On November 14, 2011, Bill 12, the new Teachers Act (the "TA") received Royal Assent. Introduced in the BC Legislature on October 26, 2011, the TA passed through the parliamentary debates in only six days. The TA will replace in its entirety the current Teaching Profession Act and bring about consequential changes to a number of statutes, including the School Act and the Independent School Act (the "ISA"). It is expected that the TAand its new administrative structure will come into force early in 2012.
The new Teachers Act is the BC government's response to the findings of the 2010 report on the BC College of Teachers by fact finder Don Avison: A College Divided (the report can be found online at: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/pubs/2010_factfinder_report_bcct.pdf ). The report concluded, among other things, that the college was dysfunctional; was not regarded as an independent entity; fared poorly in protecting the public interest when compared to other self-regulating professions; and had lost the confidence of many in the broader education community. According to the provincial government, the objectives of the TA are to "create a more accountable and transparent teacher regulation system to better protect children and put the public interest first."
BC Teachers' Council and Independent School Teaching Certificate Standards Committee
Under the TA, the College of Teachers will be abolished and replaced by the British Columbia Teachers' Council (the "Council"), a 16-member body comprised of three nominees of the BC Teachers' Federation; five teachers elected directly by their colleagues in the five regional zones to be established by regulation; a non-voting government representative and seven members appointed by the Minister of Education. The provincial government has announced that these appointments will be based on nominations from its education partners, including the Federation of Independent School Associations and the BC Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association. The Council's role will be to set standards for the certification, conduct and competence of teachers as well as to define approval standards for teacher education programs and to evaluate such programs. The standards for obtaining and maintaining an independent school teaching certificate will now be set by the independent school teaching certificate standards committee, created under the ISA.
Disciplinary and Professional Conduct Board
The new Disciplinary and Professional Conduct Board (the "Board") established by the TA will consist of nine persons appointed from the ranks of the Council members. To ensure that particular perspectives and concerns of independent schools will be reflected on the Board, at least one of its members must have substantial knowledge of and experience in the independent school system. Board members will serve on panels hearing disciplinary and professional conduct matters and certification appeals. If such matters or appeals involve a teacher holding, or an applicant for, an independent school teaching certificate, at least one of the panel members must also have substantial knowledge of and experience in the independent school system.
New Administrative Structure under the TA and ISA
Another feature of the TA will be the establishment of a single administrative structure for certification, registration and discipline of independent and public school teachers. In that respect, the new offices of Commissioner and Director of Certification will assume certain functions currently performed by the Inspector of Independent Schools.
Apart from providing recommendations on certification standards to the Council and the Committee, the Commissioner is tasked with the review and investigation of competency and conduct complaints as well as reports about the dismissal or suspension of public and independent school teachers and the principals of independent schools (see the new ss. 7 – 7.3 of the ISA). It is within the Commissioner's power to take no further action after a preliminary review or to enter into a publicly available consent resolution agreement with a teacher under investigation. Further, the Commissioner may issue a citation that will require a disciplinary and professional conduct hearing by a panel appointed by the Commissioner. Similarly, the Commissioner may review and summarily dismiss certification appeals or appoint a panel to hear an appeal.
The Director of Certification will be responsible for issuing or, upon order by the Commissioner or a panel, suspending or cancelling independent school teaching certificates, certificates of qualification or letters of permission for teachers. The Director will also maintain the register of certificate holders and the existing publicly available online registry on BC teachers and their disciplinary history.
Annual Practice Fees
Another change introduced by the amalgamated administrative structure is that independent school operators are now required to deduct from the wages of its teachers the annual practice fees and to remit the fees to the government by April 30 of each year (see the new s. 14.1 of the ISA). The provincial government has announced that the annual practice fee will be reduced to $80 from the current $120.
The TA replaces the current self-governance model with a system of greater government control. The stated purpose of the new administrative regime, which emphasizes the inclusion and involvement of education stakeholders, is to improve the protection of students, to add more accountability and thereby to restore public trust in the education system.
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