Following the overwhelming rejection, for a second time in less than one year, of a tentative agreement between teachers and the Government, I want to take a few minutes to start a real discussion.
There is a lot of stressful uncertainty – from teachers, parents, kids, childcare providers and many others – about how this current impasse will be resolved. Many issues are being rolled into one. Premier McNeil would have the public believe that your recent vote was about money and teachers’ perqs. My PC Caucus colleagues and I don’t believe that.
Outside of the context of these two tentative agreements, my Caucus colleagues and I have spoken with many teachers across the province over the past few years. They are all telling us the same thing. The real issues stem from eroding classroom supports, coupled with ever increasing demands of teachers. We regularly hear that teachers are asked to do more with less. Many teachers also tell us that they are seeing ever higher mental health needs. We hear you. Mental health support in our schools will be a big part of our PC platform.
At the core of every position we take here is this goal: real educational success for Nova Scotian children, whatever educational stream they choose. To be clear, we do not want the school year disrupted. The PC Caucus does not want a strike. We believe few people do.
We also believe the best way to avoid a strike is to open dialogue, and serious discussion about classroom supports for teachers and students.
I am writing today to ask teachers to share with us your classroom experiences, as well as the specific supports needed to improve the classroom learning environment. What is missing? What has been cut back? What has been downloaded to you? What resources are needed? And, most importantly, how have these challenges undermined the ability of our kids to succeed? What do you recommend?
I believe this needs to be a frank and honest discussion. For example, do we have a meaningful attendance policy?
As another example, we hear that the capped class EAs have been cut this year. Is this true? What are the impacts?
Please share specific examples with me or contact any of my PC MLA colleagues. The Legislature will soon begin its Fall Session. The more examples of classroom supports we gather, the better we will be able to ask real questions of the McNeil Government about what is wrong in school and what the consequences are to all of us of them continuing to ignore it.
Please feel free to distribute this letter to other teachers in the best way possible, across your various communications channels. PC MLAs sincerely want to hear from you.
We believe that the possibility of the first province-wide teacher strike in Nova Scotia history is a failure of the McNeil government. They failed to listen. They didn’t hear the real concerns. The PC Caucus, does not want a strike. We don’t think anyone really wants a strike. Let’s work together to get the real issues out there, not just the McNeil government messaging.
Hon. Pat Dunn, MLA
PC Education & Early Childhood Development Critic