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Housing costs among reasons for teacher shortage in B.C.

(Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The high cost of housing is not helping when it comes to filling hundreds of public school teacher shortages across B.C., including in Vancouver and Burnaby which are in the top five most expensive rental markets in Canada.

Education Minister Rob Fleming, who just announced plans to hire more teachers for French immersion programs, admits recruitment and retention remains a problem.

He says the former Liberal government ignored the need for French language teachers and that his ministry has added an additional 74 teacher education spots to meet demand.

“We got to solve this domestically, but we’re also very pleased to see new applicants coming from out of country, places like France and, of course, out-of-province teachers, as well,” Fleming tells NEWS 1130.

He adds that last year’s hiring storm of 3,700 teachers has helped easing the shortages, but hundreds more position remain vacant. Next on Fleming’s list to hire more specialist teachers.

“We’ve got 1500 new teachers that came out of B.C. universities last year,” Fleming says. “To hear that the Vancouver School Board, for example, has hired 200 more substitute teachers to their lists was good.”

Teachers can earn more elsewhere

Glen Hansman, president of the BC Teachers Federation, says educators willing to leave the province could make a lot more money where housing is not hard to find. He says that Quebec and B.C. have the worst starting wages for teachers and other provinces compete for those teachers more effectively by offering better salaries.

“Given affordability and given B.C.’s inability to attract enough people to come and work as teachers and keep them because of the high cost of living, the difficulty in finding a place to live, very high rents and incredibly low salaries compare to the other provinces,” Hansman explains.

“When you have Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario offering significantly more money, it is going to be a tough sale to get enough people to work across the Rockies.”

He adds recruitment and retention is why the 43,000-member B.C. Teachers’ Federation is seeking significant pay hikes when the current contract expires at the end of June.

Metro Vancouver in the top five highest rents in Canada

A report released today by rental site PadMapper clocks in Vancouver and Burnaby at the second and third spot on Canada’s most expensive rental markets. In Vancouver a one-bedroom will cost renters $2,050 a month, while in Burnaby average rents are $1,650 a month.

Toronto takes the top spot at $2,200 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.