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'Fill these shoes with teachers'

The Surrey Teachers
The Surrey Teachers' Association set up a display on Wednesday to illustrate the types of teachers 'missing' in Surrey schools.
— image credit: STA

Nearly 350 pairs of shoes peppered a grassy area outside Surrey's District Education Centre on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by colourful pieces of paper with words such as "librarian," "special ed teacher," and "ESL teacher."

The display, organized by the Surrey Teachers' Association (STA) to mark World Teachers' Day, was meant to illustrate the "more than 346 teachers missing from Surrey classrooms this year," said the union.

“These teachers would be in Surrey classrooms today if the government had remedied the illegal legislation enacted in 2002,” said Denise Moffatt, President of the Surrey Teachers’ Association. “Just imagine the difference more than 346 teachers would make to students.”

The legislation in question dismantled local collective agreements across the B.C. public health and education sectors. The changes removed hundreds of provisions from the teachers’ contract and took away the union’s ability to negotiate class size and composition.

To symbolize the service cuts, the STA asked each school in Surrey to send in three pairs of shoes, along with their wish for what teacher position they would like to fill those shoes. Various teaching roles were requested, including speech and language pathologists, regular classroom teachers, counsellors and other specialist educators.

“Predictably, schools have asked for the return of those same teachers that were cut in 2002,” said Moffatt. “It is a sign that the legislation that is in place today is not working."

She said other provinces, such as Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, have made public education a priority.

"They understand it is an investment in the future of their province with long term and lasting benefits.

"It's time to fill these empty shoes," said Moffatt.

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