A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled on Thursday, November 10, in favour of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) after its long legal battle with the provincial government, will have an impact on School District 47.
BCTF had argued that government actions to strip collective agreements in 2002 and its refusal to address the situation, was unconstitutional. The court agreed.
Government, school districts and educators continue to evaluate the repercussions of the ruling. According to School District 47 superintendent Jay Yule, the court’s decision to end the long-standing dispute is welcome. The school district is unsure what it will mean to students.
“We anticipate in the coming days we will compare the new and old class size and composition language, which we hope after analysis will translate to an increase in funding and support for our students,” said Yule.
According to local BCTF president Ken Holley, if the language in the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement is restored back to 2002, the biggest change will be in class composition and individual education planning for special-needs students being integrated into classes.
“Right now, there are no limits to how many special-needs students can be placed into classrooms,” said Holley.
He said the 2002 language had limits of two special-needs students per classroom and there are currently classrooms in the district with as many as 15 to 20 students per class in need of individual education planning. According to Holley, a return to the 2002 language would mean more classes.
“More classes means more teachers,” said Holley. “More specialist teachers would be needed and more counsellors. All the ratios we have for specialist teachers per student would have to be re-instituted as well.”
Holley said he estimates the changes would mean as many as 20 more teachers would be required in the district, which would have an affect on the district budget and its schools. Most classrooms are currently at the class-size limit and very few are not, he added.
Current class limits are 22 students for kindergarten, 24 for grades one through three and 30 for grades four to 12. Holley said Westview, Edgehill and James Thomson elementary school classes are at those limits.
“Smaller classes are great for teachers, great for kids, great for everybody, but you have to have places to put the kids,” he said.
According to Holley, teachers are excited but tentative about possible changes and negotiations with the government that are expected to lay ahead.