Costly to turn back the clock in School District 43

Port Moody trustee and Coquitlam District board chair Melissa Hyndes. B.C. school districts are awaiting the outcome of a court ruling on teachers
Port Moody trustee and Coquitlam District board chair Melissa Hyndes. B.C. school districts are awaiting the outcome of a court ruling on teachers' contracts.
— image credit: FILE

Turning back the clock to 2002 class size and composition rules would have enormous consequences for School District 43, according to the provincial government.

In her ruling last month, Justice Susan Griffin ruled that the B.C. government did not bargain in good faith with the BCTF.

She struck down legislation restricting teacher bargaining of classroom conditions and imposed a $2-million penalty on the government.

But documents filed with a government application to stay two terms of Griffin’s Jan. 27 ruling would require SD43 to hire 192 teachers, 38 special education assistants, and 47 non-enrolling teachers, such as counsellors and learning assistance teachers, at a cost of about $26.2 million a year.

And finding room for everybody wouldn’t be cheap, either, according to the documents, costing an additional $16.4 million for portables, utility charges and lost revenue from daycares and other agencies that would be disrupted by the changes.

The outlined impacts are aimed at bolstering the government argument that terms of the judgment should be stayed pending an appeal.

But board chair Melissa Hyndes said those terms would be felt keenly at the district level, especially if they were implemented before the end of this school year. “It would be very difficult to reorganize our entire school structure and system in two months,”  Hyndes.

The Port Moody trustee said she is in line with the BC School Trustees Association, which stated in a press release that issues of class size and composition should be resolved in negotiations.

School districts across the province were waiting to see if today's (Tuesday) budget would contain a contingency for negotiations with the BC Teachers’s Federation. But according to budget figures, provincial funding for Kindergarten to Grade 12 rises only slightly, with a $22-million increase over last year, not enough to cover higher expenses due to the judge’s ruling to reinstate contract language for teachers that was in place prior to 2002.

Meanwhile, SD43's impact calculations come as the district plans for next year's budget and eyes a small deficit for this school year.


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