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REPORTING · 25th June 2014
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat Council received a presentation by two Kitimat teachers during a special meeting of Council which took place on June 23rd. Dave Durrant and Kristine Lewis took to the microphone to present.

“There has been a lot of misinformation in the media as to why teachers are on strike for and hopefully, some of those issues will be resolved after we do our presentation,” said Durrant.

He explained the primary issue is class size. BC spends $1000 less per child then the Canadian National Average, which is 10% less per child in a school year which means there is less support and fewer programs for the students.

Durrant showed Council several charts. The first showed the Canadian Average Student to Educator ratio which compared the number of students to teachers, administrators and support staff. BC Has the highest ratio in the country. It would be better to have the opposite.

He showed Council the amount of expenditures per student and BC is only higher then PEI. The final chart showed the national average per capita and BC spends the least in the entire country.

“In 2002, the government led by Gordon Campbell, Christy Clark was the Education Minister at the time, stripped every single teacher contract in the entire province of class size and composition and teacher ratios. This meant there were no limits what so ever. In 2004, the BCTF decided to launch it’s court challenge, […] in 2011, which is a part of the frustration, 7 years in court it was held up, and Justice Susan Griffin found that the government was in violation of teacher’s charter rights in stripping in 2002, class size from the collective agreement arbitrarily,” said Durrant.

Durrant told the Council in 2012, the government posed a similar contract to what they had posed in 2002. This led to a return to court. In January, 2014, the Justice ruled that the government was in violation of the teacher’s constitutional rights and ordered the government to restore class size and ordered the government to pay $2,000,000 in fines to the BCTF.

“The Government has decided to ignore that order and has taken it to the next step, the next step of course is appeal. The government has refused to release the amount of money they have spent in the last 12 years on their court case and I would suggest to you that this money would be better spent in the education system itself,” said Durrant.

He added they will find out in October if the appeal is successful.

Durant explained what classes would look like. In 2002,class size maximums in Kitimat were not to exceed 21 or 29 students depending on the grade level or the subject matter. 21 was the maximum in a kindergarten while 29 students would be a maximum in a high school gym class. There would be a maximum of 2 special needs students per class. There was also language in the contract so each school would have a full time librarian, resource teachers, councillors and so on.

After 2002, Durrant explained the average class size looks at the entire school district so by having 12 students in a class in Stewart, there could be as many as 38 students in a class in Kitimat. Administrators must consult with teachers if there are more than three special needs students in a class. Durrant expressed he has raised his objections every single year and so far, the Principal has told him: ‘Thank you for your input, what I have put in your classroom will stand.’ There are no specialist teacher ratios.

Durrant asked: “How is it respectful to the student to spend $1000 less, in such a rich Province, then the national average. How is it respectful to the student when teachers are constantly vying for class size and saying how important this is and yet being completely ignored and at times, completely shunned. I would suggest to you that students are getting the message loud and clear, that they are not respected and what we want in this collective agreement, despite what you hear in the media, what I want and Kris wants is, end of story, is for our constitutional rights to be respected and we want class size and constitution back in our collective agreements.”

He asked the District of Kitimat to write the BCTF, the Premier and the Minister of education and ask that BC Schools receive adequate funding and suitable class size, composition and specialty teachers and the BCTF and province need to work to resolve the issue. If the two parties cannot reach a settlement, agree to mediations.

He expressed if this is not resolved soon, it could drag out over the summer and then jeopardize the start of a new year and students education.

Councillor Phil Germuth made the motion. It was called and carried. Durrant thanked the Council for their support. Germuth thanked all the teachers for their respectful protest from Tuesday, June 17th.
Re: Sustainability
Comment by Bill Vollrath on 9th July 2014
The issue is that the taxpayer needs to be willing to pay a little more to give the teachers and students what they deserve and need. And for government to spend those taxes with preference to education, healthcare and infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.) If there is some kind of recession going on, the first things to go should be grants to recreational programs like sports and the various arts grants that are given. Instead of grants to special interest groups, all that money could and should be granted to post secondary students to pay off all their student loans. We must put a higher value on education in this province and country. Of course, these grants should be as easy to get for a student of the arts as for trades and professional students...
Comment by J. Flaherty on 25th June 2014
Sustainability is the key issue.

The money that taxpayers can pay.

In the '90's the classroom size and composition were not too bad, maybe not the ideal but close to what the BCTF is wanting.

Society has moved on from that and the competing needs for a portion of the taxpayer dollar have changed.

Hospitals and the medical community are taking a bigger chunk of the dollar due to our aging population.

Maybe if this continues over the summer, it will soften the wants and allow time for reflection and a clearer perception.

As a taxpayer, what I see is two high unmoving walls proclaiming they are right, and the children are in the middle.

Gov't should be working with and listening to the Colleges,
University and BCTF as there is an overabundance of trained teachers. A sustainable education framework for 5 - 10 years needs to be put forward.

The BCTF should be working with the Colleges, University and Gov't to ensure a sustainable plan for the next 5 - 10 years.

Dealing with this in the Courts just means the overabundance of accredited lawyers get paid and leaves entrenched positions with no movement possible.
Teacher Presentation
Comment by Mel on 25th June 2014
What a great presentation. Right to the point and very clear. Good job and I wish you the best in your battle.
Thank you Council for your support!