Government bill targets ProD and administrative spendingMarch 26, 2015
The B.C. government is seeking more control over teacher professional development and administrative spending by school districts.
With a bill introduced Thursday, the government said it will develop a framework over two years to ensure all teachers have access to – and are participating in – ongoing, high-quality professional development (ProD).
That framework will be created in consultation with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and other education partners, Education Minister Peter Fassbender stated.
He noted that the Teachers Act is currently silent about ProD. “Most professions – such as lawyers, accountants or nurses – set detailed standards for ongoing learning. Early childhood educators have clear requirements. It’s time to put teaching on a similar footing,” he added.
Under the new Bill 11, the minister would have the authority to set a minimum number of ProD hours for teachers to complete each year, require certificate holders to participate in certain ProD activities, set different requirements for different positions and establish broad categories for acceptable ProD activities.
The B.C.Teacher Regulation Branch would be authorized to approve courses or activities, and to establish a process for verifying compliance.
BCTF president Jim Iker said teachers will not support a top-down approach to professional development and insisted that any changes be respectful of teachers’ professional autonomy. They must also be fully funded, he told a news conference.
But given the two-year consultation period, Iker said his more immediate concern is a section in the bill that would give the government new powers over elected school boards.
Once Bill 11 becomes law, government would be able to direct school boards to take certain actions, such as sharing services or using specific service providers in order to reduce overhead costs. With 60 districts delivering similar services, there are significant opportunities for savings, Fassbender said.
Shared services are possible in areas such as purchasing, legal services, employee wellness, staff replacement costs and transportation.
For several years, the Liberal government has been urging districts to share more services and that’s generated combined savings of $8 million thus far. But it says some school boards have declined to participate.
Under Bill 11, government would be able to issue an administrative directive to boards under a wider range of circumstances. Those that refuse to obey could be dismissed and replaced by an official trustee.
Government has been at loggerheads with school boards over administrative spending. In the last provincial budget, it ordered boards to reduce administrative costs by $54 million over two years, prompting an outcry from school trustees who say there’s no more to cut.
Iker suggested it’s just a matter of time before government also orders boards to close schools, cancel programs or reduce staff.
Bill 11 also eliminates school planning councils, which were introduced by the Liberals in 2002 to serve as advisory bodies in every schools but had mixed results. BCCPAC president Nicole Makohoniuk said returning those responsibilities to PACs means many more opportunities for parents “to be involved in education, opening doors for collaboration and coordination between parents, administration and teachers.”
There are also promises of improved accountability, based on recommendations from education stakeholders, and better use of student data to improve K-12 education while still protecting students’ privacy.
The government news release can be found here.
The B.C. School Trustees’ Association said it will take steps to ensure board autonomy is not eroded by the proposed legislation and expects “meaningful consultation” before the changes take effect, which it said will likely be during the 2015-16 school year.