Minister of Education Rob Fleming hands out library cards provided through TNRD library program to Westmount elementary students. Fleming was in Kamloops last week to meet with school board trustees. Dave Eagles/KTW

Education minister talks teachers, schools

Minister of Education Rob Fleming visits Kamloops, meets with school board

By Dale Bass – Kamloops This Week

The province is making headway in hiring the number of teachers needed in the public school system, said the man in charge of making it happen.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming said he believes about 3,300 of the estimated 3,500 needed have been hired to meet the requirements flowing from the Supreme Court of Canada decision last year that reinstated 2002 language in teachers contracts addressing classroom size and composition.

“We’re nearly there,” Fleming said after a session on Friday with Grade 3 students at Westmount elementary in Kamloops, where he handed out library cards to the class of 22.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers celebrate top court ruling

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One of the problems, however, is those who have been teachers on call are the ones mainly being hired, which is leading to a shortage of substitute teachers in districts. Fleming said work is proceeding to try to grow those lists.

His visit to the city included a meeting with the Kamloops-Thompson board of trustees and others involved in the education system. School district Supt. Alison Sidow said she felt the meetings went well and that Fleming heard about School District 73’s strategic plan and the need for investment to address aging schools.

Sidow said trustees and administrators stressed that crunch is not simply a school district issue, “but a community issue.”

Earlier this year, the school board produced a pamphlet, Schools: An Investment In Our Future, containing enrolment projections through 2025, capital infrastructure needs and fact boxes on how much money has been spent in the past in the Kamloops-Thompson compared to other districts in B.C.

In its pamphlet, the district points out it had 2.6 per cent of provincial student enrolment from 2001 to 2017 ((which happens to be the entire length of the B.C. Liberal reign), yet received only one-half per cent of the provincial capital expenditure.

Also noted is the fact the province spent $2 billion on schools in B.C. from 2002 to 2016, with Kamloops-Thompson accounting for only $10.7 million of that pot of cash.

By comparison, school districts in Kelowna ($114.7 million), Victoria ($96.2 million), North Vancouver ($73.9 million), Prince George ($60.9 million) and Vernon ($57.5 million) all received more in infrastructure funding.

In addition, between 2001 and 2017, the local district received an average of $742 per student in capital infrastructure spending, while the provincial average during that 16-year period was, on average, $6,888 per student.

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