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$2 million fund offered to keep rural teachers

Education Minister Mike Bernier and parliamentary secretary Linda Larson announce new funding Tuesday. - Black Press
Education Minister Mike Bernier and parliamentary secretary Linda Larson announce new funding Tuesday.
— image credit: Black Press

A $2 million fund for school districts to hire and hold onto teachers at rural B.C. schools won't be enough to stop an exodus to urban schools as thousands of new positions are opened across the province, the NDP education critic predicts.

Announcing the new fund Tuesday, Education Minister Mike Bernier acknowledged that attracting and keeping teachers at rural schools is difficult at the best of times. The challenge is increased as the province moves to add new positions to meet the terms of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that requires a return to class size formulas removed in 2002.

The province has already committed $100 million to add teachers across 60 school districts, and the B.C. Teachers' Federation has voted overwhelmingly to accept a new proposal to meet the terms of the court ruling.

"We've got chaos about to emerge, with teachers migrating from rural areas to cities," NDP education critic Rob Fleming said after the announcement.

Bernier said the fund will provide incentives designed to attract teachers-on-call in the Lower Mainland to take up full-time positions in the rest of the province.

It's the second year of a provincial rural schools fund that was targeted to schools set to close last spring. Districts are again preparing their budgets and deciding which rural schools can be kept open.

The fund created last June was $2.7 million, targeted to districts were school closures were imminent due to low enrolment. They included Okanagan-Similkameen, Quesnel, Kootenay Lake, Bulkley Valley, Okanagan Skaha and Campbell River.

At that time, Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson was appointed parliamentary secretary for rural schools and began talks to develop a strategy.

That strategy is not yet complete, Larson said Tuesday, as meetings with two more districts need to be held.

 

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