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British Columbia’s teachers’ union has filed a grievance over a shortage of educators in the province.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman said Friday the continuing shortfall of teachers and specialists has been a problem all year and threatens to cause significant disruptions in September.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2016 forced the provincial government to restore staffing to 2002 levels after it ruled a former Liberal government improperly took away the union’s right to bargain class size and the composition of those classes.

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An agreement was reached on class size and composition in March, 2017, but Hansman said not enough has been done since then to resolve the teacher shortage. There are still reports of non-certified teachers working in classrooms, students with special needs losing out on their programs and class compositions that don’t meet the needs of students, he said.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the government knew there would be challenges as districts tried to hire the largest number of teachers in generations.

“We have some more work to do with additional teacher recruitment, that’s why we’ve funded more teacher-training spaces, that’s why we have 1,800 new graduates coming out of universities next year ready to be teachers.”

Fleming said he believes school districts are going to be able to complete their hiring and replenish teacher-on-call lists in time for the next school year.

The complaint is now in arbitration.

Hansman said a failure to have extra teachers available to fill absences and the impact of pulling specialist teachers away from their students to fill vacancies are key issues in the dispute.

In Quesnel, the union says there were nine full-time teaching jobs held by non-certified people this spring and in Vancouver, it says there are 1,817 classes with four or more children with special needs, which means they aren’t getting the support they would if class-composition numbers were more reasonable.

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“These examples show that the lack of bold action to resolve the teacher shortage is hampering students’ education,” Hansman said.

But Fleming said districts were recruiting across the country and 97 per cent of the hiring was completed this year, adding somewhere between 3,500 and 3,700 teachers.

“Wherever available, high-quality teachers were, they were found,” he said.

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