B.C.’s 40,000 public-school teachers will cast their votes today on the collective agreement achieved by the union and the government after marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend. Results of the vote will be released at 9:30 p.m. in a news conference by BCTF president Jim Iker (streaming link here), and we’ll have them available in a story on our B.C. teachers’ strike topic page.
Study sessions are being held this morning for members so they can learn more about the proposed six-year deal and ask questions. Online, the union posted a one-page PDF entitled “10 reasons to vote yes” as commentators online debate the merits of the agreement. The proposed contract includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase, improvements in extended health benefits and the teaching-on-call rate, an education fund to address class size and composition issues, and money to address retroactive grievances.
The question being put to teachers is this:
Are you in favour of ratifying the agreement-in-committee reached on September 16, 2014?
The deal must also be ratified by the employer. According to a letter sent to parents in the Central Okanagan school district by superintendent Hugh Gloster, the province’s 60 school districts have until 3 p.m. Friday to complete their own ratification vote. If BCTF members ratify Thursday night, however, schools will be open Friday morning and teachers doing prep work will be on the payroll.
Private schools are reporting an overall 5 per cent uptick in enrolment in B.C. over last year, a sign that some parents weren’t prepared to wait for public schools to open. Rates vary across the province based in part on independent schools’ capacity to accept new students, but history shows the public system may have lost many students for good. Says Peter Froese of the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC:
“In our experience, based on past labour disruptions in the public sector, we find that the families that have chosen independent schools in… our fixed structures — they tend to stay.”
While many questions about the school schedule will be worked out at a local level by school districts or even individual schools, there are mandated hours of instruction for public school students in B.C.:
Under the School Act’s school calendar regulation, school districts must offer the following minimum hours of instruction annually: 853 for kindergarten, 878 for grades 1 to 7, and 952 for grades 8 to 12.
With reports from Justine Hunter, Andrea Woo and The Canadian Press