Despite a global pandemic, much is happening in the world of education in Alberta. And the next few months will be busy.
Teachers continue to push back against changes being made to the investment management of their pension plan. Teachers were incensed to learn of the imposed investment management agreement, but they acted accordingly. You phoned and emailed your MLAs and you participated in the #HandsOffMyPension social media campaign. It is having an effect. The earplugs seem to be coming out, and we are now hearing of MLAs who are actually reaching out to teachers to talk about this issue.
Pensions are just one of the hot issues we are keeping an eye on.
We are expecting an announcement any day now that would release the latest drafts of the new elementary curriculum. We know that much work has been done to revise the previous drafts, and there are numerous signs that the changes will not be viewed favourably by teachers. The Association is already preparing to respond.
The issue of student and staff safety during the COVID pandemic will also continue to be a priority. Large urban high schools continue to be a cause of concern in this regard. Last month, at least four schools were forced to revert to online learning as a result of a number of positive cases, and massive numbers of students and staff being forced to quarantine for two weeks.
The Association is advocating for teachers and other school staff to be placed on the priority list in phase two of the vaccination rollout. President Jason Schilling has been talking to government officials about this since the fall and recently wrote the health minister to formalize the request. A number of school boards, including four large metro boards, have also joined in on the call.
February 25 is expected to be budget day, and there are lots of reasons to be pessimistic about next year’s budget. Government revenue is being hit hard as a result of low oil prices, reduced economic activity and high unemployment. Meanwhile, health care and other costs are dramatically higher as a result of the COVID pandemic. The 2020 deficit is projected to reach $21 billion, and an ideologically-driven government, currently plagued by scandal, is likely to take aggressive measures to try to fix that.
Which brings us to teacher bargaining. Things are not likely to move too fast on this front. We have not completed the preliminary phase of list bargaining yet and the matters bargaining at the central table will not proceed quickly. In the meantime, Association bargainers will be working on an opening proposal and will be engaging teachers in consultation on that in the next few weeks and months.
And on the topic of teacher input, PEC elections are underway. Races are underway for vice-president and four geographic districts, including the two large urban districts. Teachers are encouraged to learn more about the candidates and to prepare for the online vote in March.
With all this going on we want to make sure that teachers are kept in the loop.
We know that teachers are incredibly busy and that this year is more exhausting than ever. We don’t want to inundate you, but we do want to keep you informed.
Please help us keep you informed by taking a few minutes today to go to the ATA website and do these three quick things.
1. Confirm or create your online account.
Go to teachers.ab.ca and look for the links under My Online Account to either log in to the website or to create an account. If you don’t have an account, you will need your teaching certificate number to get started.
2. Update your profile.
Follow the link also located under My Online Account, or go directly to profile.teachers.ab.ca. Please ensure that we have an accurate home email address and phone number in case there is urgent news.
3. Sign up for Members’ Updates.
Sign up to receive periodic emergent news from the ATA directly to your inbox. Go to Bit.ly/MembersUpdate or find the link under My ATA > Members Only to sign up for these alerts.
Our members are our strength, and our strength comes from working together, so please sign on and stay tuned. Thank you for all you do. ❚
I welcome your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.