CUPE BC has welcomed an announcement by NDP leader Adrian Dix promising a $100-million injection of funds for K-12 support staff and teachers “to improve classroom learning conditions.” CUPE BC president Mark Hancock called it “a good start towards addressing the chronic underfunding in K-12.”
Dix said “12 years of Liberal cuts and confrontation have left us with far too many overcrowded classrooms, hurting learning outcomes for every affected child,” adding that “we especially need to ensure that children with special needs, aboriginal students and ESL students are provided the resources to overcome barriers to success and reach their full potential.”
CUPE BC K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler responded saying “we applaud the NDP’s recognition of our members – specifically Education Assistants, Autism Support Workers, First Nations Support Workers, Integration Support Workers, Multicultural workers, Cultural Interpreters and Child Care Workers to name just a few of the jobs our members do for special needs, Aboriginal and ESL students in BC.”
CUPE BC K-12 Presidents Council president Colin Pawson welcomes “more discussion with the NDP on the vital role of K-12 education support workers. We need to talk about education assistants and what those workers need to perform more effectively for our most vulnerable students.” Pawson said the Number One challenge for education assistants in BC is trying to do a fulltime job in part time hours. “We want whole jobs for our EAs to fully serve our special needs students.”
“As it stands, the more than 12,000 EAs in BC work (on average) less than 25 hours per week - that is simply not enough to do the required work - we need to get that weekly number up to 35 hours to adequately provide for the needs of our students,” said Pawson.
Dix also announced $60 million to provide more spaces and lower the cost of infant and toddler care. Families with children in licensed care will save an average of $2,000 per year and Dix said an NDP government will create an Early Years Innovation Fund, using the BC Liberals’ “poorly conceived education savings contribution scheme.”
The president of CUPE Local 1936, which represents community social services workers, called the childcare and early education pledges “an important first step towards a comprehensive Early Learning and Care plan for B.C.” Michael Lanier said the lack of affordable, quality, early learning and care spaces not only places a strain on parents; it also increases costs to our educational programs and to the economy.
“We cannot afford to ignore the crisis in child care any longer. Not only will public programs help our children do better in school; programs will pay for themselves and provide real options for parents to improve their financial situation,” said Lanier.
“”We look forward to an NDP government that will listen to and respect the concerns of our frontline workers,” said Hancock. “It’s refreshing to deal with politicians who are reaching out to our workers and committing to our public education system and to our children.”