Province pledges $330 million to restore B.C. classroom sizes to 2002 levels

Province pledges $330 million to restore B.C. classroom sizes to 2002 levels

The B.C. government is meeting the Supreme Court of Canada order to  to restore class size and composition to 2002 levels by allocating $330 million in funding.

School districts are now set to hire 2,600 new teachers with the additional money.

"We are very close to restoring the language of what classes needed," said B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier. 

"Come September, there may be some minor fluctuations. Some school districts may get a little more and some may get a little less."

Meets Supreme Court of Canada requirements

In November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the B.C. government had to return class size and composition to 2002 levels.

The provincial government has previously announced $180 million, so that school districts could start hiring teachers this year.

The additional $150 million announced Friday comes after the province consulted with each school district about its requirements. The funding will be renewed each year until the B.C. Teachers Federation and the province return to the bargaining table in 2019.

"In 2019, we will be in negotiations with the BCTF again and who knows what will happen, what increases or changes will happen at that time," said Bernier.

Money also earmarked for additional costs

The BCTF originally estimated, following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, that an additional 3,000 teachers would be needed. But Bernier says one of the factors at play is that there are 65,000 fewer students now in the provincial public school system than there were in 2002. 

Bernier also announced $30 million will be earmarked for additional costs associated with more teachers in the system. The money could be for more janitorial support, supplies or on-call teachers. 

Last week, the government set aside $2 million to help recruit teachers to rural areas of the province.

"We have already started reaching out to other parts of Canada and other areas to start advertising to look at opportunities to bring people to British Columbia as we are growing," said Bernier. 

More capital spending could also be on the way

Each school district will be required to put in a request for the number of teachers needed to start the 2017-18 school year.

The district is still working with the province on whether additional classrooms, portables or school additions are needed.

"We do have money put aside for any of the capital costs that are needed. We are working with school districts. The capital costs are not completely known because we have to watch it unfold," added Bernier.