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BCTF rejects government funding offer

The BC Teacher's Federation says the Education Ministry's latest offer in class size and composition funding is a "pittance" and a "dreadful, dreadful proposition."

The ministry released a statement from Minister George Abbott, expressing disappointment in the teachers' refusal to accept their current offer of $165 million over three years, followed by an additional $75 million ever subsequent year, for class size and composition changes.

"The fund would target classrooms with the highest needs and would be allocated on the basis of input from classroom teachers, BCTF representatives and school administrators. This fund could be used, for example, to provide additional teaching staff or teacher assistants.

"I was disappointed when the BCTF suspended their participation in talks following that proposal. Government strongly believes that teachers need to be involved in finding a solution with respect to the court's decision on Bill 28."

But the teachers' union, who received the proposal yesterday, says the funding doesn't even come close to the $336 million they're asking for now.

"What we've been saying over the last decade is that because of government underfunding, because we had $275 million in 2002 cut from the system, we no longer are able to meet those needs. This will not do it," says Susan Lambert, BCTF president. The $336 million figure is what the teachers say the $275 million would equal today.

"This will pit parent against parent, advocating for their children; it will pit vulnerable student against vulnerable students advocating for these scarce resources. This is simply quite a cynical scheme in my view that will not cover all the needs."

Lambert says the letter the union received from the government offers no funds this year, $30 million in 2012-2013, $60 million in 2013-2014, and $75 million in 2014-2015.

"We've got an election in 2013. How are they going to guarantee this beyond 2013?" she asks.

Robin Austin, education critic for the New Democratic Party, agrees with Lambert that the government's proposition isn't enough and children's needs should be met regardless of the state of government coffers.

"I think we need to look after what's best for our children, and not look at just the fiscal situation of the province or the government," he told The Tyee.

"We need to be clear on something. In judicial decision by [Justice Susan] Griffin from April the BCTF used the figure of $[275] million that was removed from the school system as a result of removing class size and composition. That's $[275] million each and every year."

The BCTF is currently awaiting a clarification from Justice Griffin on her ruling that the government had violated their collective bargaining rights by implementing Bills 27 and 28, striping class size and composition from collective agreements.

The teachers believe the ruling means the money cut as part of those bills should be restored, but the government disagrees.

Her ruling is expected October 11.

With files from Andrew MacLeod.

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