BLACK PRESS                                B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming.

BLACK PRESS B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming.

B.C. funds more teaching spaces in effort to ease teachers shortage

Teachers’ union says that does little to provide help immediately needed in classrooms

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government moved Friday to tackle widespread teacher shortage issues by funding more than 100 new training spaces, but the teachers’ union says that does little to provide help immediately needed in classrooms.

B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman said the shortage has reached the point where some school districts are hiring teachers who don’t have proper certificates and qualified teachers in Vancouver are leaving for plentiful jobs in other communities.

“This week we’ve had stories of a mid-sized school district opening the floodgates to non-certified individuals in ways we haven’t seen before,” he said.

Hansman said the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district in the Salmon Arm and Armstrong areas has been forced to bring in teachers with incomplete training. He said there have always been small numbers of non-certified teachers primarily in trades classes in remote areas, but the Salmon Arm area is not considered remote.

“Parents, rightfully, are very concerned about this,” he said.

Hansman said the union has been in talks with the government in efforts to keep more teachers in the Vancouver area and attract new teachers to the province. He said the ongoing talks have involved offering incentives ranging from housing subsidies to wage improvements.

B.C. moved last year to hire 3,500 teachers following a Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled former Liberal government legislation that stripped teachers of the right to negotiate class sizes and composition involving special-needs students was unconstitutional.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the government is investing $571,000 to train more than 100 teachers in the highest-demand fields such as special education, French, math and physics.

“Yes, B.C. is expensive to live and work in but professional teachers know we have a government investing in education,” he said, adding last year’s hiring spree was the largest in a generation and the province is continuing to make improvements to recruit and retain more teachers.

Fleming downplayed Hansman’s concerns about hiring non-certified teachers, saying: “I don’t think it’s a trend.”

The extra funding for spaces came in response to a task force appointed to identify challenges facing school districts across the province, he said.

A report by the task force determined 54 school districts had difficulty finding and retaining learning assistance teachers, teacher librarians, counsellors, and science, math and French teachers.

Some school districts have reported challenges finding substitute teachers, saying many have taken full-time positions.

Hansman warned late last year that some special-needs students were going without teachers who are called on to cover substitute positions.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press