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Larger classes could net B.C. teachers $2,500 per pupil under Bill 22

The per-student compensation features of a new education bill include potential wage increases as well as additional prep time or professional development, a ministry spokesman said on Friday.

And – in keeping with the government's current co-operative gains approach to collective agreements – the provisions would require school districts to negotiate such arrangements without exceeding their operating grant that's based on student enrolment.

According to averages provided by the ministry, teachers of Grades 4 to 7 could receive an extra $2,500 per year for each student over 30 in their classrooms.

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Secondary school teachers could receive around $312 per student over the 30-student total.

The new bill maintains class size limits for students from kindergarten, capped at 22 students, and in Grades 1-3, which are capped at 24 students.

But the legislation, introduced February 28 and now making its way through the legislative process, would get rid of a system of district class size averages and instead provide for additional compensation.

That compensation would not come from the proposed Learning Improvement Fund, a $165-million fund that the government says would be used to help teachers meet "complex needs in their classrooms", but from districts' budgets.

According to technical briefings by the province to reporters, compensation would be based on values established in an arbitration by James Dorsey in 2009 that dealt with a series of grievances from the BCTF relating to class size and composition.

Details – including the maximum amount that any one teacher could be eligible for – are yet to be determined.

Although the prospect of additional compensation has been on the table since the bill was introduced, the estimated dollar figures associated with the legislation are ruffling feathers in the teaching community.

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"I look to bargain my salary at the table with [British Columbia Public School Employers' Association] I do not look to increase my wages on the backs of the students being stuffed into my already crowded classroom," Steve Moore, a teacher at the Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge said Friday in an e-mail.

"How is financially compensating a teacher going to impact learning in the room?," Carrie Gelson, a teacher at Vancouver's Seymour Elementary, said in an e-mail.

Ms. Gelson added that she has had seven "designated" students – children identified as having special needs such as behavioural, physical or learning disabilities – in her classroom for several years running despite 2006 legislation that specifies three such students per class. Most other classes in her small, inner-city school are in the same situation, she said.

The 30-student cap in the new legislation would not apply to some subjects, such as band or drama, that can accommodate bigger groups.

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