Teacher talks loom over legislative session

The B.C. government will provide more money for special-needs support in the province's public schools, and impose new training on teachers, according to Premier Christy Clark's first throne speech.

The B.C. legislature resumed sitting Monday with Premier Christy Clark's first speech from the throne.

VICTORIA – The B.C. government will provide more money for special-needs support in the province’s public schools, and provide new training for teachers, according to Premier Christy Clark’s first throne speech.

Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point delivered the speech Monday to open a new session of the B.C. legislature. It confirms that the province’s “net zero” negotiation mandate for public sector union contracts will be imposed for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, whose contract expired last June.

The BCTF has been refusing non-essential duties since school started in September, and on Monday the B.C. Public School Employers Association met to consider reducing teacher pay or imposing a lockout in an effort to force a settlement.

The BCTF is demanding wage parity with other provinces and a range of benefit improvements, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce class sizes and increase special-needs support staff.

Education Minister George Abbott said the additional money for special needs support will be in the “tens of millions” over the next three years. Decreasing class sizes by one student across the province would cost $150 million, and research suggests that smaller classes are far down the list of things that improve education outcomes, he said.

The speech promises “additional flexibility and choice” in educating students, adding that “these changes will be bold and represent a significant improvement in how, when and where education takes place.”

NDP leader Adrian Dix said improvements to special needs support are only coming because of a B.C. Supreme Court decision earlier this year giving the government a year to consult on class size and composition limits taken out of teacher bargaining in 2002.

“The government that lost in court on its action on class size and composition is now saying they may make some changes,” Dix said. “But in the year that we’re in, 12,000 classrooms are outside the class size and composition limits, and they passed a law to establish those.”

The speech also commits the government to make sure teachers who “abuse their position of trust are removed and not permitted to return.”

Abbott said amendments are coming to legislation governing the B.C. College of Teachers. Victoria lawyer Don Avison reviewed the college last year and found that BCTF influence allowed teachers to return to classrooms after being convicted of serious crimes including cocaine trafficking and sexual assault of students.

Other highlights of Monday’s throne speech:

• B.C.’s first Family Day statutory holiday will be Feb. 18, 2013.

• To reduce the backlog in B.C. courts, legislation is coming to relax restrictions on part-time work performed by retired judges to provide “surge capacity.”

• Prosecutors in Stanley Cup riot cases will ask for TV and radio access to cases, which are expected to start this month.

• New legislation is promised to restrict scrap metal sales to deter metal theft.

Just Posted

Agassiz bus driver’s seatbelt petition heads to Ottawa

Gary Lillico is hoping his one-month petition will make a mark on the House of Commons

No crackers for quackers: Hope resident warns fellow locals to not feed wild birds

‘You should not feed wildlife anything—they don’t need it,’ Wildlife Rescue Association says

Man dead after motorcycle crash in Hope, police watchdog says

Thursday’s crash is still being investigated by the IIO

Agassiz trail runner looks to conquer local mountains

Marina Striker has run the equivalent of four Mount Everests in April alone

Four years in jail for Langley, Maple Ridge scissor robber

Ryan Korte also guilty of a Chilliwack vehicle theft for which he received eight months

VIDEO: Quadriplegic man takes flight over Harrison Mills

Jim Ryan hasn’t moved his arms or legs for three years, but that didn’t stop him from paragliding

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Cloverdale Rodeo competition promises to be a ‘nail-biter’ this weekend

New challengers giving returning champions a run for their money

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Most Read