Teacher positions filled, but shortage looms in Maple Ridge

Province will need to spend an additional $300 million on teachers to restore the contract to 2002 class-size and composition standards

  • Feb. 1, 2017 9:00 a.m.
George Serra

George Serra

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District was able to hire enough teachers to fill the equivalent of 25 full-time positions, in response to the Supreme Court decision, but the local teachers’ union fears a shortage of instructors next fall.

George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, says once the teachers contract is restored to its full 2002 class size and composition standards many more teachers will be hired.

The provincial government and the B.C. Teachers Federation are negotiating those details, after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in November that the government stripping class size and composition language from the contract was unconstitutional.

Victoria has responded with $50 million for half of the present school year, to hire more than 1,000 teachers. The local share was $1.25 million, which hired 25 full-time equivalents.

Serra said much of that was made up by teachers who were part-time being offered full-time positions.

The BCTF has a rough calculation that the province will need to spend an additional $300 million on teachers to restore the contract to 2002 class-size and composition standards.

Serra estimates as many as 60 more teachers could be hired locally. While the school board could find enough employees, he said the list of teachers working on call will be depleted.

“They have to be replaced. That’s where the problem is,” he said.

Those on-call cover teacher absences, both due to sick days or days away that are planned by the school district for training and other initiatives.

“We’re not even going to have enough TTOCs to handle illness calls,” Serra said.

“Every school district in the Lower Mainland is going to be scrambling.”

Serra said the result could be people who have qualifications, but are not certified teachers being used in classrooms as substitutes.

The district’s teachers on call contract language allows for that, he added.

Although it is common practice in some school districts in northern B.C., it has not been contemplated locally for a long time, said Serra.

“It’s going to take a significantly higher investment than $50 million to undo the damage this government has done to a generation of students. B.C. teachers will be looking closely at the Feb. 21 provincial budget to make sure that funding is provided, to implement the full scope of the restored language,” B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Glen Hansman said recently.

“They’re never happy, are they?” Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing said in response.

He said the BCTF and government are negotiating a resolution, and “working very well together, I’ve been told.”

Bing said the new hires are good for public education in B.C.

He also said there are teachers on call in other provinces who would be happy to move relocate to B.C.

“These positions are going to be filled quickly. There’s going to be a lot of interest when they start advertising.”