On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled for B.C. teachers after a 14-year legal battle against the B.C. Liberal government.
What does this mean for us? How does this impact the students of the Comox Valley? How can we afford this?
The Supreme Court has ruled that the language that was stripped from teachers’ collective agreements back in 2002 is now restored, as is the right to bargain this language moving forward. The language in question all has to deal with class size, composition, and ratios for specialist teachers.
In the Comox Valley this means that there will be specific limits on how many students can be in classes (i.e. kindergarten enrolment is limited to 20, split intermediate classes to 27, and secondary English and Science classes to 28). Teacher librarians shall be provided on a ratio of 1:702 students (currently we have one teacher librarian who services 14 of our elementary schools), and a counsellor shall be provided at 1:463, to name but a few of the improvements.
The B.C. government is currently sitting on a $1.9 billion surplus. This is money that has been taken from taxpayers and has not been spent on programs for the citizens of British Columbia. The BCTF has estimated that the education system will need $300 million a year to meet the contractual obligations established by the restored language. That means that the government can fund this language for the next six years just from the surplus alone. The money is there to ensure we have a thriving public education system that is so vital to our country’s growth and success.
While this decision is only days old, there needs to be immediate action on addressing this now restored language. Secondary class size issues can be addressed for the second semester. Librarians and counsellors can be hired. The provincial government has spent long enough ignoring the needs of B.C.’s public schools, instead moving forward with a costly legal battle. The Supreme Court gave their verdict in less than half an hour, recognizing the need for immediate redress, now we just need a commitment from the B.C. Liberal government to recognize the right of law and to support our children’s education.
Shawn Holland CDTA Vice-president