Nearly two weeks since the last post – what a lot has happened. This little old lady trustee was waiting, a bit anxiously, for the outcome of the tripartite (Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) + Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) + Alberta Ministry of Education) talks on renegotiating the existing five year contract with teachers, expiring August 31st, 2012.
Then suddenly events started to cascade. Tuesday, January 25, Premier Stelmach announced his resignation – effective at the end of the next legislature session (due to start February 22), triggering a leadership race. Thursday, January 27, the Minister of Finance and Enterprise, Ted Morton, resigns in order to pursue the leadership. Speculation is rife on the implications of all these political manoeuvrings for the provincial budget. Friday, January 28, A joint statement was issued by Alberta Education, ASBA and ATA. The letter stated that the three parties will “not be moving ahead with an agreement at this time.”
So here’s where things stand at the moment: “In the absence of a successor agreement, the government has made it clear that the existing 2007 agreements would remain in force until they conclude on August 31, 2012. After that, teacher local bargaining units and school boards would resume conventional bargaining in an environment that might prove challenging for all parties.” This is taken from an update (January 25) by the ATA to its members. The emphasis is mine – it is such a masterful understatement.
The challenge for school boards is that we negotiate blindly, and have since the ability to levy local school taxes was removed in 1994-95. We have to make an agreement with no assurance that the province will provide the dollars to fund the agreement adequately, i.e. ensure the money is sufficient to maintain optimum class sizes and classroom conditions. We have to budget in the same way. This creates stress and an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Never mind. Here’s who Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) is:
“Although having money is terrific, the brutal fact is that it is no substitute for the actions and efforts most apt to improve teaching and learning.” – Mike Schmoker in Foreword: Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004
It is for this reason that a tuition-free full-day kindergarten, as recommended by the Alberta Commission on Learning, will be offered in the Banff and Canmore elementary schools and continued in the Exshaw School. Can we afford it? No, not really. Can we afford not to do it, in the face of evidence and the demands of parents? No.
The goal of the province in the Inspiring Education consultation is the “transformation” of Alberta’s education system. All of the pieces that need to be in place for that to happen – labour agreements, the new School Act, Inspiring Action, Setting the Direction – are stalled until the political drama plays out. We’re not stalled. We will continue to work with the province, our teachers, the parents and our community to advance where we can. The kids can’t afford to wait…but I sure do wish I had a crystal ball.