Langley teachers are calling on School District #35 to hire the specialist teachers required to fully meet the collective agreement language that was restored by the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Despite the BC Teachers Federation’s recent win at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Langley School District is stating that lack of funding from the provincial government is preventing them from posting and filling essential specialist teachers for September, 2017,” said Langley Teachers’ Association president Wendy Cook.
The LTA is urging the district to run a deficit on paper, post and hire the specialist teachers now —while teachers are still available, said Cook.
“We are short around $9 million, so why not run a deficit and hire now so those specialist teachers are in place for September and we don’t end up in a chaotic situation or having no resource teachers to hire because they have been scooped up by other districts like Surrey,” said Cook.
Langley school district secretary-treasurer David Green said they won’t run a deficit and are awaiting information from the Ministry of Education about funding the full $20 million needed to hire the required teachers.
“We will have classroom teachers hired and in place for September, but we haven’t posted for all positions that are required because we don’t have the funding from the provincial government,” said Green. The district has been shorted just below $10 million.
“We need to be careful not to hire more teachers than we get funding for,” said Green.
The district has posted positions for teacher librarians and some resource teachers, he said.
“We already have more counsellors than the ratio requires,” he added.
Langley has some of the strongest caseload ratio language in B.C. with a 15:1 support services ratio.
The LTA wants the district to create classrooms that uphold that caseload language.
“I was talking to a teacher yesterday who had a 47 caseload and taught three math blocks. She was so excited that she will have a caseload of 15 next year. She said, ‘Now I can work with each kid and establish strong IEPs (Individual Education Plans) with them.’ That’s the kind of service the caseload language can be for students and that’s why we are so passionate to make sure that happens,” said Cook.
“I remember what classrooms looked like before the government stripped all support services away.”
But Green said the district is seeking guidance from the province on that 15 to 1 ratio.
“We want to know with the new ruling, does our caseload language apply or do we adhere to the province’s caseload language,” Green said.
At the last board of education meeting, some trustees expressed concern about the province not fully funding Langley school district.
“In Surrey, they are hiring like the Dickens and we are here with our hands tied,” said trustee Rod Ross. He asked if the trustees should write a letter to the Ministry asking them to provide the full amount of funding needed to hire the right number of teachers.
“I would encourage you to write that letter,” said Green at the meeting.
“Is there a sense of foot dragging by the government?” asked trustee David Tod.
Trustees are crafting a letter about the underfunding and will send it to the Ministry.
Cook claims the Supreme Court stated that lack of funding is not a valid reason for failure to implement the restored classroom composition.
There is a newly crafted ‘Information Sharing Agreement,’ due to be signed next week by both the district and the union, said Cook.
“As President of the Langley Teachers’ Association, I encourage all parents to visit their child’s school, ask questions about their child/children’s assigned class for September, 2017 and begin to advocate now to ensure class composition and specialist supports are in place,” said Cook.