BCTF President Glen HansmanVictoria: British Columbia’s 2017 budget is an admission that this government has been shortchanging our schools and students for 15 long years, BCTF President Glen Hansman said.

“All of the funding increases announced today are because this government has been forced by the courts, by demographics, and by public anger to finally respond to their record of underfunding our schools and students,” said Hansman. “This budget is an admission that when it comes to education funding, the government has had it wrong all along. Fifteen years ago, they put tax cuts before kids. Students, parents, teachers, and support staff were forced to pay the price.”

On the question of whether this budget contains the funds necessary to fully fund the cost of the BCTF’s Supreme Court of Canada win, Hansman was cautiously optimistic, but stressed that parents and teachers should still be wary.

The government’s Budget and Fiscal Plan states that any costs of a final agreement with the BCTF “will be managed within the fiscal plan.” That plan has a $400 million contingency fund for 2017-18. The fund drops to $300 million for the two following years. The government has also budgeted $228 million for enrolment increases over the next three years and has annualized the $50 million from the January interim agreement to account for $320 million over the next three years.

“The specific amount required to implement our Supreme Court of Canada win is not known at this point, but regardless of the cost, the government must provide new funds to pay the full amount,” said Hansman. “Teachers, parents, and trustees must hold the government accountable this spring so that districts are not forced to make cuts in other areas. The full funding from the province must materialize.

“The BCTF’s goal is to wrap up the current discussions within the next couple of weeks. That will ensure planning for the 2017-18 school year, which starts this March, is conducted with our restored language on class size, class composition, and specialist-teacher ratios in place. We expect the next school year to start with the supports our students have been denied for 15 years fully in place and fully funded.”

Hansman also expressed concerns with other unmet needs that this budget won’t fully address.

This budget doesn’t fully fund the rollout of the revised curriculum,” said Hansman, noting students in all school districts around the province need access to modern equipment, as well as accurate, up-to-date, and inclusive learning materials. “The government also needs to bring forward clear and ambitious timelines to deal with seismically unsafe schools and overcrowding in the Fraser Valley and South Island.”