Today, Feb. 14, government is introducing legislation that will address classroom conditions and provide a fair wage package to the province’s teachers.
When passed, the Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act creates a contract for members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and means the union is no longer in a legal strike position.
“For more than two months, this impasse, and continued work-to-rule strike action, have had a negative impact on our students, our families, our teachers and our communities,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey. “On three separate occasions, the union and government reached tentative agreements that were rejected by the membership. We want the disruptions to students to end.”
The bill establishes the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions, composed of classroom teachers and representatives from the union and government, and invests $20 million over two years to address issues in the classroom.
The bill also establishes 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 commission will be launched within 30 days of the bill being passed. It must return with an interim report by June 30 to allow for initial implementation in the upcoming school year.
Current class caps will be maintained for grades Primary to 6. Government will continue to respond to class size issues in junior and senior high. Class sizes, at all levels, will be addressed by the council. In addition, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will issue directives to superintendents and school boards reinforcing that there are to be no, “no-fail” policies, and to immediately begin engagement on and implementation of an attendance policy.
The bill provides a wage pattern for teachers which remains at a three per cent increase over four years, consistent with what has been accepted by ten other employee groups. Newer teachers will continue to receive step increases of up to five per cent per year.
Retirement bonuses will be frozen and based on the salary a teacher makes upon retirement, as per the three tentative agreements. The Department of Finance and Treasury Board will immediately begin work to create a program to provide employees with the option to access the public service award earlier than retirement.
The three separate tentative agreements were reached in November, 2015, September, 2016, and January 2017.
The last agreement with teachers expired July 31, 2015.