To the Editor:
Re: “Agreement with teachers does not respect rural realities” Lakeside Leader, May 31.
MLAs Richard Starke and Walter Drysdale use factual errors, incorrect assumptions and faulty logic in their poorly researched article that absurdly claims the recent deal negotiated by Alberta’s teachers will lead to reduced programming and the closure of rural schools.
In their article (and blog post entitled “NDP Attack on Rural Education” by PC MLA Dave Rodney) these gentlemen say rural kids will suffer because of a new cap on assignable time. Specifically, they say prep time and extracurricular time will be reduced because of the cap. On both points, they are wrong. Prep time and extracurricular time are not “assignable” time according to the definition in the agreement.
Assignable time is “the amount of time that school jurisdictions assign teachers and within which they require teachers to fulfill various professional duties and responsibilities.” These include operational days, supervision, parent teacher interviews and meetings, jurisdiction and school-directed professional development, staff meetings, time before and after school, and other activities specified by the jurisdiction that occur within a reasonable work day.
Prep time for teachers is mostly spent outside school hours -after school, evenings and weekends. There is no cap on this time.
These MLAs also state that coaching teams and running school clubs will end due to the cap on assignable hours. Extracurricular involvement is not part of a teacher’s paid teaching assignment in the vast majority of urban and rural schools.
There is no cap on this time. Of the 67 collective agreements with teachers in Alberta, most don’t mention extracurricular or clearly state (as High Prairie School Division does) that it is voluntary. In Slave Lake, teachers coach wrestling, volleyball, basketball, and badminton, run clubs like GSAs and the yearbook, facilitate events like the 30-hour Famine, organize band students to perform out of town, host drama evenings and more. They don’t do it for money or because they were required to by their contract. They do it from the heart. To say otherwise denies the sacrifice of time and energy they have made for their students.
These MLAs also imply that only rural teachers are assigned to coach sports on the weekend. Both urban and rural teachers are involved in weekend sports. Not because they are assigned to do so-because they chose to.
Moving past the factual errors in this article, let’s look at errors in logic. These men state that a cap on assignable time will lead to “fewer programs offered to students.” Why would schools have fewer programs because limits were placed on the amount of time teachers supervise the hallways or attend PD?
They say the cap will lead to more closures of small schools. Why would a school close because teachers have to go to fewer meetings? It would be more logical to conclude that if teachers attend fewer meetings, do less supervision and focus more on their own professional development, they will have more time concentrate on the job they were hired to do – teach. And, yes, they might even find themselves with more time to volunteer.
What is really offensive is that this article fails to acknowledge that teachers, fully understanding Alberta’s economic realities, voted to give themselves a zero per cent pay increase as part of this deal (resulting in a two per cent raise over six years) and now the PC Caucus suggests they are part of an “attack” on the very same rural communities they continue to support through their volunteer efforts and the teaching activities for which they are reimbursed.
Teachers are part of the communities in which they live. Far from attacking or ignoring rural Alberta, they are doing their best to sustain it.
Len and Nicola Ramsey