We can't leave kids waiting
Watch the Videos
for smaller classes
for smaller classes
for a teacher librarian
for a teacher librarian
for a counselor
for a counselor
for special needs support
for special needs support
“Sharing” – as seen during the 2013 Super Bowl
“Sharing” – as seen during 2013 Super Bowl
No team can do their best without the support they need – and that's as true in a school classroom as it is on the field. Let's make sure BC kids have the individual attention, support and resources that will help them succeed.
Futures on the Line
We all know our children's future – and our province's prosperity – rely on a quality education today.
But unless we reverse 12 years of provincial cuts and neglect, our schools can't deliver the education BC students deserve.
- Crowded classrooms: Government cuts have left BC with the highest number of students per educator in Canada. Just to reach the national average, we'd need to hire 6,600 more.
- Help for students with special needs: In just five years, the number of classrooms with four or more students with special needs has jumped by more than 3,000. But with 770 fewer special education teachers and 120 fewer counsellors, the wait for assessment and help keeps getting longer.
- Classroom resources: BC ranks dead last in Canada in investments per student. And we've lost nearly one in three teacher-librarians over the past decade.
This is what the provincial government wants to lock in for the next 10 years.
That's not good enough. We can't leave kids waiting.
Better Classrooms for BC Kids
BC's teachers are working with parents, schools and the employer on solutions that build on our public schools' strengths and makes kids and classrooms the priority.
And it's not too late for the provincial government will work with us too, instead of locking in 12 years of cuts and neglect for another decade.
It all starts with restoring funding to education and investing more in kids and schools.
That will give BC schools the resources to make real progress on three key priorities – and make a huge difference for students:
- Restore class size limits, so teachers can give every child more individual attention
- Provide more assessment and support for all students with special needs, so every child can succeed
- Place learning specialist teachers in every school, so all students can benefit from counselling, teacher-librarians and other learning supports
Consequences of Cuts
- Kids pushed to a lower priority. How? 10 years ago, education made up 20% of the provincial budget. Today, it’s only 15%.
- Real cuts can be felt in the classroom: Funding has fallen as a share of the provincial economy. In fact, BC’s education funding fell behind the rest of Canada’s in 2002/03 — and we’ve lagged ever since.
- Neighbourhood schools closed doors: Nearly 200 schools have shut down. The result: more crowding in other schools and longer bus rides and distances for students to travel.
- Fewer teachers mean less individual attention: The rest of Canada is gaining teachers — while BC is losing them. Enrolment decreased in all provinces except Alberta between 2005-06 and 2009-10. Yet most provinces hired more educators. Overall the number of first-time educators increased by about 5% but decreased in BC by 2%.
- Kids with more needs but no extra resources: Demands on schools are increasing in several high-cost areas. For instance, not counting the gifted program, there were 1,560 more students in special education programs in 2011-12 than in 2001-02.
- It's harder for kids to learn: school districts are struggling to make up for funding shortfalls. There are fewer teachers, larger classes, shorter school weeks and more closure days. And budget cuts mean outdated textbooks and inadequate supplies.
Timeline: How did we get here?
- Apr 17, 1998
- Jan 25, 2002
- Sept 27, 2005
- Oct 7, 2005
- Sept 8, 2006
- June 8, 2007
- Apr 1, 2011
- June 24, 2011
- Feb 28, 2012
- Mar 5, 2012
- Apr 1, 2012
- June 1, 2012
- June 26, 2012
- May 24, 2013
Apr 17, 1998
Teachers give up any salary increases for two years to negotiate smaller classes for all grades, more support for special needs kids and more learning specialist teachers in schools to help make schools better for BC kids.
Jan 25, 2002
Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government, with Christy Clark as Minister of Education, illegally tears up teachers’ collective agreements.
Bills 27 and 28 eliminate protections on class size and composition, cut support for kids with special needs, and strip teachers of bargaining rights.
This move slashes $336 million annually from public education…devastating cuts that continue to affect kids, teachers and schools.
Sept 27, 2005
With no new agreement at the beginning of the school year, and the government refusing to negotiate, teachers vote to begin job action.
Their primary bargaining issues become achieving more help for kids with special needs, preventing community schools from closing, negotiating for reinstated caps on class size and composition, and wages and benefits.
Oct 7, 2005
Despite looming fines, teachers vote 90.5% in favour of withdrawing services: to both stand up for their students and to protest the Liberal government’s introduction of Bill 12…legislation that circumvents open negotiations.
The teachers’ protests last two weeks – as they continue to advocate for better schools. News stories each day mention waves of parent support as they walk picket lines alongside teachers and bring food to those on the line in solidarity.
Sept 8, 2006
A new five-year agreement is reached. It gives teachers a very modest salary increase. Lowest paid districts receive slightly more.
June 8, 2007
The Supreme Court of Canada declares the BC Liberal government’s 2002 Bill 29 unconstitutional and affirms that workers’ rights to collectively bargain their working conditions are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Apr 1, 2011
BC Supreme Court rules 2002’s Bills 27 and 28 unconstitutional for removing teachers’ bargaining rights and stripping guarantees for class size and support for students with special needs. The government is given one year to remedy the injustice and reinstate bargaining rights.
