Provincial education minister Rob Fleming (right), here seen during Thursday’s official opening of a new playground at Sidney Elementary School with Dave Eberwein, superintendent of schools for School District No. 62 and local MLA Adam Olsen, could not give a date when public teachers and their employers would reach a settlement (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

B.C. education minister says New Democrats ‘absolutely’ remain friends of teachers

Rob Fleming made the comment in Sidney after opening a play ground

Provincial education minister Rob Fleming said his party “absolutely” remains a friend of teachers, but could not give a firm date when contract talks with teachers would lead to a settlement.

“As I have said previously, we will stay at it as long as it takes to get an agreement,” he said. “We have done that now with 225,000 other public servants, most recently with ambulance-paramedics. We continue to conclude agreements with bargaining units throughout the public service, many of them in tough, front-line positions. I know teaching is a very difficult position from [the perspective] of our government and we want to reach an agreement with them, just as we have nurses and other professions in B.C.”

Fleming made these comments after speaking to reporters in Sidney after officially opening a new playground at Sidney Elementary School.

RELATED: Sidney students, provincial education minister zip into new school playground

The agreement between the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCFT) and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) expired on June 30. Teachers returned to classrooms without an agreement with a mediator trying to resolve the impasse.

“With respect to the mediator, there are few details that I wish to comment on, because they have called on both parties to adhere to a black out,” he said. “We are very hopeful that we continue to have productive conversations that will lead to a settlement.”

With the current labour situation, the New Democrats find themselves in a position of having to negotiate with a group — public education teachers — which it has historically courted.

“Absolutely,” said Fleming, when asked whether New Democrats still remain friends of teachers. “I think our funding record shows that — $1 billion of new resources in the school system. British Columbia hasn’t seen this in decades.”

British Columbia, he said, is making progress. “You can’t fix 16 years overnight, but we have turned the corner,” he said.

Fleming also commented on educational assistants (EAs) after two View Royal Elementary parents had expressed concerns about the level of care for their children, both on the autism spectrum. They’re well-behaved, aren’t boisterous in the classroom, but they require extra attention from educational assistants.

RELATED: ‘This is unacceptable’: View Royal parents frustrated over lack of resources for students

“Sometimes he gets shuffled between four to five EAs a day,” said Cristina Gage, one of the mothers.

Fleming said that it is a real concern for him, because the provincial education is inclusive.

“I can well understand that a parent may have if their child is not able to participate on a daily basis in the school,” he said. “It is not for a lack of resources. Our government has increased special education funding by 23 per cent since we formed government two years ago. That is a $106 million additional dollars to school districts to be able to hire educational assistants, to be able to provide special education teachers and other supports in the classroom.”

Fleming said it is his understanding that School District No. 61 has identified some additional staff to work with one of the students.

So if it is not about resources, why do these issues persist?

“It could be about staffing and having the right complement, the right learning team for children, who have individualized learning needs and education plans that are wrapped around that child. I don’t know the specifics, nor would I comment on a specific child for privacy reasons and other things,” he said. “But it is not for lack of resources.”

He added that the provincial government will continue to work with school districts, noting that the provincial government currently invests a total $22 million in School District No. 61 for special education funding, up more than $4 million.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rare white orca spotted hunting off shores of Alaska for first time

Tl’uk seems healthy and strong, says researcher

Mental health challenges add to youth stress load

Part 2 in a Black Press series on Youth Homelessness

Langford bike park rolling along to completion

New park a tribute to Jordie Lunn’s legacy

Saanich council to dig into long-awaited garden suite study

Detached suites keep families close, provide financial flexibility, mayor says

Oak Bay council places 60-day protection order on Island Road house

Developer pulled heritage agreement over ‘exorbitant’ $417,000 fees

VIDEO: Greater Victoria police officers try bhangra dancing with social media star

Gurdeep Pandher leads bhangra lesson on front lawn of the BC Legislature building

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read