Susan Lambert

BCTF boss: Government grinding down teachers

School board trustee Daryl Hagen couldn’t sleep after making several cuts to the school district’s budget, he told Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF), during her visit to Campbell River Wednesday afternoon.

School board trustee Daryl Hagen couldn’t sleep after making several cuts to the school district’s budget, he told Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF), during her visit to Campbell River Wednesday afternoon.

“Here we all are trying to do what’s best for the kids and we had to cut everything,” said Hagen. “From administration, right on down.”

School District 72 is facing a $1.1 million deficit, largely due to rising pension costs, increasing fuel and hydro costs and a loss of $300,000 in special needs funding from the provincial government. Lambert, who met with a small group of trustees and teachers at the Campbell River District Teachers Association office, said school districts should not be put in a position of cutting services in order to balance their budgets, especially when the province is spending money elsewhere.

“When you’re cutting $1 million out of your budget, it’s huge. There’s ramifications,” said Lambert. “The province found money for the Olympics, it found money for twinning the Port Mann Bridge – I don’t buy there isn’t enough funding. They looked for savings in public education. In my mind, that’s an important service. If you can provide that, you don’t have health burdens, you don’t have criminal justice burdens. It makes sense to invest in public education.”

A lack of funding for Campbell River area schools forced the board of education to cut back slightly on teachers at secondary and middle schools, reduce special education staffing, and cut back on library and leadership program supplies and services.

Trustees also chose to use $188,500 from its savings account, which leaves the reserves with $650,000. The budget is expected to be adopted by the board at its May 17 meeting, with $841,000 in cuts. Unfortunately, staff cuts are an all-too common theme around the province and students are suffering because of it, said Lambert.

“I go around and see teachers are exhausted by October and they’re not giving kids that energy because they have nothing to give. They’re grinding down the occupation,” she said. “Teachers are stretched so thin and at this point, their workloads are so outrageous that they are reducing the amount of assignments in order to buy prep time. The job is too exhausting.”

Maybe most alarmingly is the amount of people giving up on the profession because they find it too demanding.

“There’s an enormous amount of young people going into the profession who are quitting within the first five years,” said Lambert.

Neil Thompson, president of the Campbell River District Teacher’s Association, agrees it’s getting harder to keep teachers.

“They have that personality but it’s crunched within two to three years,” he said. “People don’t know it, but teachers are dying.”

Lambert said the Liberal government has been taking education, and teachers, for granted and needs to prescribe a funding formula so that every child has access to necessary services, such as school counsellors, librarians, special education workers, and music teachers.