Teachers’ No. 1 priority in contract negotiations: Smaller class sizes
Leaked document reveals their 25,000-member union will be pushing for more new hires
Alberta teachers say their top priority during impending contract negotiations with the province is reducing class sizes, according to a leaked union document.
The push by the Alberta Teachers Association to hire more front-line staff comes in the wake of a February report by the province’s auditor general which found that billions of dollars aimed at reducing class sizes over the past 13 years had been wasted.
A political observer says how the ruling New Democrats respond to spending demands from the nearly 25,000-member union will be a strong indication of whether the government WWW.THESTAR.COM
believes it has a chance of winning next spring’s provincial election.
“If the Notley government holds the line to keep from blowing up the budget, it will be because they believe they have a shot at winning in 2019,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University. “If they feel they’re done, they may give their friends at the ATA a long, fat contract that stretches beyond the next fouryear election cycle.”
Internal ATA documents obtained by StarMetro reveal that increasing the number of teachers to match growth in student enrolment and reduce class sizes was the overwhelming priority of the 11,000-plus teachers who responded to a survey circulated by the union earlier this year.
Former auditor general Merwan Saher’s February report revealed that since 2004, $2.7 billion earmarked for reducing class sizes went instead into general instructional funding.
“The sums of money described as class-size initiative, essentially has morphed into just being part of the base funding to the education sector,” Saher said.
Begun in 2003, the province’s class-size initiative still appears as a line item in the education budget. The amount was $293 million in the 2017-18 year.
The government’s response at thestar.com
Premier Rachel Notley and Finance Minister Joe Ceci have a province full of teachers who want smaller classes.