While the Nanaimo school district no longer has the highest high school class size in the province, the teachers’ union leader says that there are still issues.
The school district ranks 11th among the province’s 60 school districts with an average size of about 24 students and is above the provincial average of 23, according to numbers in the Overview of Class Size and Composition in B.C. Public Schools report for 2014-15, a report from the provincial government.
Students aren’t receiving proper instruction, according to Mike Ball, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association.
“The effect on the classroom, class size isn’t the only issue, but when class compositions are as complex as they are now, the larger class sizes compound the issues and make it more and more complicated for teachers to be able to succeed with every student,” said Ball.
The district is facing a $4-million budget deficit for 2015-16 and Ball said class size is tied to a decision by a former B.C. Liberal government – where Premier Christy Clark was education minister – to strip class size and composition language from the collective agreement in 2002.
Ball said if the school district was still being funded at 2002 contract numbers, there would be an estimated $7 million more in the budget. Education fund money from a settlement for last year’s teachers’ strike only offers less than $2 million for next school year in the district, he said.
“If they were honouring the contract that they stripped, that [education] fund would in essence be closer to $9 million, so the district is having difficulty because of $7 million being underfunded every year … that $7 million would put back class sizes back to those 2002 levels, but it would also put back the class composition issues,” Ball said.
The school district is also at or above provincial averages for kindergarten, Grades 1-3 and 4-7 with class sizes totalling more than 19, and 21 and approximately 26 respectively.