Bill 33 Passes

Bill 33 passed 3rd reading at 12:03 pm May 11, 2006 without (significant) amendment.

Draft Hansard transcripts can be found here.
Hansard link.

News Coverage of Bill 33 Passing

Globe and Mail Story British Columbia in Brief

Legislature passes bill limiting class sizes

Victoria — A bill limiting class size and the number of special-needs students in each class passed unanimously yesterday in the legislature.

Bill 33 limits students in Grades 4 through 12 to 30 per class. Each classroom would have no more than three special-needs children.

The bill requires royal assent and proclamation to become law. CP

Alberni Valley Times Article, May 11, 2006

Classes will need adjusting

Niomi Pearson, Alberni Valley Times Published: Thursday, May 11, 2006

The BC government’s latest legislation on class size and composition will mean more discussions and careful planning for School District No. 70.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, superintendent Harry Janzen discussed the bill and its implications for the district.

“It’s one of the few bills that I’ve ever seen in the legislature that was passed unanimously by both sides of the house,” he said. (Full text of article can be downloaded here.)

Tri-Cities News

Cash key to class size

By Diane Strandberg, The Tri-City News
May 12 2006

Schools will be scrambling to meet new class size requirements with no extra cash to help ease the transition, says the district’s top human resources official.

Rob Carson issued a warning to local school trustees Tuesday that the proposed Bill 33 is “confusing,” its timelines “ambitious” and the associated labour issues “contentious.”

No money has yet been earmarked to make the changes but Carson said he’s “forever hopeful” it will arrive by the time schools have to organize classes next September. (Continue reading full text. Download file)

Debate on Bill 33

May 10th Committee of the Whole House debates on Bill 33, EDUCATION (LEARNING ENHANCEMENT) STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 2006

John Horgan of the NDP Introduced a series of amendments that would have:

  • replaced special needs caps with a weighting formula for
    calculating class sizes,

  • limited sizes of special ed classes
  • factored in ESL and other learning challenges
  • funded the proposed changes

These amendments would have gone a long way toward addressing concerns raised by parents and other education partners. However, the Minister stated that such amendments would add too much to the cost of public education.

Rising in the house on a point of order, House Leader. M. de Jong, had the amendments ruled out of order as they would cause the crown to incur an charge. Here is the full statement as reported in Hansard:

Hon. M. de Jong: The issue that I think the Chair has to be cognizant of is, whilst on the surface the difference between “consult” and “consent” is obviously significant, to the extent that we are dealing with imposing a charge on the Crown, the difference may be particularly significant.
I am certain that the language was chosen carefully here — and it may be language that members opposite disagree with — but in the case of consult, there are obviously different ramifications than requiring the consent. Consent implies that it could be withheld, and, in that circumstance, there would be, obviously, financial implications that flow from having to reconfigure classes.
I think I understand the point that members are trying to make around the amendment, but the rule that I believe the Chair has to be cognizant of is that proposed amendments cannot impose a charge, or the prospects of a charge, being imposed upon the Crown. I’m sure members have thoughts on that, and we might deal with that first.

Read full draft transcript of debate here ( pdf file) Original Hansard records can be found here

Coalition Calls for Withdrawl of Bill 33 provisions related to students with IEPs

Advocay groups concerned about the Bill 33 limits on students with Indiviual Educational Plans have issued a call for the government to withdraw the limitations proposed under the legislation for special needs students.

Download press release here.

See also, BCCPAC letter. Download letter here.The following is clipped from draft Hansard transcript and provides an indication of the timetable for bills, such as Bill 33, to pass the House.

Standing Order 81.1

Hon. M. de Jong: I rise pursuant to Standing Order 81.1, and want to advise the House that following extensive discussions with the Opposition House Leader, we have managed to come to an agreement regarding the completion of business for the balance of the current sitting, which is ending on Thursday, May 18. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
That schedule will see all of the estimates and bills presently on the order paper completed except for Bill 23, which is the Public Inquiry Act, and Bill 32, the Adult Guardianship And Personal Planning Statutes Act. Those bills obviously have been the subject of comments by stakeholders and interested parties, and the government believes it would be beneficial to hear further from those with views. Those two bills will not be forthcoming or proceeding this session. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
The Opposition House Leader has also been advised that given the concerns expressed by the freedom-of-information and privacy commissioner with respect to section 9 of Bill 30, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, the government doesn’t intend to proceed with that proposed amendment to the FOI Act. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Well, I don’t know what to do next, Mr. Speaker. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Priority for the government has been to ensure that ample time is available for the Legislature to consider and debate Bill 35, the legislation around the children and youth representative. I believe that the Opposition House Leader and I have settled on a schedule that will allow us to do that. I am, as always, obliged to him for the time he has taken in working with me to settle on a schedule, which, I believe, serves the interests of this chamber and the people of B.C. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

