POLITICS
10/28/2011 06:49 EDT | Updated 12/28/2011 05:12 EST

B.C. teachers' union gives failing grade to government's new education plan

VICTORIA - B.C. students will be allowed to bring their own smart phones to school as part of the government's plan to personalize education, but the teachers' union is giving the idea a failing grade.

Greg Hansman, second-vice president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said Friday that letting children bring such gadgets to school will only increase the disparity between those who can afford them and those who just don't have the money.

"I'm going to go on the assumption that schools aren't going to pay that for them," he said.

Education Minister George Abbott said such high-tech tools will transform the education system so every student can excel and thrive through personalized learning.

"Under B.C.'s education plan, our system will be more flexible and dynamic to better equip students for a bright future," he said in a statement.

Abbott unveiled the plan at the fall meeting of the BC Student Voice, a network of students across the province, and said students who are struggling will be better supported as part of the government's plan for "education excellence."

However, Hansman said that in the last decade, the government has laid off 1,500 specialist teachers and other educators who worked with students to provide extra help beyond the classroom teacher.

He said that includes ESL teachers, special education teachers who worked with children dealing with severe physiological or psychological issues and learning disabilities, and teacher-librarians.

"Education funding is a constant conversation we're having with the government and the minister and the insistence is that either there is no money or there are different priorities."

While the government said the plan has been developed in consultation with parents, students and teachers, Hansman says there have never been any formal discussions with the teachers union.

The new plan also calls for regular teacher performance evaluations.

Hansman said evaluation periods vary from district to district.