B.C. parents will receive a $40 daily subsidy for each child under 13 years old if the teachers' strike continues into the beginning of the school year, announced the finance minister.
Mike de Jong said Thursday parents will be able to register online for the subsidy, which could be used to get tutoring for their children, to explore other educational opportunities or to for pay for day care.
De Jong said approximately 300,000 students would be eligible to collect the subsidy, which would be funded from the $12 million the government saves daily in teachers' salaries once the new school year begins.
"We have time here. We have five weeks. And that's why I ... emphasize this is a contingency that we want people to know about as early as possible so that as we move through August they can plan accordingly," he told reporters in Victoria. "But I'll be the first to tell you I hope it's a contingency we don't have to rely on."
More than 40,000 teachers launched a full-scale strike about two weeks before school was set to end in June, following three weeks of rotating strikes and other job action. The government locked out teachers in the last days of the term and then summer school was cancelled.
De Jong said cheques would likely not be issued until October and that the program would not be retroactive.
Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, called on the province to reach a deal through mediation.
"This announcement from the government to strip education funding from BC students is a blatant and divisive attempt to prolong disruption in B.C. schools," Iker said. "This scheme will not help improve class sizes, increase support for children with special needs, or provide more one-on-one time for all students."
The province has repeatedly said wage demands by the teachers' union are outside its "affordability zone" and far beyond what other public-sector workers have received.
The subsidy announcement came on the same day that the body representing B.C.'s school trustees made a public appeal to both parties to solve the conflict.
The British Columbia School Trustees Association released what it calls a "Back to School Action Plan," urging the union to decrease the amount of funds its asking for in the additional hiring and grievance funds.
It also encourages the government to put all the savings accrued from the dispute into a separate fund that would go towards improving classroom conditions.
"Students have been the ones that have been most impacted," said president Teresa Rezansoff.
"Students would get the most benefits by taking those savings from the strike-lockout and putting it into the Learning Improvement Fund where they will directly benefit."
Two mediators have turned down offers to help because both sides are too far apart.
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