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School District 8 gets early Christmas Present

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
December 5th, 2014

Christmas has come early for Kootenay Lake’s School District 8.

The district will be receiving $754,070 in supplemental Ministry of Education funding for the 2014-2015 school year. 

The funding will cover new costs that arose out of salary and benefits increases and other provisions included in  the collective agreement negotiated in mid-September with teachers when a six year contract with a salary increase of 7.25 percent was signed.

This  means that the school district will not have to dip into already allocated funds to meet the terms of the new contract.

“We are pleased that the Ministry found a way to fully fund the increases that will be experienced by the District as a result of the settlement of the collective agreement,” said SD 8 Superintendent of Schools Jeff Jones.

Nelson and District Teachers Association president Paul Boscariol is cautious but optimistic. “It’s a sliver of light,” he said. “It will alleviate the pressure for this year. We’ll find out more at Tuesday’s board meeting.”

The funding announcement comes on the heels of the ratification of a five-year contract with CUPE’s  K-12 school workers that negotiated a 5.5 percent salary increase for the members over the next five years.

CUPE represents approximately 26,000 support workers and education assistants in B.C.’s public schools; nearly 400 of them are employed by SD 8.

In SD 8, sharing information, improving communications and having the ability to support members in the workplace were bargaining points achieved in the Local 748 contract said CUPE lead negotiator Chris Losito.

“The communication is vital,” said Losito. “This contract clarifies some things for us. Our education system needs more funding, not less, to support the needs of our students.”

Highlights of the provincial framework agreement reached with CUPE include increased hours for education assistants, improvements to extended health benefit plans through standardization, and a commitment to implement a job evaluation plan to address recruitment and retention issues.

While these two events may not bring peace on earth, parents can now expect labour peace in SD 8 for the next five years.

“We are very appreciative of the fact that we now have longer term collective agreements in place that will allow us to continue to move forward in positive and productive ways with our employees,” said Superintendent Jones.

“With these agreements in place we remain committed to ensuring we provide a safe and effective working environment for our employees and continuing in our efforts to build positive, supportive working relationships that will ultimately benefit our learners.”

Still to be resolved, however, is the issue of class size and composition and the teachers’ right to bargain workplace conditions.

Two BC Supreme Court rulings dating back to 2002 restored the teachers’ right to bargain, but the provincial government appealed the rulings in October.

A decision is expected to take several months.

“I would hazard a guess that if the government wins, it will take the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Boscariol, which would mean the issue could be in limbo for several years.

In total, the Ministry of Education will fund $93.6 million provincially, including $78 million for wages and benefits, $3.8 million in extended health benefits provincial plan,  $7.5 million in elementary teacher prep time, and $4.3 million in Teacher Teaching on Call (TTOC) collective agreement increases.

The supplemental funding will also apply to CommunityLINK (Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge), a program designed to support the academic achievement and social functioning of vulnerable students.

Categories: EducationGeneral

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