Here we go again.
The Calgary Board of Education announced last week that it will cut 277 full time jobs, including 192 teaching positions, as part of its annual budget.
Predictably, the Alberta Teachers Association snapped into attack mode, demanding that teachers and parents lobby the provincial government to cough up more for education.
Even with the job cuts, the CBE is facing a $10-million deficit. A big part of the problem is the five-year agreement signed between the Province and teachers in 2007. Called a win-win outcome by both sides at the time, it has turned into a nightmare for both.
The Stelmach government, which was happy to buy labour peace for any price with your tax dollars, has spent itself into a multi-billion dollar deficit. The Province is now balking at paying for the contract it signed, leaving school boards across Alberta to pay for its mistake. The already cash-strapped school boards are doing what they have to do - laying off teachers to cover the difference.
Yet, it’s hard to feel sorry for the ATA. This is the union that shut down dozens of schools earlier this decade, ostensibly to demand smaller class sizes. Yet, when push came to shove, the union was more than happy to accept a large pay raise that virtually guaranteed the Province would not be able to afford hiring more teachers.
So, what does the future hold for education in Alberta? We know the premier’s first instinct is to buy labour peace and we know the ATA’s first instinct is to take higher pay over teaching jobs. We expect the Province to cover teachers’ pay increases next year despite its posturing. Afterall, an election is coming soon. We also expect the ATA to accept the layoffs of its younger members to protect the salaries of its senior members.
In short, we expect to have fewer, richer teachers. It’s a ‘win-win’ agreement, unless you’re a student or a taxpayer. In that case, it’s definitely a lose-lose.