Seren­ity prayer sce­nario ar­rives for teach­ers

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

Un­for­tu­nately, there is no po­lit­i­cal ver­sion of a bib­li­cal ha-yob­hel or Ju­bilee year, where sin and debt are for­given. So, gov­ern­ments must find ways to pay for past sins and debt. A con­sult­ing group hired to make rec­om­men­da­tions to deal with Nova Sco­tia’s $16-bil­lion debt, and a de­clin­ing, ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, of­fered two op­tions.

1. Lay off pub­lic em­ploy­ees and in­crease taxes, which gov­ern­ment re­jected.

2. Get rid of any­thing gov­ern­ment doesn’t need and can’t af­ford, and ini­ti­ate an im­mi­gra­tion cam­paign. That led to clos­ing schools and gov­ern­ment build­ings and ter­mi­nat­ing lease agree­ments.

It also meant set­ting a lean fis­cal agenda in contract ne­go­ti­a­tions, such as salaries/wages and ser­vice awards. Nova Sco­tia is the only prov­ince still pay­ing ser­vice awards; among the first to have those awards frozen were MLAs, with all pub­lic em­ploy­ees to fol­low, in­clud­ing teach­ers. Ten other groups ac­cepted those con­di­tions and moved on. But teach­ers didn’t get past those is­sues, to move on to what was sup­pos­edly their main con­cern, class­room con­di­tions.

How many hours or min­utes were ac­tu­ally spent on pro­pos­als to im­prove class­room con­di­tions?

The Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union (NSTU) wants to ne­go­ti­ate is­sues like teacher-stu­dent ra­tios. But nu­mer­ous ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ters have com­plained that pro­vi­sions in the NSTU contract made it im­pos­si­ble to make mean­ing­ful changes to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. The McNeil gov­ern­ment is de­ter­mined not to re­peat that mis­take, and will not ne­go­ti­ate such is­sues.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Karen Casey has re­peat­edly stated that many fu­ture changes would not be de­cided by ne­go­ti­a­tions but by con­sul­ta­tion, and gov­ern­ment is propos­ing two such fo­rums. The first is the Part­ner­ship on Work­ing Con­di­tions, [Coun­cil] which will in­clude teach­ers. It will have a $20 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion, over two years, to cover the costs of im­ple­ment­ing class­room so­lu­tions.

Teach­ers say they don’t trust gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment changes, but do they have any choice. Gov­ern­ment doesn’t need teacher par­tic­i­pa­tion to for­mu­late and im­ple­ment pol­icy, but ob­vi­ously wants teacher par­tic­i­pa­tion. Teach­ers are now in a seren­ity prayer sce­nario. They must ac­cept what they can’t change, and change what they can by be­com­ing proac­tively in­volved, propos­ing pos­i­tive so­lu­tions and op­pos­ing neg­a­tive sug­ges­tions to cre­ate the class­room con­di­tions they need.

Set­ting stu­dent-teacher ra­tios is a start, but any real so­lu­tion must ad­dress the main cause of the class­room over­load­ing, our in­clu­sion model. Past gov­ern­ments would never con­sider re­vis­it­ing in­clu­sion, but this gov­ern­ment in­tends to es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion to do so. That’s a bold step and has taken 20 years to open that door. Changes must be ac­cept­able to all par­ties, not just to teach­ers. The chal­lenge will be to find ways to in­te­grate those changes, with ap­pro­pri­ate checks and bal­ances, to ad­dress the needs of all stu­dents, without over­load­ing teach­ers, and within the le­gal pa­ram­e­ters of in­clu­sion.

We are con­stantly hear­ing about the needs of class­room teach­ers, but hear noth­ing about the needs of the for­got­ten stu­dents in in­clu­sive class­rooms. Those stu­dents who are ready to be chal­lenged at grade-level, without adap­ta­tions, mod­i­fi­ca­tions or IPPs. They were swept aside by a wave of spe­cial needs, and of­fered medi­ocre ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards, at ev­ery level. Cur­ricu­lum and assess­ment didn’t in­clude the higher per­for­mance and pro­fi­ciency out­comes they needed to pre­pare them for the higher cog­ni­tive de­mand lev­els on stan­dard­ized as­sess­ments, or for post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion. But, did any­one no­tice or care? Al Moore Glace Bay

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