Education featured Labour

Op Ed: Province continues to place needs of students last

Last week, on the advice of private consultant Avis Glaze, the McNeil government announced it is once again eroding the collective rights of teachers.

Instead of investing more resources to support students with special needs, this government has decided to ban school principals and vice principals from belonging to a union. Instead of increasing mental health supports for vulnerable children, the government is creating a college of teachers to oversee licensing and discipline. Instead of improving classroom conditions, the government is creating a larger and less democratic education bureaucracy.  

Photo Robert Devet

This is almost the exact same approach the government took with our health care system, and we all know how that worked out.

A recent survey conducted by Corporate Research Associates on behalf of the NSTU shows that a majority (66%) of Nova Scotians believe Bill 75 harmed our public education system. Perhaps a more telling statistic is that only 9% (that’s not a typo) think the McNeil government has done a good job managing our schools.

In many ways the adoption of the Glaze report is just this government doubling down on its past mistakes, and the mistakes of other provinces.

For example, Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has a “College of Teachers,” after British Columbia’s college was scrapped for being dysfunctional.

Principals and vice-principals were banned from belonging to teachers unions in Ontario in the late 1990s. What followed was a 41% increase in grievances and a $2.5 million cost increase for lawyers and arbitrators. Ontario is one of only two provinces where teachers and principals don’t belong to the same union.

Nova Scotia’s current collegial model places emphasis on conflict resolution and healthy staff relations, this creates a positive work environment that benefits teachers and their students. What the government is proposing will only bring conflict to a setting where collaboration is key. That’s why 80% of NSTU administrators want to remain in the union.

Moreover, a large percentage of vice principals and even many principals are also classroom teachers. It’s unclear if the government expects these individuals to enter the classroom without union representation. The fact of the matter is that all principals and vice principals are teachers first. Far from being in the best interest of students, this policy appears consistent with this government’s anti-union agenda.

What our provincial education system needs is leadership that is willing to make the needs of students, teachers and principals a priority. By adopting the Glaze report, Education Minister Zach Churchill has demonstrated the exact opposite.

He wants to tinker with the bureaucracy and suspend collective rights instead of tending to the urgent needs of our children. Unfortunately, for the current government this is just a continuation of the status quo.

Liette Doucet is the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

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