VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Teacher shortages across British Columbia have prompted the government to invest in training and recruitment programs.
Education Minister Rob Fleming says 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.
He adds the extra funding comes in response to a task force appointed to identify challenges facing school districts across the province.
The task force report determined 54 school districts had difficulty finding and retaining learning assistance teachers, teacher librarians, counsellors, and science, math and French teachers.
BC 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 was unconstitutional.
“We have received funding for new 40 spaces in high-need areas. French immersion, secondary math and physics were identified. A big chunk of money is to support Indigenous teacher education,” says Wendy Carr with UBC’s Faculty of Education.
While the teacher shortage crisis is at its peak this school year, Carr says a scarcity of French immersion, math and physics teachers is a chronic problem.
She’s confident the money will produce new teachers as early as the fall of 2019.
“For this to be implemented so quickly is pretty speedy. It takes effect for the very next school year, in terms of our school year. We are very appreciative to receive this funding.”
UBC’s education program has been less than full for the past few years, but Carr says she’s been seeing an uptick in applications.
Friday’s announcement sees UBC also getting financing for Indigenous students to enter teacher training in Williams Lake and Quesnel.
The BC Teachers’ Federation says 16 years of underfunding education by the former government cannot be made up overnight and investing in more teacher programs is only one necessary step towards a solution.
BCTF President Glen Hansman says teachers are leaving jobs in the city for the Fraser Valley or rural BC where the cost of living is cheaper. “Vancouver is losing teachers as quickly as it’s hiring them because Vancouver is so expensive. The existing workforce is looking for and accepting jobs in other parts of the province. Vancouver needs to be equipped with the ability to entice people from out of province.”
He doesn’t feel the new funding will help the current school year. “British Columbia’s current teacher shortage was a long time in the making and made worse by the previous government’s inaction and legal fight against BC teachers. We know that 16 years of underfunding can’t be fixed overnight, but parents and teachers are increasingly worried that the shortage is negatively affecting students’ learning right now.”