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

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Free parking not in the cards for Fraser Valley hospitals

Chair says board may look at ways to make parking easier, but not free

VIDEO: LEGO fundraiser builds playground purse

Inspired families built LEGO creations, helped Silver Creek build playground

PHOTOS: 100 years and counting for Boston Bar school

Boston Bar Elementary-Secondary School celebrates Centennial with a bang

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

UFV health fair focuses on taking back health

Health sciences program invites Dr. Cathy van Ingen to speak

New Liberal bill would tighten controls on sale, licensing of firearms in Canada

Measures are intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes

Murder charges upgraded for B.C. man accused of killing wife and daughters

Crown approved new information on Jacob Forman’s file

5 to start your day

Some puppies need naming, a police-involved death in South Surrey and more

Janet Austin announced as B.C.’s new lieutenant governor

Austin has served as YWCA Metro Vancouver CEO since 2003

Ex-French president Sarkozy in custody on Gadhafi claims

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed in custody as part of an investigation that he received millions of euros in illegal financing

Hockey pioneer Kwong dies at 94

Vernon’s Larry Kwong was the first player to break NHL colour barrier in 1948

Most Read