B.C. government to appeal teacher ruling

Judgment could cost $1 billion, will be challenged on constitutional basis, Education Minister Fassbender says

Education Minister Peter Fassbender announces appeal of ruling in favour of BCTF Tuesday at the B.C. legislature.

The B.C. government will appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling ordering a return to 2002 classroom rules, Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced Tuesday.

Fassbender said the latest ruling could potentially cost the B.C. government more than $1 billion, which he called “completely unaffordable for taxpayers.” But the appeal will focus on Justice Susan Griffin’s interpretation of constitutional rights in union negotiations.

“Governments have to be able to govern,” Fassbender said, adding that no other province has has such restrictions on school organization.

“Most importantly, if the real goal is to benefit students, decades of academic research has shown that blankest reductions in class size are of little benefit,” he said.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker estimated that 6,600 teachers would have to be hired to bring B.C. class sizes up to the Canadian average. In Surrey school district alone, there should be 18 teacher librarians, 19 teacher-counsellors, 51 more specialist education teachers and 80 English language teachers, he said.

“We want to negotiate a deal at the bargaining table,” Iker said. “We hope that the government comes and bargains with us in good faith – that’s so important – but we all know that to achieve an agreement, government has to bring the necessary funding to make that deal happen.”

The dispute revolves around the government’s unilateral removal of class size and support staff rules from the BCTF contract in 2002. In her first ruling in 2011, Griffin gave the government a year to remove the offending legislation and negotiate class size and specialist teacher support as a working condition for teachers.

Griffin’s second ruling came Jan. 28, ordering $2 million in damages to be paid to the BCTF for what she described as bargaining in bad faith, and striking down parts of the latest legislation.

Fassbender said talks over the past year have included class size and specialist support.

“We’ve increased supports for students with special needs, including a 36 per cent increase in the number of full-time education assistants,” he said. “Average class sizes are near historical lows of 19.3 students for kindergarten, 21.5 for grades one to three, 25.7 for grades four to seven, and 23.0 for grades eight to 12. To put that in perspective, in 1970 the average class size was 42.”

Fassbender said the ministry’s “learning improvement fund,” established after Griffin’s first ruling, dedicated $210 million toward the disputed class supports. It funded 500 new teachers, 400 new special education assistants and increased hours for another 7,400 assistants, he said.

NDP education critic Rob Fleming said the government shouldn’t be challenging the court ruling.

“The onus is on the government to put out an olive branch to the teaching profession,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Westin Bear Mountain invests $2 million to renovate newly-named spa

‘Amatista Spa’ has yet to announce official opening date

North Saanich floats tougher policies for buoys and moorings near Tsehum Harbour

Municipality also considers additional collaboration with Sidney and other communities

HarbourCats team up with Bastion Books to bring back Harvey’s Reading Club

HarbourCats and Bastions Books offer students free game tickets in an effort to promote child literacy

Central Saanich newspaper carrier gets letter of thanks, chocolates from her community for note

Ava Verscheure started her first very job by introducing herself to residents along newspaper route

Habitat for Humanity seeks applicants for 11 new homes on the Saanich Peninsula

Successful applicants will help build their new homes and receive an affordable mortgage

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Wet’suwet’en return to northern B.C. forest road pipeline workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Over a dozen birds found mysteriously dead on rural B.C road

Ministry of Agriculture notified of the strange occurrence on No. 4 Road in Abbotsford

Most Read