Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange has introduced legislation that would amend the Teaching Profession Act and make changes affecting teacher certification and teacher discipline processes. Among other things, the changes would introduce an online registry that would share the certification status of teachers and teacher leaders. The registry would allow members of the public to see when teachers have been found guilty of unprofessional conduct.
ATA president Jason Schilling says the Association welcomes the changes, which includes some measures that the Association has been asking for, for a number of years. However, Schilling is concerned about how the minister has messaged this legislation and the changes being proposed.
“The public should have confidence that matters related to teacher conduct have been handled effectively and appropriately by the Association,” says Schilling. “We have had a process that for years has ensured that teachers who behave inappropriately are dealt with and that teachers who have committed gross acts of misconduct are removed from the profession.”
Schilling says the minister’s column in newspapers this weekend amounted to grandstanding and didn’t serve to support public confidence in the profession.
“It is unfortunate that the minister would choose to highlight, without context, a case in which she disagreed with the finding and penalty imposed by an independent discipline committee. That’s fine; that is her right in legislation as the granter of teacher certificates, but her column was inflammatory and included many misrepresentations of how teacher conduct matters are handled in this province.”
The ATA’s process has included many measures to ensure openness and transparency, including hearings that are open to the public and hearing reports that are publicly available upon request. Additional transparency measures, like the online registry, were not possible without legislative or regulatory changes.
Schilling says many of the outstanding concerns related to teacher discipline matters relate to how the Government of Alberta handles discipline of members not governed by the ATA. He says the process that has been used for superintendents and teachers in private and charter schools is much more secretive than the processes used by the Association, and he is hopeful that this legislation and associated regulations will resolve these issues.
For a considerable period of time now, the Alberta Teachers’ Association has been interested in making changes to its decades-old professional conduct process that would create efficiencies and align them with the current standards and practices of other professional regulatory bodies.
“We hope to see the changes being proposed will enhance our processes to ensure the profession’s ability to uphold high standards of conduct, protect the public interest and contribute toward public assurance,” says Schilling.