Over the span of one year, the number of available substitute teachers in Whitehorse has dropped by as much as half, said Sue Harding, president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association.
The problem, she said, is that substitute teachers are being poached by British Columbia, where there are more jobs, which is causing some to overlook the Yukon as a viable place to work.
There are about 150 substitute teachers in Whitehorse right now, Harding said. Last April, there were 300.
Pay is another factor. Substitute teachers earn $120 more per day in B.C. than they do in the territory, she said.
“Our students are affected because they can’t be guaranteed a certified teacher is going to come in and take their regular teacher’s place,” Harding said, noting the rural schools are particularly impacted.
“Some rural communities have no one right now, absolutely no one who will come in and take the place of a teacher,” Harding said. “If there’s no one in the community to work, then they have to pull them from Whitehorse.”
Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told the News that the numbers Harding provided are incorrect.
McPhee said that last year, in mid-October, there were 186 substitute teachers in Whitehorse and 66 in communities.
Currently, there are 162 substitute teachers in Whitehorse; 59 are in communities.
These numbers represent a drop of 31 substitute teachers in the territory in total over one year.
“In addition to those numbers there’s about 30 individuals that are currently being assessed, 11 for the communities,” McPhee said. “We expect to be pretty close to those numbers within a few days or a week.”
McPhee noted that the list of substitute teachers tends to increase over the school year.
Substitute teachers aren’t covered by a labour union. In order to ensure that the Yukon is retaining enough substitute teachers requires representation at the bargaining table, Harding said.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation represents substitute teachers in the province, she noted.
It’s labour unions that could commensurate pay seen in other jurisdictions, Harding said, to “give them the same opportunities that other on-call teachers have.”
McPhee said that her department and the YTA are at the negotiation table to potentially hammer out plans for bringing substitute teachers into the fold of a labour union.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk to you or, frankly, for the YTA to talk to you while there’s bargaining going on around these very same issues, and I hope we resolves them and anticipate that we will,” she said.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org