B.C. Teachers' Federation says tentative deal reached with the province

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VICTORIA - The B.C. Teachers' Federation reached a tentative deal with the province that if approved would end a 15-year battle over bargaining rights.

The union issued a news release Saturday saying the two sides have agreed to restore contract language from a previous agreement that called for smaller class sizes.

The federation says this means families can expect the next school year to start with thousands more teachers and the restoration of services such as school libraries and counselling.

The announcement comes less than four months after a Supreme Court ruling that a law imposed by the province that blocked teachers' ability from bargaining class sizes was unconstitutional.

The decision ended a 14-year legal battle over bargaining rights that started when the province imposed legislation that blocked discussions of class size and composition in 2002.

The ruling restored language to a previous 2002 agreement, however a statement from provincial government says details needed to be negotiated because the education system has evolved and changed since then.

The federation's president Glen Hansman says the new agreement will mean students can expect to receive the individual care and attention they deserve.

In January, the province announced it would provide $50 million to hire 1,100 new teachers while negotiations over the agreement continued.

Education Minister Mike Bernier says in a news release Saturday that the province announced record funding increases for education in the budget released last month that will build upon the investments and new hires introduced at the beginning of the year.

Bernier says negotiations were complex but the new deal is great news for students, parents and teachers.

Union members will be voting on whether to accept the agreement next week.

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