M. Farnworth: I just want to concur with my colleague, the Government House Leader, that the discussions I think have yielded a result that allows for the disposition of bills, which are clearly very much in the public interest, in a timely fashion. It also allows for legislation that the opposition has believed to be requiring further discussion and inputs to be carried over. I think that that is something that will serve this House and this province well. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
It also, I think, is important to note that this session is the first full session on the new parliamentary calendar with a full opposition. I think it’s important that that calendar has remained intact, that we have been able to deal with business in an orderly fashion, and I think that speaks well for the future. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Foundation Skills Asessment

It’s testing time for BC’s grade 4s and grade 7s. Every year the issue receives discussion and debate. In fact, the provincial government has even introduced a motion in the house in support of the foundation skills assessment.

Be it resolved that this House support the Foundation Skills Assessment as it provides valuable information on how well BC students are learning skills necessary to succeed in life.

Read yesterday’s debate by downloading this file

The BCTF’s information on the FSA tests can be foundhere.

The BCCPAC also has a press release distributed today on the FSA. Download press release here.

The Ministry of Education’s publication for parents on Foundation Skills Assessments can be found here. This publication is available in several languages other than English here Also, the government provides explanations of the test results here.

The BCSPE also has testing related info on their web page.

And for those interested in seeing how one neo-conservative lobby uses FSAs click here.

Reflections on Parent Activism and Public Education

After spending some time this weekend at the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils I am find myself puzzling with the question of why so many of the active BCCPAC delegates appear to fear or even dislike teachers. As I say this I understand that of course each of my fellow delegates can name at least one teacher whom they think is wonderful person or even an excellent teacher. Yet, when pressed a good number of the delegates that I spoke with seemed to feel that the real problem is in fact incompetent teachers and especially union teachers (which at times seemed to be understood as synonymous).

One delegate asked the minister of education if there was some way to take away mandatory membership in the BCTF. The underlying assumption apparently being that by disabling the teachers’ union teachers could get back to the business of teaching and our world would be a better place. To give credit where credit is due, the Minster tiptoed around the issue and advised the parent to use her power as an important professional in her own right -professional parent- to stand up to any sort of intimidation. Unionism is not, however the problem, it’s the result of decades of actions by governments who have acted without due care and consideration of the people who we expect to look after and teach our children. Working people have fought long and hard for the right to represent themselves and to protect themselves from such things as arbitrary firing, harassment, and for the semblance of respect and dignity in their work. To ask to remove that right under the guise of a ‘democratic’ reform is to turn our backs upon the basis of real democracy. Another delegate’s comment brought a round of applause when they asked a question about getting rid of ‘incompetent’ teachers. Later, in an otherwise wonderful presentation, Mr. Dean Fink, commented that some teachers have one year of experience 20 times. Applause and laughter followed -yet earlier when he suggested that accountability, testing, and choice were the foundations of a diminished educational system it felt as though a chill had descended upon the room. All this by way of highlighting that many of the delegates appeared to be concerned with the idea that ‘incompetence combined with unions is tearing about our public schools.’ Even in the face of evidence to the contrary this belief appears pervasive among a vocal subset of parents.

But what is happening on the ground? I think that it is fair to say that by and large and for the ‘typical’ student our education system works. Assessments of learning in areas like math and science typically compare well internationally. We are at the leading edge in areas like First Nations curriculum development and delivery (though more could of course be done).

There are areas that we are not doing as well as we could. Special Education, especially those areas related to learning disabilities, still has a long way to go. Gaps in special education services can be seen in the growth of a large private tutoring and educational services sector. Parents who can afford to exit the public system do so. Others who might not be able to afford exiting the public system instead purchase educational services for their children. At one Vancouver High School, for example, an administrator commented that over 50% of the students received some form of tutoring support outside of the public system. This form of privatization very likely has significant impacts upon the structure and capacity of our public education system.

UBC-based research Clyde Hertzman’s research group has noted that for

“Vancouver schools, it appeared that students attending schools located in disadvantaged neighbourhoods did poorly compared to those from resource-rich, high socio-economic status neighbourhoods. Using data from the Census and Early Development Instrument (EDI), we further analyzed the FSA results in relation to school readiness and the socio-economic characteristics of school catchment areas. Findings from this analysis suggest that many schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are successful in improving outcomes for their students, relative to their readiness to learn at school entry.”

So schools can try to address this if they have the resources and supports necessary. If they do not the combination of under funding schools and the privatization of educational services will maintain, if not increase, the disparities.

