Teachers’ Strike ‘Savings’ Distributed

From the Globe and Mail.

VANCOUVER — B.C. public schools and school districts combined will get $100 a student as part of the province’s distribution of the $126 million it saved during the teachers’ illegal (sic) strike in October.Of that money, Education Minister Shirley Bond said yesterday, $56 million will go to schools and school districts, with a one-time funding of $50 a student going to each.

The province will also give 34 of its 93 school districts $2-million to make up for lost school days with extra instructional time. The 34 districts had earlier asked for additional money to fund instruction during evenings, on Saturdays and on other days when school is not normally in session to make up for lessons lost during the strike.

The balance of the money saved will be dispersed, with $20-million going toward reducing class sizes, $40-million to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s long-term disability trust, and the remaining $8-million to fund programs such as the rural-schools strategy and the healthy-schools program.

The funding from the province means an additional $13,000 for Central Coast School District 49, one of the smallest in the province.

Superintendent Jerry Smit said the money will likely go toward augmenting existing resources.

“It isn’t a lot of money for our district, but any money helps,” Mr. Smit said yesterday. “The ministry has financed this small district relatively well despite our declining enrolment.”

The school district’s budget is $5.2-million and it’s responsible for just under 400 pupils in five schools, with three in the Bella Coola Valley and two on the more remote outer coast.

The first priority for districts in spending their $50 a student is textbooks and learning resources, while schools can decide their priorities for the $50 a head through consultation with staff, parents and school planning councils.

The strike cost students nine classroom days when the province’s 38,000 teachers walked out after the province imposed another two- year wage freeze.

The B.C. Supreme Court had ruled the strike illegal and fined the union $500,000 for ignoring a labour relations board ruling and court order telling them to return to the classrooms. Teachers eventually voted in favour of returning after mediator Vince Ready stepped in.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jinny Sims said the province should have given more money to schools. But she is pleased to see direct spending go to the districts and schools.

Schools and districts must submit their plans on how they’ll spend the money by Jan. 10, 2006.