ATA accepts offer, school boards hesitant

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has accepted the newest offer made by the government.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has accepted the newest offer made by the government.

Previously, the ATA rejected Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s proposal because it didn’t address their concerns.

ATA President Carol Henderson said the proposal was rejected not because of teachers’ salaries but because it lacked any shred of hope for teachers. The new deal gives hope but freezes salaries for three years, in the fourth year there’s a two per cent increase and a one-time lump sum given.

The proposal, which came from Premier Alison Redford, addressed two of the main concerns. “It was the first offer that included stability for teachers,” said Henderson.

Redford’s offer also addressed teacher workloads. On average, Alberta’s teachers are working 56 hours per week. “There would be a process in place to study teachers’ workloads,” Henderson explained.

The new deal is being recommended by the ATA to teachers across the province. By March 18 teachers in Palliser Regional Division had already voted in favour of the agreement.

“Our commitment is to keep our promise to the premier,” said Henderson. The ATA will address all 62 school boards and ensure the merits of the offer are made clear.

“We know a lot of school boards are unhappy, and some are confusing the budget with the agreement. They’re not related,” said Henderson.

Henderson feels the boards should accept the offer, but keep it and the budget separate. “If the boards accept this offer we’re really hoping they’ll continue to advocate for the funding they need to continue their programs. That’s their work to do.”

Alberta School Boards Association still hesitant

School boards across the province are divided on the offer. Some are willing to accept, other say they will reluctantly accept and the remaining have written, saying they won’t accept the offer as it’s proposed.

Over the past week the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) has been working with the government to craft a signed “comfort letter” to address concerns of the boards.

On March 21, after reviewing the deal and the comfort letter the ASBA board of directors passed the formal motion that they are referring the agreement and the draft comfort letter to individual school boards for ratification.

Trudy Bratland, chairperson of Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), says it’s up to individual boards to tell the ASBA if they’re for or against the offer.

“We honestly don’t know what will happen.”

Bratland says the unofficial consensus of WCPS board is to reluctantly go along with the agreement “because if we don’t we don’t know what will happen.”

There was a meeting March 18 involving members of the school boards and the government. Bratland says several parts of the agreement were still unclear, such as unknown committees and their power and duration.

Bratland says the government is finally beginning to answer their questions, but the process is slow. “The process was a disappointment to our board.”