Q & A: Why is the ATA pulling out of regional consortia?

May 30, 2017 Gordon Thomas, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: The Alberta Teachers’ Association has announced that it is withdrawing its representatives on the boards of the seven regional consortia across the province. What is going on?

Answer: The regional consortia have a long history — more than two decades. The concept of a regional consortium began in southern Alberta with the University of Lethbridge. In the late 1980s, the U of L was very interested in options that would provide some efficiencies to the delivery of teacher professional development programs.

Since there was a lot of reliance upon the U of L faculty of education, professors found themselves doing sessions in Brooks one day and Medicine Hat the next. The idea was that, with some planning, teacher PD could be much more efficient. The proposal worked its way through government and in due course a pilot project was born. It was very successful, and so when the Klein government reduced funding for K–12 education in the mid 1990s, it was very important to find an efficient PD model. The success of the Southern Alberta Professional Development Consortium led to the establishment of five more consortia in 1996 (a francophone PD consortium was added later to bring the total to seven).

The boards governing each consortium included all education partners given that, in the name of efficiency, the model was established to meet the learning needs of all the education partners, by providing a program for newly elected trustees, preparation for school councils, PD for superintendents, etc.

However, today regional consortia do not deliver programs for most of the education partners. The government funds the Alberta School Boards Association directly, and it does the same for the College of Alberta School Superintendents and others. Almost all consortia programming is devoted to teachers. Given that, it seems odd that the consortium board is governed by non-teachers.

Since most other education partners receive funding to meet their learning needs directly from the government, the Association believes that the same practice should apply to the teaching profession. Provincial Executive Council decided to withdraw our representatives from the consortia effective June 30, 2017 and to ask the minister to provide funding to the Association directly, as the government does for other education partners. The Association is also willing to assume responsibility for the operation of the consortia — the issues are appropriate governance and equity to education partners, not the consortium program or staff. We are also very willing to work with the government during a transition period. ❚

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca).

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