No immediate changes for SD8 after BCTF ruling

"This will remain status quo for the foreseeable future."

Supreme Court of Canada's decision on class size was delivered verbally after less than half an hour of deliberation.

Nothing is going to change. At least not soon.

Education advocates pleased that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, restoring their ability to negotiate class size and composition, will have to wait until provincial negotiations are complete before anything changes in SD8.

“My hope is that the BCTF and the province will work together for the benefit of our students,” Superintendent Jeff Jones told the Star.

“Pending further communication from the provincial level there will be no action taken locally.”

And since nobody knows how long those negotiations will take, things will remain status quo for the foreseeable future.

The case has been ongoing since 2002, when B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell stripped the teacher’s union of bargaining rights with Bill 22, which is called the Education Improvement Act.

“Our teachers are extremely pleased,” said Kootenay Lake Teachers’ Federation co-president Paul Boscariol.

“It’s going to make a big difference for teaching loads, and it will make a big impact providing support for students with special needs as well as other support staff such as teacher-librarians.”

He said “the topper of it was the 7-2 ruling. It was very decisive.”

But it’s a little “premature” to talk about what impact this will have locally, he said. Both sides need time to iron out the details of how exactly this ruling will affect class size in the years to come.

“We need to sit down and go through the ruling with a fine tooth comb and figure out what the exact implications will be. In short order they’ll be looking to sit down and start the process.”

Boscariol said “a generation of students have lost out on services. Things that students had access to prior to that.”

He blames the government for “chronically underfunding education” and said it’s time for them “to right the wrongs. If they had left things as they were, we wouldn’t be facing these issues.”

And the whole court process has taken money that could’ve been invested in students and poured it into court proceedings instead, according to Boscariol.

“How many millions of dollars did the Ministry of Education and the government spend on this process? All because they thought these things were costing them too much money.”

The Kootenay Lake School Board hopes this means more services will be coming to students in SD8.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” board chair Lenora Trenaman said about the news, stressing that the board hasn’t yet met to discuss their feelings about the ruling, or to look at its implications.

“Fourteen years is a long time to have something of this magnitude hung up,” she said.

“I think anything that provides us with resources for the district is definitely a good thing, but we still don’t know how this will play out. We’re anxiously waiting, hoping this won’t cause a new financial burden to our system.”

This topic will be on the table at Tuesday’s school board meeting. And school board trustee Curtis Bendig is eager to engage in that conversation.

“This is a vindication,” he said. “I would certainly like to commend the teachers on sticking with this challenge and taking it to the highest level.

“This was hard fought, it’s wasn’t easy, and they had a lot to overcome.”

His hope is “this will force the government back into having respectful conversation with teachers. Tearing up contracts is not acceptable.”

And though he hopes the government will deliver, he’s not optimistic.

“Based on how the government has treated public education and teachers over the past 14 years, I’m optimistic they will come to table and be respectful and bargain in good faith as the court has instructed them to, but their record shows.”

He called the ruling a “wakeup call for them to come back and get serious and public education.”

Ultimately, though, is this good news?

“I’m optimistic that this will be to the benefit of students,” said Trenaman.

 

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