June 24, 2011
With the government refusing to negotiate on the key issues of class size and composition, 90% of teachers vote “yes” in a province-wide vote to begin job action and withdraw administrative work in September.
Feb 28, 2012
The Liberal government introduces a new Bill 22, prohibiting teachers from bargaining on key issues like class size, composition and staff levels — and demands a two-year wage freeze.
The government threatened to impose contract conditions and prevent further job action.
Mar 5, 2012
Teachers begin a legal three-day strike to protest the government’s refusal to negotiate class size and other key issues. By now, there are 12,000 overcrowded classrooms in BC (including those with four or more students designated with special needs) and students are waiting years for special needs assessments.
Apr 1, 2012
Bill 22 passes. Government imposes fines that threaten to cost the teachers more than $20 million a day for any additional striking. But the key issues teachers are standing up for remain unresolved. So, with few other choices, teachers make a difficult decision and vote in favour of suspending their volunteer work on all extracurricular activities.
June 1, 2012
BCTF files court action over the failure of government to address the BC Supreme Court's ruling that they restore bargaining rights on key issues like class size, composition and staffing levels.
June 26, 2012
Teachers cooperate with government-imposed mediator and sign a contract; but, problems like class size, composition, guarantees of support for students with special needs, staffing levels for teacher-librarians, counsellors, and ESL teachers remain unsolved.
May 24, 2013
After weeks of solid progress by teachers and the employer toward a contract, the government derails the process. They order the employer to adopt the government's position of locking in the last 12 years of neglect and cuts for another decade.
Making schools better requires a solid foundation — and that’s exactly what these building blocks provide.
We invite you to explore our seven blocks — and print them, share them, pin them! And keep coming back for new tidbits and updates.
And we invite you to be part of the conversation for better schools on Twitter — follow us and share your thoughts.
Class size and composition
Since the Liberals came to power:
- 12,000 overcrowded classes
- 3,000 teaching positions chopped
- $3 billion less funding available for public schools
Solutions for kids: Put classrooms first
Reduce class sizes and improve support for kids with special needs — so every student gets the individual attention they need.
What Others Are Saying
A definitive study commissioned by the US Department of Education analyzed achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools across the nation. It found that, after controlling for student background, the only objective factor found to be correlated with higher student success was class size — not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the could be identified.
Compelling evidence demonstrates that reducing class size, particularly for younger children, has a positive effect on student achievement overall and an especially significant impact on the education of disadvantaged children.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is a strong advocate for reducing class size to help raise student achievement, especially in high poverty, at-risk schools.
Smaller class sizes are an intuitively good idea. Both parents and teachers believe that smaller groups of students allow for more individual attention and result in higher achievement. In addition, teachers believe that smaller class sizes provide for more manageable classes and better relations with parents. After many studies of the impact of class size, and lively debate about their interpretation, a consensus has emerged that class size makes a small but useful improvement to achievement in the early grades. The impact is greater when accompanied by pedagogical change.
Because of its widespread popularity, reducing class size is a relatively straightforward policy initiative; its implementation, however, is complex because it affects utilization of classrooms, recruitment and allocation of teachers, and grouping of students, and may require the creation of split or combined grades in the primary and junior divisions.
Learning specialist teachers
Over their 11 years in office, the BC Liberals have cut 1500 specialist teachers — including 750 special needs teachers alone. And this is happening when there are more children than ever requiring extra classroom attention.
Solutions for kids: Place specialist teachers back in every school
Make sure students can draw on the crucial skills of specialist teachers: teacher-librarians, special needs teachers, counsellors, ESL teachers and more.
On September 29, 1948 Mrs. Victoria B. Glover, a grandmother of an eight year old boy, wrote a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star challenging readers to contemplate the common practice of sending children with disabilities away to institutions to ‘learn’. She asked:
….If these children can be taught something at Orillia [Huronia Regional Center], why cannot a day school be put at their disposal?
Did Mrs. Glover have any idea that the pebble she was throwing would not only start a ripple, but swell into an entire movement? Her question reached families and other like-minded allies across Ontario who would soon found what would one day be known as the Community Living Movement. By banding together, they found strength and courage with and from each other.
Reducing child poverty
There are 137,000 BC children living in poverty. And yet the BC government is one of only three provinces who have yet to commit to a comprehensive poverty-reduction strategy. It's not hard to see the problem: when kids come to school without the basics of food, adequate clothing or housing, they're in no place to focus on learning.
Solutions for kids: Reduce child poverty
Tackle the single biggest obstacle many children face in getting a quality education today — create a plan and take action to reduce child poverty. After all, each child deserves the chance to an equal start in life. And in so doing, let's help kids break the cyle of poverty and make the most of their education later on.
A new report released by UNICEF comparing child poverty in 35 industrialized countries reveals Canada could be doing more to protect its children.