Many front line teachers feel ground down. Despite popular misconceptions about the nature of teacher’s work, most teachers put in long hours in and outside of school. Teachers often arrive in their schools by 7:30 or 8:00 and rarely leave before 4:00 or even 5:00. They will spend their evenings making and preparing for the next day. Perhaps on the way home they will stop at a store to purchase items for use the next day or drop by a library to check out materials that are needed but not available in their own school’s library or resource system. One urban inner-city teacher recently wrote me with the following comment:

I still love teaching, but I’m 42 years old. My 28-year-old teaching partner wonders if the time has come for him to get out. And my fifty-something colleagues are all counting the days till retirement or checking lottery tickets. We are doing less teaching and more parenting and bean-counting. We are seeing now the effects of a generation of cuts as grade eight kids arrive with fewer skills and abilities and more needs that our school cannot meet except through volunteerism.

Our PAC is supportive, and tacitly accepts its role as a private fundraising arm for the school. At a recent Pro-D discussion on school growth, no one wanted to discuss the Fraser Institute ranking of our school, even though the majority of families believe what they read in the newspapers and are trying to move their kids elsewhere as a result.

In spite of such depressing events, our school strives to provide a safe haven for students to acquire skills for their present and future. Our average results give us the strength, or perhaps the illusion of strength, to continue, but we see that public education is still not a priority of society.

Teachers work hard to do a job that is increasingly becoming an impossible job to do. As parents we seem to expect smiling faces and cheery greetings. We want our children to learn -no, not learn, we want them to excel. And if our children aren’t excelling it would seem that we immediately cast out nets of blame over the teachers. Minister Bond, who managed to remind her BCCPAC audience several times that she is a parent first and foremost -“not someone with lots of letters behind her name”- described the ideal teacher: a young women with a large kindergarten class who greeted the minister in a recent visit with a bright smile and a happy outlook. The outstanding teacher was said to have informed the Minister that she loved her job and she loved her kids. Despite all the negative things that some people said this young kindergarten teacher was not simply making do, but creatively engaging her students with what she had. I am sure that many teachers still love teaching. So here we have it, youth, energy, optimism, and innovation. Sound familiar?

The ideal teacher, as presented by the Minister and as reflected in many of the BCCPAC delegates’ comments reminds me of an old halibut skipper’s ideal crewman: he doesn’t eat, sleep, or shit.

The reality is that we are all human and that the time has come to reevaluate just what it is we expect of teachers and our public schools. The old fashion labour management approach -pay them less and make them do more- doesn’t work for education; at least not effective education. As parent activists we need to think very carefully about our expectations for our children and how they are to be met. It is reasonable and understandable to want the best and the most for our children. How do we want that put in place?

If we expect all of our children to be in any class they want, if we expect education to be able to fully develop the educational potential for every child irrespective of their cognitive capacities, if we wish to address the inequities of social class, then we must move beyond thinking about education from the perspective of a parent. As parents we have a deep and important emotional connection to the well being of our children. This is an important, if a transitory, relationship. As citizens, however, we share a collective obligation and responsibility to ensure that education acts in the interests of a democratic society. I fear that the stakeholder/partners approach -the one that claims that “parents are professionals too-” is one that diminishes the democratic capacity of education and reduces the relationship to a technical management process intent only on producing measurable results – not citizens.

Open Letter on Bill 33: Problematic but necessary.

Dear Minister Bond,

It’s time to get to work on improving and maintaining our provincial education system Let’s pass Bill 33.

Bill 33 is not a perfect piece of legislation. Upon close examination there are a number of serious flaws. (For comments click here and here.) However, Bill 33 is a place to start. It is also the fulfillment of a promise that Premier Campbell and Minister Bond made to the people of BC as part of the deal to end the October teachers’ strike.

Bill 33 recognizes the important issue of class size and composition. Well documented and internationally recognized research makes it clear that the combination of large classes and diverse learners undermines the education of all students. Reducing the size of classes and balancing diverse learning needs within the classrooms an important first step toward an effective education for all. However, if this is to work the government must ensure that full and appropriate resources are in place. To fail to do so will create the potential for pitting parents against parents, teachers against teachers, programmes against programmes as boards struggle to meet the legislative requirements in the absence of full and adequate funding.

At a minimum we would hope that the fixed cap on students with IEPs would be replaced with a double counting rule where each student with an IEP counts as two students thereby reducing the overall class size without placing any restrictions on individual students with IEPs.

Ideally this Bill would include funding provisions to ensure:

  • sufficient classroom space
  • educational aids and assistants for all students who need them
  • additional non-enrolling resource teachers to support the classroom
  • additional in-service and professional development to facilitate life-long learning for teachers upon who’s backs we heap growing expectations

Debate discussion and additional consultation can proceed, but for now we need to act. Let’s get Bill 33 into law now.


