By George Stephenson
More than 1,500 spirited public school teachers, principals, vice-principals and supporters packed the front of the Legislature Friday, May 25, putting the government on notice.
As one of the crowd’s chants put it:
“When education’s under attack, what do we do?
“Stand up, fight back.”
Among other issues, teachers have been roused by provincial funding that has fallen short of the rate of inflation for two straight years. That has resulted in cutbacks at the classroom level and the loss of teaching positions in some divisions. And this is happening at a time when enrolment is increasing.
Brandon teacher Tammy Tutkaluk told the crowd that an extra dollar a day for every Manitoba student would make a profound difference.
“Students who have said, ‘I’m not dumb. I’m just as smart as everyone else. I just have to work harder because I don’t have the words.’
“For a dollar a day these students could have EAL teachers to work with them.”
Tutkaluk said she has a student who stutters.
“He is a brilliant and intelligent student, quick and clever in all subject areas. But when it comes to speaking, he struggles with every word.
“He struggles so badly talking aloud that he frequently ends up in tears.
“If he could have one more dollar a day, he could have more speech therapy than his 15 minutes once a six day cycle.”
Speeches at the rally were punctuated by loud applause and chants: “Kids not cuts! Kids not cuts!”
“We are the voice of education across the country and it starts right here in Winnipeg. We are here to say that public education is for our students and our children. It is the future of this province that is going to benefit from fully-funded public education.”
– Mark Ramsankar, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation
Winnipeg principal Michelle Jean-Paul said fading funding makes it more difficult for schools to meet the obligations and responsibilities to students.
“In my ten years as a school leader, I have seen an increase in the needs of our children. As we try to create equitable spaces within our schools and within the greater society, public school educators are expected to do more with less.
“In our school, we have an acronym that captures our school’s values. The “E” in PEACE stands for “Everyone Counts”. If we believe that everyone or every child counts, then we need to create conditions in which every child can flourish.”
MTS President Norm Gould pointed out that 21 school divisions will receive less funding this year while 16 will receive more. Meanwhile, Manitoba continues to grow and, along with that, classrooms continue to grow. Even so, the province eliminated mandatory class size caps in early years.
“This means less one-on-one time with students who need it most. This program was cancelled before it was out of the five-year pilot stage.”
Gould outlined a list of government actions that have, or will have, an impact on students. After each, the crowd shouted “Shame!”
He said that the rally showed a commitment to public education that was lacking in the current provincial government.
And, he said, the rally was just the beginning of turning commitment to action.
Mark Ramsankar, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, told the crowd colleagues from across Canada stand in support.
“We are the voice of education across the country and it starts right here in Winnipeg,” he said. “We are here to say that public education is for our students and our children. It is the future of this province that is going to benefit from fully-funded public education.”
— This story was originally printed in the June 2018 issue of The Manitoba Teacher Magazine