
In a letter to Fleming earlier this year the BCTF recommended that the minister establish a provincewide recruitment and retention fund, and assist in student loan payments, among other things.
Fleming admits the province is having difficulty recruiting French immersion teachers, and school districts in the Lower Mainland have had to curtail the planned expansion of French programs.
Some districts in rural areas have also had trouble hiring secondary school math and science teachers, he said, because moving to those areas is a "bigger life decision."
But Fleming said the problem has been left for so long that it is taking a lot of care and attention to fix.
Hansman said the federation wants the province to be "more proactive." He gave the former B.C. Liberal government credit for putting $2 million into a fund to help rural and remote school districts attract teachers from other provinces by offering moving allowances.
With files from the Canadian Press