Thursday, December 13, 2012

Expiring Education in Alberta

The Alberta Government has rejected the Alberta Teachers' Associations' (ATA) final proposal to reach a province wide deal between the government and Alberta teachers which means that the ATA's offer to freeze salary grid increases for two years and limit increases to one per cent and three per cent for the following two years is now off the table.

ATA president Henderson said, "We worked really hard to address the fiscal and stability concerns of government, and the government came back not offering any real, measurable improvements to teacher conditions and practice, and it was just something we couldn't take to teachers." Henderson also said, "So we believe that the minister and the premier have missed an enormous opportunity to improve classroom conditions for children, to contain their costs and to guarantee labour peace for the next four years."

Through out the province wide Tripartite talks, I've seen action and proposals from the Alberta Government via Education Minister Jeff Johnson, and I've seen action and proposals from the Alberta Teachers' Association via president Carol Henderson.

But what about the Alberta School Boards' Association (ASBA)?

Stephen Murgatroyd wrote an excellent blog titled The Missing in Action Premier Redford, and I think the same could be said of the Alberta School Boards' Association. While I'm one of the strongest supporters of public education and locally elected school boards, I'm disappointed by how little the ASBA seems to have contributed to these province wide negotiations. I have yet to see or hear a proposal from the ASBA from province wide negotiations. What have they tabled during these negotiations and how did they propose to address teachers' conditions of practice?

ASBA president Jacquie Hansen commented on the ATA proposal that was rejected by the government, "We’re not necessarily going to throw the terms of that agreement out. It’s certainly an excellent document to work from and it will just have to be hammered out locally now, rather than provincially.” Such a comment is at best naive. Local bargaining will now begin from scratch as none of the pieces (including the proposed salary concession) carry forward to local bargaining.

Hansen's comment leads me to believe that the ASBA has little understanding about what they helped convince the government to reject. If the ASBA and the government think that teachers locally will agree to 0%, 0%, 1% and 3% pay increases over the next four years and no measurable improvements to teacher conditions and practice they are dreaming.

We all want Inspiring Education to become a reality in Alberta.

We all want to make learning more personal and individualized for students, but this requires us to move beyond our content-bloated, top-down mandated, scripted curricula and standardized testing. Truthfully, there are bold teachers and courageous schools who have already made moves to try and make Inspiring Education a reality, but these pockets of progressiveness are fuelled by the blood, sweat and tears of teachers which are ultimately unsustainable due to the lack of systemic support from government and school boards.

Teacher's working conditions are students' learning environments. As long as teachers remain on the farside of education reform by being the last to hear, the last to know and the last to speak, and the Alberta Government maintains their 19th century Command and Control politics, Inspiring Education will remain nothing more than an initiative.

What's worse, if the government tries to push "any pace, any place, any time" down the throats of teachers without teacher input on how such transformation will drastically alter teacher workload, Inspiring Education will very quickly become Expiring Education.


  1. This government has lost any support of the teachers in my district. The talk around the tables is not even coming close to inspiring education, but how we will survive until the end of the year. The people working as consultants in the board office and all of the people in Edmonton trying to redesign curriculum should start looking for work, because we are going to need all of the money back in the system if it is not to explode with tension. My colleagues and I are beyond mad, it has now come to a point where I can see a strike in our local even though I have never had one. Enough is enough.

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