Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Johnson's latest attack is deliberately irresponsible

This was written by Jonathan Teghtmeyer who is with the Alberta Teachers' Association. Jonathan tweets here. This post first appeared on the Alberta Teachers` Association website.

by Jonathan Teghtmeyer

Education Minister Jeff Johnson has continued his attack on teachers and the teaching profession. While he will publicly suggest that he has no intention of splitting up the ATA, his tactics are designed to undermine the capacity of the Association to perform its professional functions. The only intended result is to create support for splitting the ATA.

His actions bring his words into question.

In late May, the minister pushed out into the media four reports on cases of unprofessional conduct in which he overturned the decision of a hearing committee of the Association’s Professional Conduct Committee. While the hearing committee recommended teaching certificate suspension in each case, the minister believed that the appropriate penalty should be cancellation of the certificate.

The minister is apparently within his right to make these arbitrary decisions, because he holds the certificate-granting power, and that is why the committee only makes a recommendation on that penalty. If he has concerns about the penalty, I can see why he would reject the recommendation. What I find interesting is that instead of taking the issue up with the Association he ­decided to splash it onto the front pages of papers across the province.

The minister did this intentionally, knowing that salacious stories grab attention and sell papers. He did this while intentionally leaving out key information about the other eight cases that crossed his desk where the hearing committee recommended cancellation. He did this intentionally, knowing that explaining the truth through media channels would be virtually impossible against a sensational and sticky story.

The public was reasonably and predictably disturbed. MLAs publicly accused the Association of wanting to put perverts in classrooms, and others accused us of protecting pedophiles.

The minister did not underestimate the vitriolic reaction—he set out to create it.

Unfortunately, as a result, the Association is smeared, the profession is smeared and, frankly, the entire system is smeared. This was simply irresponsible.

This attack was clearly motivated by politics and has not only served to undermine the Association, but it has undermined the minister himself and it has undermined acting Premier Hancock, who as education minister reviewed suspension and cancellation recommendations without overturning them.

If there is such a fundamental flaw with the process, why has the Government of Alberta allowed it to continue for 78 years? Why have successive PC ministers signed off on the precedent reports that informed these decisions for 43 years?

The answer is less about the truth and the reality of the situation and more about the ideological vindictive drive behind this minister.

At the end of the day, the Association-managed process is good. It is free from political interference. It has worked well for 78 years. And it ensures that teachers who are not fit for the classroom never teach again.

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