Delta Teachers' Association president Paul Steer is frustrated the provincial government won't address the always-thorny issues of class size and composition.
"Teachers are struggling under difficult circumstances to do their best work to meet the challenges of students with special needs, to teach class compositions that are very challenging and to do so without a lot of extra support that used to be in the system," Steer told the Optimist.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation announced this week Victoria has broken off talks regarding class size and composition.
"We submitted proposals based on restoring the working and learning conditions that were in place prior to 2002, when these illegal bills were imposed. We have also demonstrated considerable flexibility and willingness to consider alternatives," BCTF president Susan Lambert said Monday.
However, the government's representatives told the BCTF they simply would not respond to anything that includes guarantees on class size and composition, according to the federation.
Earlier this year, the B.C. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a provincial law that denied teachers the right to bargain class size and class composition.
Steer said an interesting suggestion during the civic election campaign that an outside auditor be brought in to do an analysis of what's needed in terms of class size and composition, to present a valid case to government, isn't necessary. He said it's quite clear what the challenges are in the classroom and what's needed now.
In the Delta school district, although the overall student enrollment has dipped to around 15,500, two categories that saw continued increases were special education and ESL.
The Delta school board was told this fall the number of students who are in the highest category levels of special needs, ones with conditions such as autism, mental illness, behavior or chronic health issues, increased from 778 last year to 809 this year. Those students do bring in some additional provincial funding.
Meanwhile, students in other special education categories, including those with learning disabilities, who don't receive extra funding, increased from 892 last year to 934 this year.
The board was also told that 524 classes at the secondary level have more than three students identified as special needs.
Of the 363 elementary divisions, 63 have more than three special needs pupils.
There's also a large number of so-called "grey area" students who have learning difficulties but haven't been formally designated.
The number of ESL students increased from 1,389 in 2010 to 1,580 this year. Most of those students are in North Delta.
The discussions about class size and composition are separate from the collective bargaining talks, which are underway, but also not making progress.
The teachers' contract expired June 30 and members are currently taking part in limited job action. Steer wouldn't say when job action could escalate.
The B.C. Labour Relations Board this week dismissed an application by the B.C. Public School Employers' Association to compel teachers to do report cards.
Steer, meanwhile, said he likes the additions of former DTA president Val Windsor and former District Parent Advisory Council chair Donna Burke to Delta's school board.
"I'm hopeful that with the election of a new board, there would be a renewed understanding of the importance of adequate funding. Well before the election, both Donna Burke and Val Windsor were on record as favouring a closer look at changes to the funding formula for public education in B.C.," he said.
"The issues in public education are complex and real and simple solutions are never satisfactory, but the DTA wants the public to understand that without substantive rededication of public funds to public education, educational services in Delta are at long-term risk."