The layoff of thousands of education support workers has prompted the Alberta Teachers’ Association to create a website that enables visitors to contact their MLAs.
On Saturday, March 28, Alberta Education announced that it was directing school authorities to limit the use of substitute teachers effective March 31, give notice to educational assistants that their services would not continue beyond the end of April, and immediately give notice to non-essential support staff and board-employed bus drivers.
The directives came in conjunction with news that a 14 per cent reduction in the base instruction grant would be applied to payments that boards receive in May and June.
ATA president Jason Schilling reacted to the plan by saying that the Alberta government missed an opportunity to show leadership in a crisis by ensuring that thousands of Albertans have continuity of income at this stressful time.
“Today’s announcement is very concerning,” Schilling said. “Teachers and educational assistants work closely together to facilitate student learning. Their work was still being utilized to support students in need of accommodations and those with inadequate access to technology. We continue to have concerns about how students with special needs will be supported through this time. Many parents are struggling and need as much help as possible.”
The Association estimates that around 6,000 substitute teachers and up to 20,000 support staff will be affected by the funding cut.
The ATA has been pushing hard to ensure that substitute teachers are supported during the period of school closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Schilling said.
“Teachers also stand in solidarity with the support staff affected by this disappointing decision,” Schilling said. “I appreciate we are in extraordinary times, but laying off tens of thousands of workers at this time is the wrong direction.”
In a communication to education stakeholders, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that the government is making its decisions based on the following four principles:
- The safety of students and staff comes first.
- Student learning will continue.
- Resources continue to flow to schools.
- School authorities have flexibility to do what is best for your community.
“While this is not an easy decision — it is the right decision for the province as we responsibly manage taxpayer dollars during the pandemic,” she said.
She added that any savings incurred as a result of these adjustments will be redirected to Alberta’s COVID-19 response and that staff impacted by these funding adjustments will qualify for the federal government’s enhanced employment insurance program and other support programs for Canadian workers.
A website has since been set up in the hope of pressuring the government to reverse its decision. The site enables users to enter their address then click a link that connects their phone to the office of their local MLA. Suggested talking points are included.
“The government doesn’t need to do this,” the site states. “It is not too late to force them to reverse this bad decision.” ❚
A new website has been set up to combat the Alberta government’s latest funding cut.