Representatives from the Prince Rupert Teachers’ Union held an information rally outside North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice’s office on Monday afternoon demanding a fair deal. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

LETTER: “We need to compare apple to apples,” MLA Rice responds to teachers’ rally

On Sept. 30 Prince Rupert Teachers’ Union held an information rally outside Rice’s office

Editor,

I’m writing this in response to your coverage of concerns raised by teachers at an information rally which occurred outside my office this week.

I completely respect the important and difficult job teachers do to support our kid’s learning and it’s in this regard that the BC NDP government has made significant investments to education funding.

While I understand teachers are comparing British Columbia to other provinces, I think it’s important to compare apples to apples, which is to say we should compare the British Columbia of today to British Columbia of the past, before the New Democrats were sworn in to govern.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Prince Rupert Teachers’ Union rally outside MLA Rice’s Office

Students in Prince Rupert and across British Columbia are now benefiting from an education system that has added significant new resources to classrooms. Our government is investing $1 billion more annually in education than just over two years ago under Christy Clark’s BC Liberals. Since forming government student enrolment has increased by 3.2 % while at the same time we have increased the education budget by 17.1 %.

As a result of our investments in education, for the first time since 2006, all 60 school districts have received an increase in funding.

Student supports are also very important to our government and that’s why students are attending some of the smallest classes in a generation, with more educators and other supports in the classroom with class sizes in the Prince Rupert School District smaller than the provincial average.

Supplemental special needs funding has increased by 23% since we formed government and in School District 52, it has increased from $3.5 million in 2016/2017 to $4.3 million for this school year. Funding to support indigenous students in the School District has also increased from $1.5 million in 2016/2017 to $1.8 million for this school year. As of June 30, 2019, SD 52’s accumulated operating surplus was $2,187,898.

Our government is also investing in schools. Our capital budget investments total a record $2.7 billion over three years to replace aging schools, add more spaces in growing communities and fast-track seismic upgrades.

School district 52 has received well over $2 million to upgrade roofing, plumbing, electrical, flooring and new playground equipment.

READ MORE: School returns in B.C. with uncertainty surrounding contract for teachers

I’ve been advocating since the BC Liberals were in power to replace the seismically-at-risk and aged Prince Rupert Middle School. Now under Premier John Horgan’s government we’ll actually get it done and I’m currently working to create a new learning space with the Ministry of Education, SD52 and the city.

After 16 years of underfunding by the last government, we are focused on improving services and putting the success of our students at the centre of all we do.

I am pleased that BCPSEA applied for mediation, and both sides, the teachers and the employer, have agreed to mediation.

Nearly 70% of public sector workers have been able to get a fair deal in their contract negotiations, including nurses, paramedics, and K-12 support staff, and I believe teachers can too through negotiations at the bargaining table.

Jennifer Rice

MLA North Coast

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