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NDP government ‘open’ to alternative pay options for special needs educators

NDP government considering creative solutions to low EA pay
WATCH: NDP government considering creative solutions to low EA pay

As B.C. struggles to deal with a lack of education assistants (EA) in classrooms, the province says additional pay incentives are a possibility.

Many EAs like Shona Kelly say they work two jobs or more in order to make a living wage.

Kelly says in an average year she makes between $30,000 and $32,000 at the job — not nearly enough to stay above water in Metro Vancouver.

READ MORE: ‘That shouldn’t be happening’: B.C. education minister responds to special needs complaints

A tentative three-year agreement is set to give EAs a two per cent pay bump per year.

That’s despite school districts facing major challenges to hire and retain those specialized positions.

WATCH: Concern funding for special needs students being left unspent

$325 million in special needs funding for B.C. students left unspent
$325 million in special needs funding for B.C. students left unspent

“I’ve definitely seen the system deteriorate, and not just have enough people in the classrooms to deal with the workload,” Kelly said.

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Its a situation parents say they’re seeing too.

“The system doesn’t work, and we need to look at real solutions and help the children get a proper education,” Stella, the mother of a Vancouver special needs student, told Global News last week.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says the province has hired new EAs, but acknowledges more could be done.

READ MORE: In B.C., special needs kids are accessing school as little as 1.5 hours, 2 days a week

One possibility includes looking at alternative forms of compensation, such as housing allowances.

“In terms of standards and looking at additional educational incentives, the government is open to those kinds of ideas,” said Fleming.

“We have had some positive productive discussions with the union that represents most education assistants.”

Kelly said it’s an idea she’s support, and that using alternative forms of compensation could help put EAs on an even footing with other teachers in the system.