“The face of poverty in Canada is a child’s face,” says UNICEF Canada’s Executive Director David Morley. “This is unacceptable. It is clearly time for Canada to make children a priority when planning budgets and spending our nation’s resources, even in tough economic times.”
Authentic student assessment
Across BC, teachers, principals, and school-district staff spend ever increasing amounts of time on data collection to meet accountability requirements, teaching to the test to boost achievement scores, and explaining to parents of stressed 9-year-olds that the testing must proceed. This takes the focus away from the ongoing classroom assessment that actually helps students learn.
Solutions for kids: Make student assessment authentic
Use standardized tests only to identify system-wide issues, and let teachers tailor ongoing assessment to each student.
For the last four decades, students' scores on standardized tests have increasingly been regarded as the most meaningful evidence for evaluating U.S. schools. Most Americans, indeed, believe that students' standardized test performances are the only legitimate indicator of a school's instructional effectiveness.
Yet, although test-based evaluations of schools seem to occur almost as often as fire drills, in most instances these evaluations are inaccurate. That's because the standardized tests employed are flat-out wrong.
Read more of this article from W. James Popham, who began his career in education as a high school teacher in Oregon, and is professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles's School of Education and Information Studies
Investing more in education
Since 2002, $3 billion has been cut from BC classrooms – and the Liberal government’s education budget freeze will mean $400 million more is cut over the next three years.
Solutions for kids: Invest more in public education
After years of school funding falling behind enrolment and rising costs, let’s start investing again — and making up lost ground.
Our students deserve better
Students in British Columbia are being shortchanged in comparison to students elsewhere in Canada. The teachers of BC are urgently appealing to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to recommend to government sufficient increases in education funding to reverse this situation and provide more educational services to BC students.
We believe these services are vitally important to the students in school now and to the social and economic health of the province in the longer term. In this brief, we will identify how the situation in BC compares to other provinces, and why the government should, as a start, adopt a plan to bring BC’s education funding and services up to at the very least the average in Canada.
BC is below the Canadian average in improvements to education funding. This is a situation that should not exist in a province endowed with such natural wealth and human potential. Our students deserve better.
Respect for all
Because of social, economic and other reasons, too many BC students fall through the cracks and aren't able to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn — including aboriginal kids, at-risk youth, children in care, immigrant students and more.
Solutions for kids: Respect diversity and equal opportunity
It's time to make it a priority to address cultural and systemic barriers like inequality, bullying and discrimination that stand between too many children and their ability to reach their potential.
In 2005, a group of researchers conducted a major international study that looked at more than 120,000 students from 28 countries. The study, which was published in The European Journal of Public Health, found that students who were bullied on a weekly basis are almost twice as likely to experience headaches, stomach aches, backaches or dizziness, as their non-bullied peers. Furthermore, compared to non-bullied students, victims of bullying were 1.7 to 7.5 times more likely to experience psychological symptoms such as loneliness, nervousness, petulance as well as other symptoms related to depression such as difficulty sleeping, tiredness and helplessness.
There is also growing international evidence that "low-level or underlying forms of violence have a profound effect on the learning environment of schools" and bullying has been documented as the most prevalent form of low-level violence in schools. Numerous studies have shown that bullied students often simply avoid school; between 6 and 8% of students stay away from school because of bullying, and victims of bullying are more likely to drop out of school. Bullied students also report difficulties in concentrating on their school work and obtain lower levels of academic achievement than their non-bullied peers.
Collective bargaining rights
Since 2002, the Liberal government has introduced 20 laws aimed at stripping negotiated contracts, circumventing free collective bargaining, and banning teachers from negotiating key education issues such as class size and composition.
Solutions for kids: Restore teachers' rights to bargain for class size and composition
Respect the Supreme Court of Canada decision, and let teachers bargain for better learning and working conditions.
Running 22 marathons in 22 days across B.C. is no easy feat, says North Vancouver teacher Ian Cunliffe, but every mile is worth it if he can bring more attention to Bill 22, the B.C. government’s Education Improvement Act.
The bill’s name is misleading because it “slashes funding to the bone” rather than improving education, Cunliffe says, speaking to The Outlook by phone at a pit-stop on day two of his grueling 1,000-kilometre run. Steadily following Highway 3, he left Fernie that morning on his way to Jaffray, a village 47 kilometres east of Cranbrook.
We want to celebrate diversity, promote antibullying and call on school boards to adopt specific antiracism and antihomophobia policies. For example, only 20 school districts in BC have specific antihomophobia policies that explicitly protect their staff and students. Teachers are also working to get Aboriginal employment equity agreements in place and more supports for children with special needs.
Share your stories. Get involved.
People just like you are getting involved to make BC schools better.
Teachers are speaking up about their passion for teaching and how much they care about kids.
Lots of people are telling us how teachers have made a difference in their lives.
Take a look and submit your own video story (it’s really easy).
Also on this page you can join in the discussions we’re having on Facebook and Twitter about how to make better schools for BC a reality.