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B.C. BUDGET: School funds added as BCTF talks continue

The province is investing an additional $740 million into public education over the next three years, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced in his pre-election budget Tuesday.

It’s not enough, according to B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Hansman.

He’s more optimistic about the $320 million for the interim agreement between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province and $50 million to hire 1,100 teachers announced in January.

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“We of course would have preferred to see a number but to have strong references to the necessary monies being there in the contingency fund… that should get us there,” said Hansman.

“This all may be moot in the next couple of weeks if we resolve this and then we will be able to talk more concrete numbers and hopefully they will be able to nail down an exact amount.”

There will be $120 million for 2017-18 and $100 million per year for the two following years.

“There is money within the budget to address the ongoing negotiations that are taking place,” said de Jong. The total cost will be determined by the negotiations.

According to the education ministry, the province has spent $2.6 million in legal fees on their 15-year battle with the BCTF. The final agreement has yet to be ratified.

“I’m told that the discussions are productive at the moment and the parties are hopeful about reaching a settlement,” de Jong said. “There are monies in the fiscal plan to ensure that the final settlement can be financed.”

Over the next three years, a total of $9 million will go towards keeping rural schools open and $45 million will go towards cutting school bus fees for the majority of students within school catchment areas.

Education Minister Mike Bernier announced Sunday that school districts will receive $27.4 million this year in one-time funding out of the current year’s budget. Districts must apply and prioritize purchasing supplies and resources that reduce costs for parents and helping teachers deliver B.C.'s new curriculum.

There will be $228 million over the three-year plan for projected enrolment growth and $94 million in flexible funding to help with school district operational costs.

Out of the $13.7 billion in total provincial capital spending over the next three years, $2 billion will go towards K-12 education.

That includes the $217 million for 5,200 new student seats in Surrey announced earlier this year, a new Grandview Heights secondary School that will add 1,500 new seats, Smiling Creek Elementary in Coquitlam which will provide 430 new seats, a seismic update to Alpha Secondary and $52.7 million to address the capital needs for french immersion schools.

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