Teachers worth every penny, says ATA president

“The notion teachers in this province should take a pay cut is ludicrous,” said ATA Mark Ramsankar in response to the recent suggestion made by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Teachers are often working in overcrowded classrooms without access to the supports and assistance they and their students need,” he said. “In a single classroom there can be students with very different learning abilities, and a range of exceptional learning needs. Whether they be non-verbal or gifted, from a privileged or impoverished home, a native speaker of English or French or learning the language of instruction, the teacher has the responsibility of engaging each and every one of them.”

“Like all other Albertans, teachers work hard. They work an average of 55 hours per week over the school year and, as professionals don’t receive or expect compensation for the additional hours they spend planning lessons, marking assignments, coaching the volleyball team or running the drama club. Often they will put extra time in during vacation periods improving their professional practice and preparing to teach their next group of students.”

Ramsankar was citing a study conducted in 2011/12 by Carleton University researcher Dr Linda Duxbury which revealed Alberta teachers and others (eg, school administrators and counsellors) spent 55.2 hours per week in work-related activities, 41.3 hours at their school or office and another 13.9 hours of work during evenings and weekends. Virtually all (98%) of the respondents in Duxbury’s sample could not get everything done during work hours and so were taking their work home with them.

The study is going on four years old, but Ramsankar said teachers’ hours of work likely have increased since 2012 as teacher hiring has not kept pace with the rate of growth for the student population. Since 2010, for every 50 additional students added to the education system, only one teacher has been hired.

“The result is that classrooms not only are bigger than they were even four or five years ago, they are more complex. There are more students needing to learn the English language, more students with severe special needs and more students overall who need teachers to provide them with an education.” said Ramsankar. “Definitely there are people in other professions who do demanding work in the face of difficult challenges. Just like them, Alberta teachers are worth every cent they make.”