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Teachers call for action
Teachers are doing more with less and the president of the Vernon Teachers Association has asked school trustees to consider classroom priorities before approving next year’s budget.
At Wednesday’s Vernon School District board meeting, VTA president Heather Malcolm submitted a budget proposal on behalf of the association.
“Our teachers are doing more with less and they are expected to meet a broad range of learners and they need support,” she said.
“Primary teachers are bringing in parent volunteers to help, and in the intermediate classes, teachers are met with kids who have had virtually no early support.
“We need daily direct teacher support for kids to learn, and that costs money.”
Malcolm said the answer is not found in replacing specialist teachers with CEAs, although she said the VTA values the district’s educational assistants and the contributions they make in helping teachers meet kids’ needs.
“In order to provide appropriate programs for special education students, we need to ensure schools are staffed with appropriate numbers of specialist teachers.
“Teachers have the best vantage spot in understanding how the province’s chronic underfunding has affected student learning in terms of how well the district is meeting — or struggling to meet — student needs. And with the recent court ruling, the VTA contends that the 2002 collective agreement language on class size and composition is in effect.”
Malcolm said the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) model has schools competing against each other for funds to provide programs that should be part of the classroom, such as early reading intervention.
“Meeting the needs of our students is linked to specialist teachers, which has been declining since 2002 and the LIF doesn’t begin to address this.”
Malcolm said the VTA is also concerned about employee wellness, adding that reduced teacher staffing has placed heavy burdens on the remaining teachers in the schools, as evidenced by the number of referrals that she makes to the BCTF health and wellness program.
“From the end of September to the beginning of December, I have made, on average, one referral every week to this program. Our teachers are burning out.”
Malcolm said while enrolment is declining in the district, all other provinces have continued to make improvements to kindergarten to Grade 12 funding as well as hire more educators to improve the teacher/student ratio.
“It is a matter of priorities,” she said.
“The government replaced the roof of B.C. Place at a cost of $514 million. If B.C. brought per-student funding up to the national average, this would provide an additional $534 million to public education.
“To that end, we encourage the board to take more initiative in publicly and repeatedly voicing such challenges to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and the government.
“As a publicly elected board, you need adequate funding to meet your mandate for successful student learning. All we are asking is that you keep those cuts away from the classroom.”