Students and parents across the province can heave a sigh of relief as teachers say they will not strike over controversial education reforms tabled in legislature by the government Thursday.
But the Nova Scotia Teachers Union president warned the union will hold Stephen McNeil’s Liberals accountable as the government moves to axe elected regional school boards and remove both principals and vice-principals from the union.
“A strike has been averted,” said NSTU president Liette Doucet to media in Halifax.
The government is not moving to establish a provincial teachers’ college and will reconsider a seniority list that may penalize rural educators, part of a wide-ranging reform package suggested by education consultant Dr. Avis Glaze last month.
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While a strike has been averted, for now at least, a strong mandate for job action remains as roughly four out of five teachers voted for job action last week.
Doucet also warned that scrapping regional English-language school boards will cause “chaos.”
The government says that a central advisory council will replace the boards.
The NSTU said the government did not properly engage teachers when pushing through its reforms.
“Much of this turmoil could have been avoided if the government conducted a proper consultation,” said Doucet.
While interim Progressive Conservative Leader Karla MacFarlane said members of her caucus are still combing through the education legislation introduced by the Liberals, she said she already has some reasons to be skeptical.
While there are some good aspects to the bill, she said “there’s nothing at this point that we’ve seen that is going to change the classroom environment which is something our party has always spoke about.”
The decision to get rid of the school boards and implement other recommendations in the Glaze Report were made hastily, MacFarlane said.
Consultations by Education Minister Churchill with members of the community were limited to 20, she said, which she points out is ironic when teachers in the province are expected to deal with upwards of 30 to 35 students in a class.
“He did not hear from a majority of people,” she said.
With files from Adam MacInnis.