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.

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She’s also worried the VSB isn’t moving quickly enough to hire teachers to fill its new positions and that good candidates may go to other districts. She says it made sense for the VSB to get a larger share of the CEF because it has more detailed and specific contract language than other districts.

She says VESTA has been trying to get more information from management regarding its submission to government for CEF funds.

Former Vancouver Sun education reporter Tracy Sherlock’s Vancouver Courier column this week notes the VSB used some of its allocation to cover its operating budget shortfall, something the ministry of education told her previously was not permitted.

I wrote in April that “when I saw the large chunk of the CEF going to Vancouver, I suspected B.C. Liberal shenanigans to avoid politically damaging VSB budget cuts or school closures on the eve of the election.

“With a government-appointed trustee in place they couldn’t blame the board — as they usually do. The truth is B.C. public schools, even with the court settlement fund in place, continue to be underfunded,” I wrote in April.

The $57.6 million would have been great news for the VSB but it seemed too good to be true and, alas, it was, even with Christy Clark’s new-found generosity that we heard in last week’s surprising throne speech.

Several other districts have been raising the alarm that there isn’t enough money being set aside to cover the full costs of restoring the contract.

In a widely circulated letter to Education Minister Mike Bernier and Finance Minister Mike de Jong, Richmond School Board Chair Debbie Tablotney said her board is concerned about a lack of confirmation of full funding from the CEF and says it may delay the district’s ability to hire teachers and that it may risk losing teachers to other districts that have adequate funding in place. She added that it’s harder to fill teaching positions later in the summer and that they want supports and staffing in place for students at the start of September.

The Saanich school district met Tuesday afternoon to grapple with what one report said is a million-dollar shortfall in funding for staffing to comply with the restored contract language.

Frustration at the district level

The frustration with the instability at the provincial level is matched with what is and isn’t happening at the district level in Vancouver, according to Brown.

He says that the district's managers are meeting with teacher representatives but they have a “fundamental disagreement regarding the interpretation” of the memorandum of agreement that BCPSEA and the BCTF signed following the BCTF's landmark win at the Supreme Court of Canada.

“It's a mess and will likely mean more disruption in September due to timetables being changed,” Brown says.  “Our initial views of course organizations indicate the language is not being met. Why the VSB only applied for $42 million, instead of the allocated $57 million, and then received only $35 million has teachers feeling very disappointed and in many cases angry. It’s ridiculous that we will need to use the grievance process after winning at the Supreme Court.”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to my request for comment.

As the B.C. Liberals continue their political manoeuvering in the legislature in an apparent last-gasp effort to cling to power, the damage they did continues to reverberate through the public school system. Let’s hope that damage doesn’t extend into next school year. Enough is enough.

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Student trustee completes term

Outgoing VSB student trustee Isabella Preite got a well-deserved round of applause at the June 26 VSB meeting — her last as she completes her one-year term. Preite was the only elected trustee who survived the October dismissal of the board.

The VSB student trustee position was the first of its kind in B.C. and was piloted by the board in 2013 and has by all accounts been a huge success.

The student trustee is elected annually by the Vancouver district student council. The incoming trustee for 2017/18 is Eugene Jeoung. He will be the VSB’s fifth student trustee.

 

 

 

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