B.C. Teachers’ Federation proposes solutions to teacher shortage to BC’s finance committee

BC Teachers’ Federation First Vice-President Teri Mooring met with BC’s Select Standing Committee on Finance on Thursday to propose important recommendations to resolve underfunding in education and the ongoing teacher shortage.

“After BC teachers won at the Supreme Court of Canada, most people thought a lot of the outstanding issues in K–12 education would be resolved,” said Mooring. “Unfortunately, the shortage of teachers across the province has prevented school districts from properly implementing teachers’ restored class-composition standards and specialist-teacher ratios. Class sizes have improved, but class composition and support levels for children with special needs continues to deteriorate. These kids are not getting the support they’re entitled to.”

To help solve the problems facing our schools, many of which are holdovers from the previous BC Liberal government, the BCTF made 17 recommendations around adequate overall funding, support for all children with special needs, seismic upgrades, and required resources to support the new curriculum.

Three of the most pressing recommendations focus on the need for immediate and long-term solutions to BC’s teacher shortage.

“As of today, well into the second month of the school year, there are more than 400 unfilled teaching positions still being advertised. The shortage grows when you consider all the on-call teachers needed to fill in for sick days and the historic number of unqualified and uncertified individuals currently teaching in classrooms. According to labour market projection, BC is going to need 17,000 new teaching staff over the next decade, so inaction today will only make the problem worse tomorrow,” Mooring said.

On the teacher shortage, the BCTF recommends the following:

• The Ministry of Education provide dedicated funding for teacher recruitment and retention initiatives across all school districts.

• The Ministry of Education implement all of the recommendations from the Minister’s task force on immediate recruitment challenges.

• The Ministry of Education fund new teacher mentorship programs to support teachers new to the profession and those entering new roles.

On the overall state of funding for public education, Mooring said, “After 15 years of neglect, BC has an opportunity to make the necessary investments that will put our public education system on a stable footing. While teachers have been pleased to see several important announcements on capital funding, there has been little change to the long-term pattern in operating funds for school districts.

“Nearly all increases in funding over the past two years have been driven by pre-existing commitments like enrolment growth, the Supreme Court settlement, or contractual obligations. The Premier’s mandate letter made clear that substantial increases in annual funding for basic operating costs and more supplies were necessary. We need to see promises fulfilled.”