Large classes, unmet student needs still problem as Vancouver schools re-open



    VANCOUVER, Sept. 2 /CNW/ - Vancouver public school teachers are upset 
that another school year is beginning without sufficient supports in place for
the most vulnerable learners.
    "Education minister Shirley Bond is skilled at misrepresenting the
situation," argues Glen Hansman, President of the Vancouver Elementary School
Teachers' Association (VESTA). "The Minister of Education travels around the
province claiming that education funding in British Columbia is at the highest
level it has ever been. Teachers in Vancouver know that this is a ridiculous
claim."
    "Everyone knows that a dollar in 2008 is not worth the same as a dollar
in 2000," he continues. "Education funding has not kept up with inflation, nor
does it allow school districts to maintain the level of services required to
meet the needs of all learners."
    A significant pressure point in Vancouver is special needs education.
Funding for special needs has not kept up with the costs of services. For
example, the Ministry's funding for a dedicated special education assistant at
$32,000 is a far cry from the actual costs of $42,000. "This fact has
undoubtedly been pointed out to the Minister of Education from boards across 
the Province," says Glen Hansman.
    "It is severely acute in Vancouver," Glen Hansman argues. "The school
district here spends an average of $50 million annually to provide essential
services to our students with special needs, but receives an average of
$25 million annually to fund those services. The size of this discrepancy has
a huge impact on all other areas of our operating budget which must be reduced
and restrained accordingly in order to compensate. This is not a situation
that can be resolved or even effectively improved by our district alone as the
services must be provided and their costs are not decreasing."
    An advocacy committee of the Vancouver School Board (which included
district management, trustees, employees, and parents) pointed this fact out
to the Minister of Education in the spring of 2007, but the concern was
dismissed. "Highest funding ever, highest funding ever . . . That's all she is
able to say," says Glen Hansman. "Where is the accountability on the part of
the Ministry of Education and the province to the students of this province?
Shirley Bond splits hairs over FSA scores, which are faulty data and
meaningless, instead of putting in real supports for kids."
    Last year in Vancouver, there were over 100 classes at the elementary
level that were over the class composition limits provided in the School Act.
At the secondary level, over 1200 courses ran over the class size and/or class
composition limits.
    "We are not anticipating this situation to be any better this year,"
states Glen Hansman. "This is unfortunate given the fact that the province has
run a massive surplus the past few years. It is irresponsible to start the
school year off this way when the money is there at the provincial level."
    VESTA calls upon parents and those seeking the nomination for school
trustee this fall to take a vocal stance on these issues. "Many people have
put their names forward for nomination with COPE, Vision, and NPA," he says.
"The public needs to elect strong advocates for special education services.
Pay attention to what the current trustees say and do, and what the nominees
for school trustee say and do - not just in the months to come, but their
track record as well."





For further information:

For further information: Glen Hansman, President, at (604) 813-5318
(cell), or glen@vesta.ca

Organization Profile

VESTA: VANCOUVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION

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