Months after the B.C. teachers union won a landmark Supreme Court decision negotiating class size and composition, Vernon teachers and the school district are still embroiled in a dispute over class size.
The Supreme Court decision was released in November 2016, and earlier this year the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation reached a collective agreement that incorporates the terms of the ruling.
Each of B.C.’s 60 school districts has specific local agreements with their respective union chapter.
Some districts have disagreed with local teachers over how to implement the restored terms, according to these local agreements.
That’s what’s happening in Vernon.
Lisa LaBoucane, president of the Vernon Teachers’ Association, says the problem is neither party agrees on how special needs students are designated. More special needs students would merit more class support and lower class sizes.
LaBoucane says the school district has interpreted the definition too narrowly.
“Parents, teachers, and students are thinking the BCTF Supreme Court win would bring better support for students and smaller classes and that’s just not what’s going to be happening to the extent that we believe it should be,” she said.
The two sides are heading to provincial arbitration — something LaBoucane says will only continue the delay.
“We believe that because of the dispute, there will be significant disruption and chaos,” she said.
Listen to Lisa LaBoucane on Daybreak South:
A ‘positive’ step
Joe Rogers, the superintendent of the Vernon School District, said the district has interpreted the document according to the standards set in 2000/2001 (when BCTF’s legal challenge launched).
Regardless, he said heading to a dispute resolution process is a “positive” step.
“The funding that we receive is notional funding. We have to prove what was required and we’re meeting those requirements. You don’t automatically get the funding. We’re pleased to go to the dispute resolution process so if we deserve more funding, we’ll be able to back it up.”
He said he is hopeful the dispute resolution will be finished by September.
“We want expedited arbitration, so we can get it cleared up and be ready to go [for September],” he said.
Listen to Joe Rogers on Daybreak South: