B.C. short 250 teachers as new school year begins

Government has yet to implement the key recommendation made by a task force around creating a recruitment and retention fund to attract more teachers to the province.

Province yet to implement key recommendation of its own task force on creating recruitment fund

B.C. is short more than 250 teachers and administrators as the new school year gets started. (Caroline Chan/CBC)

The head of the B.C. Teachers' Federation says more than 250 teacher and administrative positions remain unfilled, as the new school year gets underway.

"It's alarming from our perspective to see so many jobs still posted," said Glen Hansman.

In December, a Ministry of Education task force made six "immediate recommendations" aimed at addressing the crisis.

However, the top recommendation — establishing a provincewide recruitment and retention fund — has not been acted on. 

Enrolment in French immersion is at an all time high in B.C., with over 53,000 students in it or almost 10 per cent of the entire student body. Advocates say the numbers would be even higher if school districts were able to hire enough French teachers to meet demand. (CBC)

According to Hansman, the fund would instantly make B.C. more attractive in the highly competitive teacher recruitment market, offering temporary help around moving expenses and student loan repayment.

"It's an easy, no-brainer that would dramatically help the situation," he said. 

​"If we're trying to get teachers into B.C. from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all of which pay [higher salaries] and all of which — minus Toronto — have places to live that are much cheaper than British Columbia, that fund is helpful for school districts."

Hansman said the fund wouldn't be permanent and could be targeted to a region or a type of job that is most difficult to fill.

A $2 million version of the fund was set up by former education minister Mike Bernier but was accessible only to a handful of rural school districts.

Record French immersion enrolment

French immersion teachers remain the most in-demand in the province with enrolment at an historic high.

Almost 10 percent of the entire B.C. student population, or 53,487 students in total, are enrolled in French immersion this year.

But according to the Canadian Parents for French Immersion, the numbers would be even higher if B.C. school districts were able to meet the demand from parents. 

"It's hard to gauge but we estimate we need between 100 and 150 additional French teachers in the province right now," said Glyn Lewis, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon chapter. 

"Parents are often frustrated to be told by a school district that your son or daughter can't go into this program because we haven't created enough space."

B.C.'s teacher shortage can be traced to the 2016 landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision, which found the then-Liberal government had acted unconstitutionally to increase the number of students per class. 

The result of the court's decision was to shrink class sizes back to 2002 levels which, in turn, required the hiring of thousands of new teachers.

Quebec and Nunavut are also experiencing teacher shortages, while Ontario and New Brunswick expect to be in a similar situation, with a wave of teacher retirements set to hit in the next few years. 

Read more from CBC British Columbia

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