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

15 new mayors to take office across the Kootenays

Here’s a look at the highlights from across the Kootenay region in B.C.

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

The new mayor of Trail is …

Preliminary results after voting closed Saturday at 8 p.m., includes results from two advanced polls

Kootenay Boundary referendum, pass or fail?

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Saturday night

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment

Dr. Juanita Crook, a Kelowna oncologist, has seen 100 per cent success using brachytherapy to treat breast cancer in some patients.

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Most Read