Fewer than 30% of the full BCCPAC membership participated in this year’s AGM. Passing motions that call for regular criminal checks of teachers and defeating other motions that would have respected the rights of working people, the BCCPAC continued to affirm its particular vision of public education.

Amidst the motions were a few bright lights -most notably a resolution to encourage the use of safe products in schools and the recognition of FAS as a special education category and the restructuring school boards resolution.

*Voting results of the resolutions*

#1 Poll Vote for Amended Motions from Annual General Meeting *Defeated*

#2 Proxy Voting *Defeated*

#3 Full Membership for District Parent Advisory Councils *Carried*

#4 Safe Products *Carried*

#5 Special Education Category for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder *Carried*

#6 Funding for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Education/Behaviour Consultants*Carried*

#7 Separate Funding for Info Technology *Defeated*

#8 Access to Gaming Funds for School Playgrounds *Carried*

#9 Mandatory Graduation Requirements of 30 hours of Volunteer Work *Defeated*

#10 Alternate Sanctions for Financial Mismanagement by School Districts *Defeated*

#11 Rescind Resolution #2000.4 – Education as an Essential Service *Defeated*

#12 Mandatory Criminal Records Check Repeated Every Five Years for All School District Employees *Carried*

#13 Expansion of the Definition of a School Board Employee *Carried*

#14 School District Restructuring *Carried*

#15 Rescind Resolution # 2003.8 – Freedom to Educate *Defeated*

#16 School Planning Council CUPE Representative *Other__withdrawn by submitting PAC*

#17 Percentage of PACs that are Members *Defeated*

#18 Diversity Representation *Defeate*d

Special Resolution

#19 Changes to Bylaw 5.11 Nominations *Carried*

Late Resolution

#20 Ensuring the Rights of All Student *Carried * Please note corrected vote count: 248 for, 78 against and 16 abstentions

Shirley Bond Speaks to BCCPAC Conference, May 5, 2006

Shirley Bond, BC’s Minister of Education, spoke to an attentive and, for the most part, appreciative audience at the BCCPAC’s annual general meeting Friday, May 5, 2006). Bond 001.jpg

The carefully phrased talk addressed the concerns and criticism that have emerged around Bill 33. Noting that while some are pushing to have even more restrictions the Minister herself is trying to find “a balanced approach.”

“I know that some of you here are critical [of Bill 33]” said Bond. But, be advised that one partner group and their friends (who jump on the bandwagon uncritically) want “even more restrictive limits placed on class size and class composition.”

Touching on the importance of parents in the governance of public education Minister Bond also alluded to a climate of “fear and intimidation” that allegedly keeps many parents, teachers, and other community members silent. At one point the minister turned to Kim Howland, president of the BCCPAC and commented upon the courage that Kim and other parent reps have shown in the face of antagonism.

Responding to a question from the floor asking the minister’s advice on getting rid of ‘incompetent’ teachers the minister replied:

“Don’t be intimidated we are listening. . . . Be true and courageous.”

Hear the complete presentation, including questions and answers (MP3 format). The presentation plus Q&A is about 55 minutes in length.

Bill 33 [Education (Learning Enhancement) Statute Amendment] Passes 2nd Reading on May 4th, 2006

The class size and class composition legislation passed 2nd reading yesterday afternoon (May 4th, 2006). Rising to close debate on 2nd reading Minister Bond made the following remarks:

” I do appreciate many of the comments that were made by the members opposite, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that education is important on both sides of this House. What the debate often centres around is actually how we get to the outcomes. None of us want anything different than the absolute best for the students of British Columbia.

However, I do want to say, and I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this government has always believed that class size is important. We believed it was so important, we enshrined it in legislation and took it out of contract negotiations, where often students became pawns at that table. We said: “It’s so important, we’re going to make it law in British Columbia, and we know that’s important.”

As we move forward, the debate about class size and composition doesn’t end with Bill 33. In fact, Bill 33 brings a clause that says we will be required to review these amendments and other issues. The issues are not simple. It’s been interesting, as I’ve listened to speaker after speaker bring the same issues to the floor of this House, and remarkably, they’re very similar to one of the other voices that we hear in this debate regularly.

I would urge the members opposite to go back to the Roundtable minutes, to go back to the speakers that spoke on behalf of education across the sector. There wasn’t unanimous agreement about class sizes. In fact, the grade eight-to-12 classes actually brought much debate and discussion.

It’s not one voice we need to listen to. It’s all of the people who are important in public education. That includes parents. It includes those people who are involved in meaningful discussion. This bill tries to bring to the floor of this House a balanced and reasonable approach based on all the voices we’ve heard at the provincial Learning Roundtable and as I’ve travelled across this province.

I move second reading of this bill.”

The full copy of the 2nd reading debate can be downloaded here as a pdf file. Please note this is a copy of the draft Hansard reccord for May 4, 2006.