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Delta teachers welcome supreme court ruling

Paul Steer -
Paul Steer
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The head of the Delta Teachers’ Association says the recent decision by the B.C. Supreme Court to reinstate teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition will benefit students here in the Delta School District.

DTA president Paul Steer said he is hopeful the decision will mean more support for students with special needs, smaller class sizes, and more appropriate class compositions.

“With this decision… now we can start moving in the right direction,” he said.

In a ruling released Monday, Justice Susan Griffin said the B.C. government’s replacement legislation, passed in 2011, is as unconstitutional as the 2002 law called Bill 28 that removed class size and special needs support from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract.

Griffin awarded the BCTF a $2 million settlement on Monday, stating in her decision that the government did not negotiate in good faith with the union.

“One of the problems was that the government representatives were preoccupied with another strategy,” she wrote in her decision. “Their strategy was to put such pressure on the union that it would provoke a strike by the union. The government representatives thought this would give government the opportunity to gain political support for imposing legislation on the union.”

Steer said the decision is a vindication of everything teachers have been saying since 2002.

“Obviously there was a hidden agenda at the bargaining table,” he said. “[The provincial government] wanted to perpetuate at strike so it could force legislation on teachers.”

Locally, Steer said the reinstatement of class-size and class-composition guarantees will result in more teachers and smaller classes, which benefits students and parents.

“We know that ESL students in this district are under-served,” said Steer. “And many [technology education] classes have more kids than they were designed for.”

Placing limits on the number of students in a class who have special needs will also benefit all students.

“When you have seven kids with special needs in a class, how much individual time can [a teacher] really provide to any of the other students?” said Steer. “That’s a huge additional challenge to teacher of a class.”

While Steer noted that it is interesting that current Premier Christy Clark was the minister of education responsible for 2002 legislation, he’s hopeful the province will do the right thing and correct the mistake that has been made.

“We have to start moving in the right direction,” he said. “But teachers can’t do it alone, we need the support.”

School District No. 37 spokesperson Deneka Michaud said the local school district is currently analyzing what effect the Supreme Court’s decision will have on local classrooms, but said it is still too early to tell.

-with files

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