Alberta is proposing new rules that would prevent the Alberta Teachers’ Association from disciplining its members who would instead be dealt with by an independent commissioner.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said it was a conflict of interest for the teachers’ union to be responsible for defending its members through collective bargaining while being the only arbiter to take them to task.
“Essentially, it’s about keeping students safe,” LaGrange said Thursday before introducing the bill in the Legislative Assembly.
“The result of this bill will be to have a single legislative structure to govern matters of discipline for the entire profession.”
LaGrange said Alberta is the only province where teacher discipline is not separated from the advocacy function of a union. She said the bill would not affect the union’s ability to defend its members, especially in contract negotiations.
“The ATA would have you believe this is an attack on teachers. Nothing, nothing, could be further from the truth,” LaGrange said.
The ATA called the bill vindictive, designed to punish them for challenging other initiatives such as the government’s proposed new K-6 curriculum.
ATA President Jason Schilling said they have little confidence in LaGrange to implement a transparent and accountable system given that he has failed to do so with private and charter schools. .
“The minister’s plan is to deprofessionalize teachers and in doing so she will destabilize one of the most successful public education systems in the world,” Schilling said.
NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman said the bill was nothing more than “political harassment.”
“Rather than respecting teachers and ensuring they have all the resources they need to help students learn in a safe and caring environment, Adriana LaGrange has cut teacher aides and other supports. that students with complex needs rely on,” Hoffman said.
“She is also moving forward with a widely discredited K-6 program that Alberta teachers, administrators, staff, families and education experts have overwhelmingly condemned.”
The bill aims to consolidate existing disciplinary methods and codes of conduct for teachers under a set of binding rules for all.
At present, the teachers’ association deals with the discipline of its active members, who represent nearly 90% of instructors, principals and other education officials.
The rest, including teachers from First Nations communities and public charter schools, are supervised by Alberta Education.
The bill proposes that any allegation of incompetence or unprofessional conduct be dealt with by a single commissioner appointed by Cabinet for a five-year term.
All complaints would first be directed to the commissioner, who would be authorized to make summary decisions, send complaints to mediation or dispute resolution, or have cases heard by a panel of teachers and members of the public. .
The Minister of Education would always have the last word, as is currently the case. The Minister can order disciplinary measures ranging from a letter of reprimand to the cancellation of a teaching certificate.
The bill also calls for more transparency. Findings of unprofessional conduct or incompetence would be posted online.
Employers would be required to report all disciplinary actions, including lighter penalties, rather than more serious consequences like suspensions and certificate terminations.
Employers would also be required to report allegations of serious harm or threats of serious harm to students by teachers to the police.
The aim is to have the new rules in place by early next year.
—Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press