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

StarMetro Calgary - - NEWS - MATT MCCLURE

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

KEVIN TUONG FOR STARMETRO ED­MON­TON

Premier Rachel Not­ley and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Joe Ceci have a prov­ince full of teach­ers who want smaller classes.

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