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Education Ministry adds strike savings to learning fund

The province's schools can expect an extra $30 million from the government next year thanks to the Ministry of Education's application of teacher strike savings to the Learning Improvement Fund, which will see a total $195 million divvied out among districts over the next three years.

The March 5-7 teachers' strike saved the Ministry a total of $37 million in operational and salary costs, which a Ministry press release issued today says will go back to districts in the form of a doubling of the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), now $60 million for the 2012/13 school year, and an additional $7 million to school districts for "educational priorities in their respective districts."

"Investing $30 million in savings from the strike into the Learning Improvement Fund will provide school districts with additional resources to support students and to help teachers address the needs of their students," reads a statement from Education Minister George Abbott.

The rest of the LIF will be issued over two years: $60 million in 2013/14, and $75 million in 2014/15, while total education funding is frozen at $4.7 billion from 2012-2015.

Designed to assist schools with vulnerable learners, including special needs students, the Ministry suggests the extra money could be used to hire extra teachers and special education assistants, provide more instruction time, and offer more professional development opportunities for teachers dealing with complex student needs.

The BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) has already come out against the LIF, however, saying it's not even close the $135 million extra that B.C. schools will need every year.

In a press release issued shortly after the release of the provincial budget on February 21, BCTF President Susan Lambert said "The LIF amounts to mere pennies per day per child. This is a massive theft of educational opportunities from the next generation of BC kids."

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth-issues for the Tyee Solutions Society.

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