British Columbia

Surrey schools will have 66 fewer support teachers in September

The school district is blaming the loss of a provincial education fund for the job cuts while the province says funding for those jobs won't be known definitively until September.

'There's going to be less extra support available to classroom teachers,' says teachers' association

The Surrey School District is blaming the end of a provincial funding mechanism for the coming job cuts. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The Surrey School District says it will cut 66 learning support teachers in the next school year due to a lack of provincial funding.

The district blames the cuts on the end of a provincial fund axed following negotiations between the BCTF and government to implement the November Supreme Court of Canada ruling restoring bargaining rights to teachers.

"We have 120 schools and only three didn't face cuts to their LST funding," Matt Westphal, a vice-president with the Surrey Teachers Association told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"It means there's going to be less extra support available to classroom teachers.

"There's going to be fewer people available to provide that support, which could mean choices such as maybe [students] get help only for reading or only for math but not both."

Westphal says some of the 66 teachers will not actually lose their jobs and will be moved into other positions.

But he says the shuffling around will create anxiety and dislocation, because the teachers can't continue working with kids they may have bonded with.

Listen to the full interview with Matt Westphal:

Cuts subject of dispute resolution process

The school district says the issue of learning support teachers is currently before a provincial dispute resolution process.

They blame the loss of the 66 teachers on the end of the provincial Learning Improvement Fund, put in place in 2012 to support special needs students and deal with increasing class sizes.

"The district supported all student complexity prior to the special LIF funding with LST, as well as several other specialists," a district spokesperson wrote.

"The LIF funding is no longer provided, so the district is back to its regular LST staffing, though we now have 400 LST teachers, 10 more than two years ago."

The district says students will be in smaller and less complex classes because of the court ruling.

It also says over 100 additional specialists like counsellors and teacher-librarians will be hired for September along with 174 more classroom teachers.

District budgets need to be finalized Friday

But Westphal says those new hires and smaller class sizes, while welcome, don't make up for the lost learning support teachers.

"Even in a class of 22 students, it's up to the teacher to try to meet the diverse learning needs of the class," he said. "That can be challenging when there's no one else who can provide the more intensive targeted support for those students."

Westphal says during negotiations to implement the Supreme Court ruling between the teachers' union and the government, the expectation was the government would ultimately increase the number of support teachers, not cut them.

When asked about funding of learning support teachers, the Ministry of Education said final funding amounts for each school district will not be known until the fall.

School districts are required to submit their budgets for the coming school year by June 30.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast