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B.C. to hire 1,500 new teachers after reaching deal with union

Education Minister Mike Bernier says B.C.’s new classroom enhancement fund is in addition to the $180 million announced in this year’s budget, bringing the total to $330 million.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia's education system will receive a $150-million funding boost after the province reached a deal with teachers to restore contract language that called for smaller class sizes.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said the new classroom enhancement fund is in addition to the $180 million announced in this year's budget, bringing the total to $330 million.

The new funding will mean the hiring of about 1,500 new teachers, adding to the approximately 1,000 already announced in the budget, for a total of 2,600 new positions.

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"Every single district in the province, every single one, is going to be better off," Bernier said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

The BC Teachers' Federation announced earlier this month that a majority of its members voted to ratify a deal with the province that would restore contract language from a 2002 agreement.

The deal came after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that a law imposed by the province that blocked teachers' ability to bargain class size was unconstitutional.

The decision ended a 14-year legal battle over bargaining rights that started when the province imposed legislation that stopped negotiations on issues like class size in 2002.

No one from the teachers' federation was immediately available for comment after Bernier made the announcement late Friday afternoon.

Bernier said the government recently announced $2 million for a recruitment and retention strategy, adding there will be a lot of work to do to fill teaching positions, particularly in rural B.C.

"We have already started reaching out to other parts of Canada ... to look at opportunities to bring people into British Columbia as we're growing," he said.

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Bernier said the new funding includes $30 million for "soft costs," such as supplies and janitorial expenses.

He also said the government has money put aside to cover capital costs, such as building additions required by the new teachers, once those costs from school districts become clear.

The minister said some districts would receive less funding than others, depending on size.

The government will have the actual amounts in September, when enrolment numbers and class composition become clear, he said.

Bernier said the funding will be ongoing and represents a total investment of $1.7 billion over the next three years, but the province is set to return to the bargaining table with teachers in 2019.

"All of these steps are to get us to 2019, when we are at a point when we are negotiating again with the BCTF."

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