British Columbia

B.C. Teachers' Federation calls out province's teacher shortage in new ad

A new provincewide radio ad from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is calling out a widespread teacher shortage it blames on the government’s failure to recruit and retain educators across all 60 school districts.

Education minister says there is a 1% teacher vacancy in classrooms across B.C.

The BCTF won a landmark decision on class size and composition in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. (Shutterstock / Iakov Filimonov)

In a new provincewide radio ad, the B.C. Teachers' Federation is calling out a widespread teacher shortage it says is due to the government's failure to recruit and retain educators across all 60 school districts.

The ad states that despite having the highest cost of living in the country, teachers in British Columbia have the second lowest starting salaries.

"With B.C.'s high cost of living, school districts have a very tough time convincing teachers from Ontario or the Prairies to move west when they're going to be paid up to 20% less," said federation president Teri Mooring in a written news release.

A provincewide ad by the B.C. Teachers' Federation says a shortage of educators often means students with special needs lack essential support. (B.C. Teachers Federation / Facebook)

She says with a shortage of substitute teachers, special education teachers are often called to cover vacancies in classrooms. The teachers' federation says this means that students with special needs are sometimes sent home.

"The government has been slow to act on this growing crisis and their current positions at the bargaining table will only make the shortage worse."

Province launched recruiting task force

Meanwhile, the education minister says hiring enough teachers in B.C. has been an ongoing challenge for the last 10 to 15 years.

"It's also largely a rural British Columbia problem," Rob Fleming said in an interview on CBC's The Early Edition. "We created a task force with the B.C. Teachers' Federation to look at a number of strategies." 

That task force, he says, has focused on helping all 60 school districts recruit within the province and externally in other provinces to create funds to locate new teachers and train 250 more teachers at B.C. universities.

"We still do, though, system-wide have about a one per cent vacancy rate for teaching positions," said Fleming.

Mooring says the province has responded to the shortage by hiring uncertified adults to teach in classrooms.

"That's unacceptable," she said in the release. "We wouldn't stand for it in any other profession and parents should be concerned."

B.C. teachers still without a new contract

Fleming says though this is also a long-standing issue, there are fewer uncertified people teaching in the province than a decade ago.

"They're typically trades instructors, people who simply don't have a teaching licence [...], but they have significant experience teaching specialized trades programs."

Teachers in B.C. are currently without a contract, as mediation between the federation and the province has not yielded a new collective agreement.

However, Fleming is hopeful bargaining will resume. 

"I think the next step is to meet with the mediator again," he said. "Nobody wants a school disruption that's for sure."

Listen to Education Minister Rob Fleming's interview on The Early Edition:

The B.C. Teachers' Federation says there are 400 seats unfilled around the province. Jason D'Souza speaks with Education Minister Rob Fleming about the shortage. 7:57