After holding the top spot for two years, COVID-19 has fallen off the radar as a concern for Manitoba’s teachers (3%). According to the latest MTS membership poll, funding cuts (35%), inadequate resources (33%) and class sizes (19%) are the most pressing issues facing Manitoba’s 16,600 public school educators.
The annual poll, commissioned by MTS and conducted by Viewpoints Research, contacted 806 MTS members randomly selected from across the province to find out their views on issues ranging from their level of job satisfaction, and reasons for job dissatisfaction to feelings about their own mental health and perceptions of the supports and services available to them and their students, and much more.
Overall job satisfaction is in line with 2021 results with 85 per cent of members reporting being satisfied with their jobs, however those who are very satisfied continue to slide to a new historic low (29%).
The highest level of overall job satisfaction recorded was in 2006 (94%). 2006 also saw the highest number of members who were very satisfied with their jobs (55%). Overall job satisfaction and the percentage of members who are very satisfied with their jobs has gradually decreased since 2006.
Respondents indicated that class composition (61%) and workload (41%) were the two main reasons they were less satisfied with their jobs. Behavioural concerns saw the biggest increase, rising to 19 per cent from 11 per cent in 2021, as a factor in job dissatisfaction.
Members continue to lean on their colleagues for support, with 86 per cent agreeing that they feel the most supported by their peers. This statistic remains unchanged since 2019.
Most educators think MTS (94%), local school boards (78%) and trustees (65%) are reliable sources of information about education issues. However, only half of respondents perceive the news media as a reliable source of information.
Looking at the provincial government, even with a change in leadership, trust in government remains at an all-time low. A little more than three in 10 respondents (34%) consider Education Minister Wayne Ewasko to be a reliable source of information. By comparison, in 2017, 45 per cent of respondents agreed that Education Minister Ian Wishart was reliable. Wishart holds the highest reliability rating of all education ministers since 2016.
When it comes to Premier Heather Stefanson, 18 per cent of respondents consider her to be reliable. This is the lowest rating of a premier in recent history. Premier Brian Pallister had a 27 per cent reliability rating in 2020, while Premier Goertzen in 2021 during his short stint as head of the province polled at 28 per cent among MTS respondents.
The provincial government has been touting its investments in mental health supports for students and school staff and based on respondent feedback there are some improvements. Close to nine in 10 respondents agreed there is high awareness around mental health at their school (87%) and a majority agreed that mental health is promoted among students (79%) and staff (76%). Furthermore, three in four members agreed their students currently benefit from mental health supports and seven in 10 agreed when a need is identified, supports are accessible.
While this is a step in the right direction, a great need still exists. Nine in 10 respondents agreed that more students in their classroom could benefit from supports.
The story is similar when it comes to teachers’ mental health – some improvement, but still a long way to go. More than half of respondents rate their mental health as somewhat good to very good (51%) and, compared to last year, a similar number said their mental health is somewhat better to much better (50%). However, respondents are much less likely to be very stressed (36%) compared to 2020 (56%).
Most members (83%) are aware of the MTS Member and Family Assistance Program (HumanaCare) which was launched on Jan. 1, 2022. The service has been accessed by 30 per cent of respondents, totaling just under 5,000 members. Two out of three members were satisfied with the counseling services offered through HumanaCare.
Overall confidence in the ability of MTS to advocate for public education remains high at 82 per cent. Members who feel they are better off as part of MTS is similar to past results (80%). The main benefits of MTS membership are support/protection/job security, strength in numbers and representation (69%), unchanged from previous years.
The margin of error for this poll is ±3.3%, with the data considered accurate 19 times out of 20.
– Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of the MB Teacher
Samantha Turenne is a writer for the MB Teacher magazine and the Public Affairs Facilitator for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society.