Trust has to be earned on province's education reforms

Teachers only have two options: sit back and let the government tear apart school administration and hope things are better after. Or fight.

click to enlarge Trust has to be earned on province's education reforms
Laura Patterson is an activist, advocate and lifelong resident of Halifax. She writes about politics and culture.

Stephen McNeil’s government is looking to railroad Nova Scotians into an overhaul of school administration based only on some thinly supported recommendations from a partisan education consultant. We should all be worried.

A report from the Commission on Inclusive Education is due back in March. So why are changes being rushed based only on the Glaze report? Nova Scotia has a mechanism for auditing our institutions. Why has no report on school administration been requested from the Nova Scotia auditor general?

Teachers have been doing an incredible job fighting these changes, but the effort from the NSTU has often fallen short.

The website the union created isn’t informative. Communication via social media is mostly lacking and disjointed. A third-party review of the Glaze Report was delivered to the NSTU on Friday, but the union executive chose not to release it until Monday. The NSTU needs to modernize its communications operation.

One section of that third-party review cuts to the heart of the issue,

“For a report organized around foundational principles of improving student achievement, improving equity and excellence and global citizenship, the overarching actually on administration and governance. The claim is made that ‘while student performance may not immediately be linked to administration and governance, I strongly believe it is.’ (p.14) Implementing a significant policy and changing a governance structure because of a ‘belief’ that it is connected to student achievement on standardized test is not a firm basis for a radical restructuring of Nova Scotia’s education system.”

Teachers only have two options now. They can sit back, let Stephen McNeil, Zack Churchill and Avis Glaze tear apart and rebuild school administration and hope things are better after. Or they can fight. Do whatever they can to resist, mobilize the public and to try to make government reconsider.

Teachers' jobs will be secure even if the Glaze Report changes go ahead. So why are they fighting? Contrary to a persistent and vocal chorus in this province, they aren't fighting for a raise, perks, time off, or—as one particularly stupid take goes—to have the government hire hordes of unneeded teachers so they can swell the ranks of the union.

If the Liberals go ahead with implementation as planned, teachers know that kids who need additional supports will be left further behind in the upheaval.

In jurisdictions where principals were removed from the teachers union, grievance rates increased dramatically. That means an increase of administrative overhead to deal with grievances while morale suffers. Does this also open the door to principals from outside of education?

The province has said they'll save $1.2 million by abolishing elected school boards. That’s something, but how much will it cost to implement these changes? How long will it take? Will funds be spent on things like hiring more school psychologists in the meantime, or will parents be told to wait?

When elected members are gone, how well will all communities be represented? Will every voice be heard, or will affluent communities with more time and resources have their voice heard above others? Will all new positions be political appointments?

This overhaul of administration is motivated more by Stephen McNeil's lust for centralized services than a genuine desire to ensure kids are getting a good and supported education.

Teachers don't trust the process as it has played out, and who can blame them?


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