B.C. school districts will receive $50-million in interim funding from the provincial government to help pay for up to 1,100 new teachers across the province, and in the Sooke school district that could mean 18 new teachers.
Provincial Education Minister Mike Bernier made the funding announcement Thursday, in response to the long-standing legal dispute between teachers and the province over class size and composition.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) following a B.C. Supreme Court decision in November.
With the new funding, the local school district – one of the fastest growing in the province – could hire 18 more teachers, but the details have yet to be worked out, including where the new hires will go.
“What we do know is that they’ll be spread throughout the school system,” said school superintendent Jim Cambridge.
But there’s a lot of work ahead, he said.
Cambridge doesn’t expect to see portables for the additional teachers and classes on Sooke school grounds until the fall.
“Classes are already assigned (for elementary) for this school year. In the high schools, we can only add blocks if a room or a space is available which we’ll look at doing,” he said.
“Having portables and adding classrooms is nothing news for us. We’ve been doing it for a while.”
The actual number of teachers hired will be determined by school districts and their local unions, said Education Minister Mike Bernier.
The new positions will include classroom teachers, special education teachers, speech language pathologists, behaviour intervention specialists, school psychologists, aboriginal support teachers, counsellors including for mental health, English as a second language teachers, and teacher librarians.
B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman said the interim agreement means more teachers “in a matter of weeks,” but the union and the government were expected to resume negotiations this week to restore the 2002 contract language upheld by the courts.
“It’s going to take a significantly higher investment than $50 million to undo the damage this government has done to a generation of students,” Hansman said.
“B.C. teachers will be looking closely at the Feb. 21 provincial budget to make sure that funding is provided to implement the full scope of the restored language.”
Cambridge looks at the hiring of 1,100 teachers across the province as good news.
“Anytime we can have more teachers working with kids, that’s just a super-positive thing,” he said.