teacher vote 

Teachers vote this week Results available by month-end Howe Sound school board district teachers voted Monday on a new three-year contract offered by the province, but the results won't be known until the end of May. "We had a big turnout with indications of a very strong 'yes' vote," says Alex Miller, Howe Sound Teachers Association president, who's been re-elected to serve another term. Teachers associations across B.C. had until the end of this week to hold votes in the 59 school districts. The votes are then forwarded to the provincial office where they will be tabulated. The new contract offer was accepted by the teachers federation in April. The federation had been considering a strike vote before the end of June, with pickets set up in the fall if an agreement couldn't be reached. Authorization for a strike vote was approved at the federation's annual general meeting in March. If teachers ratify the contract offer it will create roughly 1,200 new teaching positions across B.C., says Kit Krieger, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation. Some of the more remote school districts need more time to collect votes from their teachers, Miller explains. "We believe this agreement represents a significant achievement for the teachers of B.C. and our students," Krieger said when the province and the teachers union came to an agreement on April 17. There are approximately 44,000 teachers in the B.C. Teachers Federation, the union representing public school teachers. Because all the votes aren't cast in one day, results from various districts aren't revealed as they are concluded so they don't influence the result in neighbouring districts who may be voting the next day, Miller says. The result will be in terms of a province-wide yes or no vote. "It could be very divisive if, for example, West Vancouver voted 'yes,' and North Vancouver voted 'no'," Miller explains. Contract highlights facing the teachers are: o Class size limits in primary grades with Kindergarten classes not to exceed 20 pupils. Grades 1-3 classes are to be reduced to a maximum of 22 students by the end of this new agreement; o A salary increase of 2 per cent effective April 1, 2000; o Increased benefits for teachers on call (substitutes and adult educators); o 300 more "non-enrolling" teacher positions — ESL teachers, librarians and learning assistance teachers — in the next three years; o 700 new teaching positions for K-3 grades in the next three years.

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