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.

Just Posted

Ranch Musings: What a wonderful long weekend in Williams Lake

Columnist David Zirnhelt is feeling hopeful after attending the Young Agrarians mixer

Editorial: The best of intentions

Laying out a plan doesn’t mean it happens quickly

Icemen and Meatheads win their first CSS floor hockey games

Meatheads scraped by 8% while the Icemen kept the Chicks with Sticks at bay.

Fly to Iceland to kick off the start of the Bouchie Lake Lawnchair Travel series

Pilot Joan McNaughton spent two weeks exploring the country last September

Ryan Elden looks to win medal for Team B.C. at Canada Winter Games

The Quesnel biathlete started his career competing for Cariboo Ski Touring Club

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read