Teachers say VSB isn’t complying with restored contact language — could lead to September school disruptions

Following the BCTF court win at the Supreme Court of Canada, teacher representatives say the VSB isn’t getting enough funding to hire more teachers.

Isabella Preite
Isabella Preite (right) got an appreciative round of applause at the June 26 Vancouver school board meeting for her work this year as the VSB student trustee. From left: interim secretary treasurer Guy Bonnefoy, appointed trustee Dianne Turner and interim superintendent John Lewis. Photo: Patti Bacchus

The Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association (VSTA) president says teachers are disappointed and — in some cases — angry the Vancouver School Board (VSB) didn’t ask for more funding so it could fully comply with restored class size and composition contract language amidst news it's getting a much smaller piece of the provincial funding being provided than it was allocated in March.

“It's unbelievable that Vancouver didn't even apply for the full notional amount of $57 million,” says VSTA president Rory Brown, “They asked for just $42 million and they aren't meeting the restored composition language at all.

 “It now sounds like the whole system may need to be reorganized at the beginning of September which is so disruptive and ridiculous.”

Brown is calling for more public oversight. “With no board, no superintendent, no ministry and no government, the VSB is also refusing to sign the information-sharing agreement the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation agreed to. That is mystifying as this language provides structure which creates stability,” he said.

Classroom enhancement fund

The $355-million provincial “classroom enhancement fund” (CEF) is intended to enable school districts to “continue hiring approximately 3,330 new full-time teachers and specialists, restoring nearly 1,400 old class-size and composition clauses across 60 different collective agreements,” according to a June 21 update on the B.C. Ministry of Education website.

A government post in March showed the VSB’s initial CEF allocation to be $57.6 million  — a large portion that I wrote about here. I noted the VSB was poised to get 16 per cent of the fund but had only 9.4 per cent of the province’s public school enrolment and called it a “huge win for Vancouver.”

I spoke too soon.

The VSB, which currently consists of a B.C. Liberal-government appointed trustee, following the board’s October dismissal for refusing to approve a budget that included cuts to staffing and programs, didn’t apply for the full amount it was allocated, and received even less.

The VSB’s recalculated portion of the fund is now $35,153,878 — a whopping $22 million less than its original allocation.

A VSB spokesperson says the district asked for funding to add 420 full-time teaching positions but government only approved them for 325.6 positions just under $31.4 million. Vancouver will also get about $3.8 million to pay for overhead costs, for a total of $35.2 million.

“We understand that some items from our submission are still to be considered,” Carla Shore from the VSB communications department told me by email this week.

“We continue to communicate and discuss our CEF requirements with the ministry and we are seeking clarifications as to how the approved funds relate to our submission. We are hopeful that additional funding will be provided in advance of September,” Shore added.

The reduced funding for some districts and delayed decision making is causing concern among teachers and parents about getting staff in place and schools organized for a smooth school-year start up in September.

Outgoing VSB district parents’ advisory council chair Morgane Oger, who ran as B.C. NDP candidate in the May 9 provincial election, says the apparent reduction to Vancouver’s allocation is “disconcerting and worrisome, especially when we’re seeing services like adult education cut back and we’re hearing reports that there aren’t even enough substitute teachers available.”

The president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA), Chloe McKnight, says she’s concerned about what the reduction will mean for teachers and students in September.

“We’re already seeing schools be organized for September with violations of the contract language,” says McKnight. “The VSB isn’t using all its available space in schools which is resulting in issues with class composition. In some cases, the class organization looks worse for next year than it’s been in the past,” says McKnight.

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