The expression, you can pay me now or pay me later, sprang to mind when we heard the Sooke School District must purchase 28 portable classrooms to accommodate the smaller class sizes mandated by the courts, as well as growth in the district.
Not only do we envision a landscape of Atco trailers on the West Shore, the need to expand doesn’t end there: smaller classes means extra teachers, teaching and administrative support staff, even custodians as the business of operating a school spreads out.
The school district, like most around the province, we suspect, is nervously keeping its fingers crossed in hopes that the province will choose to fund all of the additional staff and equipment needs made necessary by the Supreme Court decision that restored class size limits. SD62 superintendent Jim Cambridge and school trustees are anxiously awaiting word they won’t have to somehow find other ways, such as cost savings and cuts elsewhere, to help pay for this massive undertaking.
Covering the cost of a return to smaller classes should without a doubt be on the province. After all, it was the B.C. Liberals who took away this element of bargaining way back when, only to be told more than once by the courts that its education legislation was unconstitutional. The government at the time gambled that it wouldn’t get challenged by the B.C. Teachers Federation, but the union showed its stamina by working hard to, as it says, “right the wrong.”
The province, having appealed the original court decision that ruled in favour of the teachers and lost again, set aside $100 million for the inevitable hirings and infrastructure expansion. The BCTF estimated last fall that the required moves would take three times that amount, and we’re now waiting to find out just how close the government can get to covering the costs.
In this longstanding turf war over working conditions between teachers and the province, we hope the Sooke School District and its counterparts will not be further caught in the middle of a fight that should have been resolved long ago.