MTS Rally for Public Education
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!”
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.”
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.
Listen to Norm Gould’s Kids Not Cuts 30-second radio spot:
May 24, 2018
Education Minister’s Address
“We have appreciated the professional approach of MTS, despite not always agreeing on all education issues“, said Education Minister Ian Wishart in his address to the annual general meeting on Thursday, May 24th, adding that he sees policy disagreements as ‘healthy discussions.’
“99 years is a long time as an organization, advocating for teachers, and it’s a significant achievement,” said Wishart, before adding that the landscape of education has seen significant changes over that period of time.
“Despite these changes, the constant element has been the teacher in the classroom, who have played and and continue to play an important role.”
The minister mentioned the upcoming education review that will begin in 2019 and will be “thorough and cover structures, funding and taxation.”
“The challenges lie in the future,” he said.
The results of a number of differences between MTS and the provincial government will extend far beyond teachers, said Society President Norm Gould.
“Our kids’ learning conditions are our working conditions,” said Gould, insinuating that this past year has been one of the most challenging years that teachers have faced in over a decade.
During his address to the 400 delegates at the 99th annual meeting of the MTS Provincial Council, Gould cited the passing of the wage freeze bill – Bill 28, the dismantling of the bureau de l’education francaise, the cuts to education funding, and the government’s move to hire private consulting firms to improve literacy and numeracy test scores.
He also reiterated that MTS was blindsided by the government’s announcement of moving to a provincial bargaining model, though the Society still doesn’t know what that model would look like.
All these changes made by the government without input from Manitoba’s teachers.
Despite the government’s campaigning on no cuts to frontline services, two years later education funding was cut by 1.5 per cent (taking in account two per cent inflation), along with new restrictions on school boards, limiting their abilities to tax.
“School enrollment is up, and classroom needs are growing. The educational underfunding is a travesty – under the mask of austerity,” said Gould.
Gould reminded the delegates that MTS is part of a coalition challenging the constitutionality of Bill-28 and stressed that MTS members have had and will continue to have influence on the government’s decisions. He urged members to continue to stand together and share information on issues as they arise.
Gould brought up similarities between this government and the Conservatives of the 1990s, as well as similarities between what was happening to teachers in Nova Scotia, notably the exclusion of principals and vice-principals from bargaining units.
“We need to make sure that we are respected. What’s happening in Nova Scotia could come our way and we need to be prepared. We have to make sure our teachers are heard.”
May 25, 2018
The Teachers’ Retirement Allowances Fund is strong, and there will be no need for a contribution increase, said Jeff Norton, chief executive officer of the Teachers’ Retirement Allowances Fund, thanks in part to a healthy investment return in 2017.
The plan projects it will stay fully funded for at least the next 20 years, though there are trends that could affect the plan in the future, including investment returns and the increasing longevity of retirees. On average, TRAF members who retire at age 60 in 2018 will collect a pension for almost 7 years longer than members who retired at age 60 in 1979, and that trend is on the rise.
“While the teacher contribution part of the pension funding is fully funded, the government’s portion of the pension will need further funding to prevent the funded status from deteriorating,” said Norton.
Delegates were also told that retirees who have been retired for longer than 18 months will be receiving a 1.35 per cent bump in their COLA, commencing July 1, 2018, due to a disbursing of the restricted surplus, in equal amounts over the next five years. Retirees who have been retired for less than 18 months will have their COLA pro rated.
The current membership profile of TRAF is 42.6 per cent active teachers, 39 per cent retirees, and 18.4 per cent deferred members (inactive members who have contributions remaining in the plan, and who will be entitled to a benefit). TRAF projects the average years on pension will be 30 years for females, and 28 for males.
TRAF also shared that:
- The average age of retirement for females is 59.8, and for males 59.7
- The average age of service for females is 25 years, and for males 28.9 years
- The oldest retired female is 107 and the oldest male is 101 years old.
