VICTORIA – If the teacher strike isn’t settled by September, the B.C. government will use the payroll savings to pay $40 per missed school day to parents of children under 13, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Thursday.
Negotiations with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation remain stalled after a two-week strike in June that cost the province’s 40,000 public school teachers $12 million a day in salary. That’s the estimated cost of the support program aimed to go toward tutoring or daycare for younger children if they can’t go to school.
De Jong said older children don’t require as much supervision, and have online options to maintain their studies if the labour dispute takes more instructional time away. The amount was chosen to compensate families of 300,000 children up to age 12 in public school at no net cost to the provincial budget.
Parents would have to register online to be eligible for compensation, to be paid by October.
De Jong said there are five weeks remaining in the summer break for most public schools to reach a settlement with the BCTF, and he hopes the program won’t be needed.
BCTF president Jim Iker termed the move “a blatant and divisive attempt to prolong disruption in B.C. schools” and renewed his call for a mediator to help bridge the differences between the government and the union.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender and school district negotiators say the BCTF’s contract demands are far out of step with other unions, particularly on increased classroom preparation time and other benefit improvements. The long-running dispute over class size and special needs support is headed back to court this fall.
De Jong reiterated that there is no plan to recall the B.C. legislature before a fall session scheduled to begin Oct. 6. He said the history of imposed of settlements on the BCTF may have contributed to the chronic failure to negotiate agreements with the union.
NDP education critic Rob Fleming called the announcement a “trial balloon” that suggests the dispute may be months away from resolution.
“I think parents are going to look at this and say, ‘you know what, school is not daycare’,” Fleming said.