ATA president brings rallying cry to conventions around the province
“When you get back to school next week, I want you to look your students in the eyes and say to yourself, ‘that’s what I’m fighting for.’”
Such is the message being delivered to teachers by Association President Mark Ramsankar as he attends teachers’ conventions this winter. Ramsankar has presented at seven conventions so far this year, including stops in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Calgary and Red Deer last Thursday and Friday alone.
With his presentation, Changing Times? A Conversation with the President, Ramsankar is urging teachers to stand up for students, to stand up for themselves and to stand up for schools.
“We are coming out of a legislated framework that said zero, zero and zero; we have done our part,” he told teachers at the Calgary City Teachers’ Convention, in response to talk of a rollback to public sector wages.
Ramsankar went on to remind teachers that, during the Klein years, teachers agreed to a five per cent wage rollback in order to protect the jobs of younger teachers, and the government cut the jobs anyway.
Ramsankar also responded to Finance Minister Robin Campbell’s prediction of a five per cent cut to budgets. Ramsankar noted that such a cut would have the same effect as cutting service levels by 10 per cent because school board costs are going up two per cent, and the student population is rising by three per cent.
“We cannot function with a 10 per cent hit in funding,” he told teachers. “A 10 per cent cut? What do we tell parents? Don’t send your kids to school next year? What would it look like if we closed 10 per cent of our schools?”
Ramsankar says that the government is saying services in this province will be held hostage to the price of a barrel of oil.
“We can’t allow them to balance the budget on the backs of students and teachers because they have screwed it up for 40 years,” he said.
The presentation also discusses a number of other important issues in education, including student learning assessments, gay-straight alliances, school infrastructure, full-day kindergarten and inclusive education. But the main rallying cry is a call for teachers to engage.
Ramsankar points out that the ATA’s Provincial Executive Council is working very hard on teachers’ behalf and that council is working on strategic partnerships with groups like the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees to co-ordinate efforts.
“It’s important enough for me to carry your voice, but we need members to engage too,” Ramsankar said. “If the people closest to the cause won’t advocate, who will?”
The last statement Ramsankar leaves for teachers is, "This is the playing field and we are all in the game. The fact is, we are all starters and there is no room for standing still!"