Valerie Rankin in her Grade 2/3 class at Eric Langton elementary Thursday. As part of the cuts

Valerie Rankin in her Grade 2/3 class at Eric Langton elementary Thursday. As part of the cuts

Layoff notices to 177 Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows teachers

Budget cuts hit home in SD42, although most will be rehired

The lack of funding in public education was underlined by layoff notices given to 177 teachers in the Ridge Meadows School District, says the teacher’s union.

George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, concedes that most of the teachers will be hired back. A number with lower seniority are served layoff notices near the end of every school year, in case the district does not have a position for them in September.

However, Serra points out that last year there were 106 teachers given layoff notices, so the number is up about 67 per cent. He said the number is linked to the school district’s $5.6 million budget shortfall.

Last year, teachers with 4.1 years of seniority or less received layoff notices. This year, the number has moved upward of six years – people who thought they had finally earned a degree of job security and reached the point where they could invest in a home or make other long-term plans.

“They thought they had weathered the storm,” Serra said.

According to the district’s 2013-2014 school year budget, there will be a reduction of 34 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.

The board also responded that of the 106 teachers who were given layoff notices last year, the vast majority were recalled to continuing or temporary positions by Sept. 1, 2012, and by the end of October all remaining teachers had been recalled to temporary positions.

The board expects that all teachers who are not part of the budgeted 34 FTE reduction will be able to return again next year, if not in September, then as positions open.

Serra said the uncertainty caused by layoff notices will see some young teachers looking for a secure position elsewhere.

“The biggest reason this is happening is underfunding,” said Serra. “Next week is an election, and we have a bit of an opportunity.”

In a press release issued earlier this week, Serra said the Liberal government keeps “parroting” that education funding is higher than ever, but it has not funded the district at a level that accounts for inflation, rising MSP premiums and other budget pressures.

While enrollment has declined, with boards funded on a per-pupil basis, the union calculates that the result should be a decline of just seven teaching positions in the district.