High school classes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are more crowded this year, according to George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association.
He has heard complaints from teachers at every secondary institution in the district that they are facing classes with more than 30 students.
The new contract between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government has a $75 million education fund. However, Serra pointed out that the government had already been providing that amount outside of the contract – acknowledging that Victoria had to act to lower class sizes via the former Learning Improvement Fund.
With the new contract, about 20 per cent of the fund, which formerly flowed to CUPE, must now go to the BCTF.
In this district, Serra explained, that will only create funding for approximately three new teaching positions.
“So we still have lots of elementary schools scrambling with large class sizes,” said Serra. “We have way more classes over 30 than we have had in previous years.”
That forms the backdrop for the court battle between the province and BCTF over class size and composition language. The government stripped guaranteed minimums from the contract in 2002, and twice the courts have ruled it was unlawful in doing so. The province will appeal, in a case to begin next week.
A court decision is not expected until the new year.
The government says it would cost the province $1.67 billion to restore the 2002 maximum class size language. The BCTF argues it would be about $300 million.
Teachers who have additional students in their classes are compensated a nominal sum, Serra explained, but called that a poor solution to the problem of overcrowding.
“It’s cash for kids,” he said.
Enrollment numbers are still not finalized.
“We are still in the process of reviewing and finalizing our class placements, and expect this process to be finalized shortly,” said district assistant superintendent Shannon Derinzy.
“We don’t know at the district level what the final numbers look like yet. We do know that our school administrators are doing what they can right now with the staffing they have to get as many classes to under 30 as possible.”
The district has asked the MRTA to be patient.
“A lot of shuffling goes on early in the year,” conceded Serra. “We do have to give it time.”
“What can we do? Just make it as public as possible.”