Earlier this week, the Chilliwack School Board voted against introducing early French immersion despite lobbying from parents, citing the added costs.
Glyn Lewis, the executive director of the B.C.-Yukon Chapter of Canadian Parents for French, says about a dozen school districts are in the same situation.
"Tofino, Squamish, Penticton just being a couple of examples where the demand by parents outstrips the capacity of school districts to provide French immersion programs,” he said.
The provincial government gets about $10 million in federal funding for French programs, but the money doesn’t come through until a program has been established so it doesn’t help create new spaces.
“We think there needs to be some changes to actually put some money aside to incentivize the creation of new programs, and that hasn't really happened yet,” Lewis said said.
"Let’s say five school districts get $50,000. What we would say is, instead of all getting $50,000 to support French language education, maybe give them $45,000 to help incentivize the creation of new programs.”
Lewis says demand for French programs in B.C. has grown in each of the last 15 years.
A recent Ontario study shows creating a new French immersion class costs a district at least an extra $75,000 a year in textbooks, other resources and staffing.