May 26, 2018
New Provincial Executive
Following elections at the annual meeting of the MTS Provincial Council, the following is the provincial executive for 2018-2019:
Norm Gould, President
James Bedford, Vice-president
Ashleigh Deeley Michaluk
Delegates decided to defer the whistleblowing protection resolution to the provincial executive for further study. The resolution stated that members who report concerns will not be subject to repercussions, or reprisal, within the Society, its locals and associated organizations.
The resolution emphasized that wrongdoing within any organization should be reported. It says wrongdoing “includes, but is not limited to, significant and serious matters that are: potentially contrary to the interests of the Society” or “unlawful, dangerous, involve gross mismanagement of funds or assets or are contrary to the constitution bylaws or policies.”
Delegates had numerous questions on the resolution, including changes to the wording.
Principals and Vice-Principals in the Society
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society will oppose any attempt to separate principals and vice-principals from the teaching profession, or to deny principals and vice-principals the full rights of membership in the Society, and/or membership of a local bargaining unit.
Delegates to the annual meeting voted unanimously in favour of the resolution, which mentioned events from Nova Scotia earlier this year and the impending system-wide educational review here in Manitoba in January 2019.
The resolution states that “we must reaffirm the position of the Society that principals and vice-principals are first-and-foremost ‘principal’ teachers of the school, and that their inclusion in the Society fosters collaborative, collegial, consultative and cooperative working relationships with schools.”
It has been resolved that the Society will investigate the lack of certified substitutes, and the use/misuse of uncertified substitutes, and that further action with the government will be based on the findings.
The Society has heard many complaints from members who feel limited in participating in professional development activities due to a lack of available certified substitutes. When there are no available substitutes, principals and vice-principals have to step in and fill those roles.
The Society will request that Manitoba Education and Health review and embed mental health education in Grade K-12 curriculum.
“We are aware of the prevalence of mental health like never before and we are aware of how it affects our students,” said Kerry Enns. The resolution states that while present in the curriculum, mental health issues are not taught in ways that commensurate with our students’ needs.
Delegates passed a resolution that calls for MTS to lobby the provincial government to allocate revenue from the sale of cannabis for:
- An education program for students and their parents on the effects of cannabis.
- A professional development program for public school teachers that would include recognition of addiction, cannabis policy awareness and an overview of support services for drug use and addictions.
“By providing professional development for teachers we continue to support teachers not just in their role in the classroom, but also as role-models for their students,” said Sandy Turcotte.
Women Initiatives Supported
Recommendations of the MTS Women in Educational Leadership Commission were approved by delegates to the AGM.
The commission was established two years ago at the 2016 AGM, and has held focus groups across the province, including in Thompson, Gimli, Steinbach, Brandon, Winnipeg, Carman, Flin Flon and Dauphin.
“Educational partners should undertake a variety of specific actions to ensure the proportional representation of women within their structures,” the report says. “These actions must address the barriers women have identified and provide the support they need to be successful in a leadership role.”
The commission’s recommendations include:
- Using technology to provide members living outside Winnipeg to network and engage in learning experiences.
- Hosting an annual event to “support and encourage networking among women who are taking on leadership roles at the Local level and with the Society.
- Dedicating Society staff to women’s issues.
- Providing child care at the annual general meeting and MTS summer seminars with the goal of expanding that to other events.
- Providing grants to assist Locals in developing a strategic plan to implement the recommendations at the local level.
- Review of AGM electoral process for Provincial Executive to facilitate and encourage women’s involvement in the political process.
New Fee Set
Delegates approved the budget calling for a $20 yearly increase in members fees, for a total of $1008.
Last year, delegates to Provincial Council transferred $300,000 from reserves to ease the impact of the fee
increase. The same amount will be transferred this year to be used in the same way.
The Society’s total operating budget for 2018-2019 will be $15.7 million, excluding the Disability Benefits Plan.