Vernon teachers insists classroom conditions need to improve.
Teachers are praising the ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court reaffirming that provincial legislation limiting bargaining rights is unconstitutional. The decision ruling restores collective agreement provisions stripped in 2002 and orders the province to pay $2 million in damages plus court costs.
“We are thrilled,” said Heather Malcolm. Vernon Teachers’ Association president.
“We have been fighting for 12 years for better learning conditions for our students and it is really gratifying to see that it was worth it. A whole generation has been affected in the last 12 years.”
The province’s actions removed class-size limits and class composition guarantees.
“Children who were in kindergarten when those bills were passed are now in Grade 12 and have spent their entire school careers in larger classes with fewer resources,” said Malcolm.
“The support of parents and the hard work of teachers, who are doing more with less, have been holding the system together.”
The legislation removed provisions that guaranteed smaller classes, support for students with special needs and services from teacher-librarians, counsellors and other specialists.
Malcolm says the government then cut hundreds of millions of dollars a year from public education budgets, forcing school boards to cut programs and close schools.
“More than 3,500 teaching positions including 1,500 specialist teachers, were also cut provincially,” she said.
In Vernon, the VTA says, restoring class size and support language to 2002 levels would see kindergarten classes reduced to 20 students, primary classes reduced to 22 students, intermediate split grade classes reduced to 28 students and most secondary classes also reduced to 28.
“The right thing to do is restore our smaller classes, rehire our specialist teachers, rather than wasting more taxpayers money on a meaningless and costly appeal,” said Malcolm.