On December 9, 2021, Alberta’s minister of education announced a plan to a plan to remove professional regulatory functions related to discipline from the Alberta Teachers’ Association, effectively changing the ATA from a professional association to purely a trade union. If implemented, this decision will dramatically change the culture of the teaching profession and public education in Alberta.

 

Why should the ATA stay united?

A united Association establishes a culture of professionalism and collegiality that focuses on what’s best for both students and teachers, and includes

  • a teachers’ union that views issues through a professional lens, not solely that of teachers’ interests and union responsibilities;
  • principals as professional colleagues and instructional leaders, not managers; and
  • principals and teachers working together to improve practice through support and guidance, not a system hampered by adversarial conflict between union and management.

 

Why does the government want to remove discipline from the ATA?

The attack on the Association is an attempt to weaken the profession.

The premier and minister are trying to distract the public from the minister’s own inability to handle the education file, and they are trying to punish the Association     for standing up to the government’s bad decisions. The government has cut funding, created a disastrous curriculum and responded inadequately to COVID-19.  The announcement to remove professional regulatory functions related to discipline from the ATA is an attempt to change the channel, pure and simple.

The Association has always stood up and will continue to stand up for what is best for public education in this province. The government is attempting to silence teachers and the Association as strong, effective voices of the  teaching profession.

 

What can I do?

Educate and inform your colleagues. We need them all to understand why this is important.

Contact your MLA. Write, call, request a meeting; you don’t have to be perfect, just be persistent.

Stay tuned to ATA messages. A more significant call to action will come once legislation is introduced.

 

Member Information Meetings – January 24-27, 2022

The Association is holding a series of Member Information Meetings (MIMs) over the third week of January in order to discuss the minister’s plans to remove professional functions from the ATA and the Association’s response to issues related to schooling amid COVID’s 5th wave. 

Dates have been scheduled by convention association region, however, members can attend any of the sessions they wish. Members are strongly encouraged to attend one of these very important meetings.

Date Time Region
Mon, Jan 24 4:00 pm Mighty Peace and Endless Skies convention regions 
Mon, Jan 24 7:00 pm Greater Edmonton convention region
Tue, Jan 25 5:00 pm Southeast and Southwest convention regions 
Tue, Jan 25 7:00 pm Palliser District convention region 
Wed, Jan 26 5:00 pm North Central convention region
Wed, Jan 26 7:00 pm Calgary City convention region
Thursday, Jan 27 4:00 pm Francophone session 
Thursday, Jan 27 7:00 pm Central Alberta convention region 

 

 

News

 

The Discipline Process That Works

There is no sense, other than pure political motivation, in scrapping a system that has worked well for over 100 years, only to start from scratch. The ATA discipline cycle has protected the public interest in public education for many years. The process is fair and transparent; the hearing itself is open to any member of the public who wishes to attend (Teaching Profession Act article 33), and the hearing committee’s decision must be available to the public upon request and free of charge (Teaching Profession Act article 47(4)). After the investigation is complete, a recommendation is made to the minister of education about the teacher’s certificate, because certification rests with the minister alone.

Step 1: Investigation

  • Within 30 days of receiving the complaint, the ATA’s executive secretary appoints an investigating officer.
  • The investigator meets with all parties involved in the complaint and collects statements, evidence and documents, as required.
  • The investigator files an investigation report to the executive secretary. 

Step 2: Executive Secretary’s Decision

  • The executive secretary reviews the report and determines whether there is sufficient evidence of unprofessional conduct to warrant a hearing.
  • There are three possible decision scenarios: 
  1. Declare that no further action is required (this decision may be appealed by the complainant).
  2. Refer the case to a less formal, cautionary and educative process called Invitation.
  3. Order a hearing.

Step 3: Hearing (if ordered)

A hearing committee consists of three active teachers, or two active teachers and a public member who is named by the minister.

  • The Association, as prosecutor, and the investigated member, as defendant, each present evidence to support their case.
  • The hearing committee determines whether the member is guilty of unprofessional conduct.
  • If the member is found guilty, the committee orders an appropriate penalty for each charge.
  • Penalties may include
    • oral or written reprimands,
    • fines,
    • declarations of suspension or permanent ineligibility from membership in the ATA and/or
    • a recommendation to the minister of education that the teacher’s certificate be suspended or cancelled.

Decisions of the hearing committee may be appealed.

 

The Myths vs Facts

The minister and her colleagues seem not to fully understand the discipline process and responsibilities involved. Some of the more common myths and misinformation that are circulating are addressed below.

Myth

Fact

1

The ATA decides whether a complaint is investigated. Anyone can file a request for investigation of unprofessional conduct, and the ATA is obligated to investigate every request it receives.

2

The ATA defends and protects bad teachers. The ATA does not represent teachers in professional conduct hearings; teachers are responsible for their own defence.

3

The ATA has a conflict of interest when it comes to disciplining teachers. The ATA takes the position of the public interest when it comes to teacher discipline; management and performance of ATA professional regulatory functions are strictly separated from other union and representation functions within the organization.

4

The ATA’s process for teacher discipline is secretive and nontransparent. All hearings are open to the public, and all decisions of the hearing committee are available to anyone on request.

5

The ATA has the power to revoke a teacher’s certificate. Only the minister of education can revoke a teacher’s teaching certificate.

6

A teacher given a penalty of suspension by the ATA automatically returns to teaching when the suspension lapses. A suspended teacher loses their job and a permanent mark is placed on their record. Only 1 teacher in 100 years has successfully returned to teaching after suspension—and they were suspended for an unpaid fine.

7

Every other province has separated teacher discipline from the teachers’ union or association. Four provinces and all three territories have teacher discipline conducted by the profession. In British Columbia, the splitting  of their professional association has resulted in a dramatically different, more confrontational culture in schools.

 

FAQ

I’m exhausted and there is so much other stuff going on. Why should I care about this?   

We understand the pressure teachers are under now. We did not choose this fight, the minister did, knowing full well that teachers are feeling overwhelmed during the pandemic. Unfortunately, if we lose this battle it would have an irreversible impact on the culture of public education in our province.

If the ATA were to lose that disciplinary role, who would take on this function?

The minister has not been clear about what her plans are. In other provinces, this is done by the government, and in a couple of places, an independent college or regulatory body has been set up to perform this role.

Will my ATA fees change?

The exact impact is uncertain. Currently, the ATA incurs expenses to conduct investigations and to administer the discipline process, but we do not defend teachers in unprofessional conduct cases. In a revised system, the ATA will need to begin doing that, which will be costly. Teachers may also be required to pay fees for a regulatory college on top of their ATA dues.

Can we fight this in court?

It is unlikely that this is something that could be challenged in court, but it depends on how the legislation is structured. Currently the ATA is governed by an act of the legislature and the government is able to make changes. Provincial governments have the legal authority to govern professions.

What can I do about this?

The first, most important thing is to help your colleagues understand why this matters. Share information and draw their attention to this issue. After that, we need to have passionate and persistent contact with MLAs. The ATA will be launching tools to help with this.

Where can I get more information?

Look for the One Profession United brochure, which should be available from your ATA school representative. You can also find more at www.teachers.ab.ca, by clicking on the One Profession United graphic.