Premier Stephen McNeil said the vote today, Feb. 21, in the House of Assembly means the government will immediately move to take action and improve classroom conditions.
“This was challenging – for government, for teachers, and for parents,” said Premier McNeil. “The bill passed and it is time to move beyond the impasse and start working with teachers to improve classroom conditions.”
The Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act creates the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions. This body will give teachers direct input on how $20 million is invested to improve classrooms.
“This is a historic opportunity for our province’s teachers to shape the future of our education system,” said Premier McNeil. “The council ensures classroom teachers can communicate directly with government – they are the experts and this will ensure we hear directly from them.”
The majority of the council’s members are teachers – nine teacher representatives and four representatives appointed by the education department. Premier McNeil said a government amendment added an an arbitrator whose decisions would be binding.
“We have more than twice as many teachers as government reps on the council and an arbitrator can ensure decisions are binding,” said Premier McNeil. “This committee will mean improved classrooms and better working conditions for teachers.”
The act also creates a three-person Commission on Inclusive Education. Two experts in the field of inclusive education will be appointed, one by the minister and one by the union. They will appoint an appropriately qualified expert who will guide the commission. Their job will be to engage front-line teachers, parents, and students, and review best practices across Canada.
“The government’s bill contains strict timelines and ensures real action will be taken quickly,” said Premier McNeil.
Now that the bill has passed, government will:
— name the members of the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions within 14 days
— launch the Commission on Inclusive Education within 30 days
— receive recommendations to improve classroom conditions by April 30 and implement those recommendations before the start of the next school year
— receive an interim report from the Commission on Inclusive Education June 30 and start implementing its recommendations in the upcoming school year.
Premier McNeil said the government needed to use legislation to create a contract and move past the current impasse.
“The decision to pass this bill and create a new contract for teachers was not a decision we made lightly – but it was necessary,” said Premier McNeil. “We can now focus on working with teachers to strengthen our classrooms – that’s what is in the best interest of our students.”