Public Education, Our Priority (PEP)
by Heidi Yetman, President  |  2018-09-05

CTF Executive for 2018-2019: From left to right: CTF Secretary General Cassandra Hallett; VP Clint Johnston, BCTF; VP Heidi Yetman, QPAT; President designate Bethany MacLeod, PEITF; CTF President H. Mark Ramsankar, ATA; VP Shelley Morse, NSTU and VP Sam Hammond, ETFO.

I am so humbled and excited to have been elected as one of the four Vice-Presidents of the Canadian Teachers Federation at their Annual General Meeting which was held this summer in Edmonton, Alberta.

Meeting teachers from across Canada really opens your eyes to many of the problems facing education today. It is nice to know that we are not alone. The biggest criticism by educators and unions is that governments are not investing enough in education. Governments are using austerity measures to save money and pay off debts. This is typical of the neoliberal agenda.

Neoliberalism is the political term used to describe the new approach to the global economy, and its effects on education are important. Individualism and freedom supersede the welfare of the public. Capitalism is valued. Unions are condemned. In other words, profit is good, and public is bad.

The impacts of this overriding paradigm are overwhelming: increased workload, competition between schools, expanding choices for parents, amplified paperwork, increased evaluation with an emphasis placed on results, highly controlled curriculum resulting in the reduction of teacher autonomy, use of data to create policies, insertion of big corporations such as Google and the use of public funds to support privatization.

Teachers across Canada are fighting governments that use austerity.

Nova Scotia teachers walked off the job for the first time in history last year demanding to be heard. Their government has removed school boards and reorganized the members of the union.

Manitoba teachers are fighting a Conservative government under Pallister who wants to freeze salaries and restrict collective bargaining.

The Ontario teachers have a lot to fight. Doug Ford's Conservative government has put the most up-to-date sex curriculum on the back burner and has told teachers that they will have to use the 1998 curriculum or there will be consequences. The abolition of the province's cap-and-trade system has annulled investment into retrofitting schools for the 21st century. The 100-million-dollar fund for school repairs has been scrapped. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We had difficult negotiations in 2015 and we are headed into an election in October. On September 9th, the Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement (FSE) is launching a mobilization campaign entitled PEP (Ensemble, pour l'école publique). The campaign is aimed at promoting public education and raising public awareness. The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) will participate by providing teachers with electrostatic stickers which they can put on their cars. PEP will be translated in English to Public Education, our Priority. Education should be a priority and I will be looking carefully at each party’s platform on education before I give them my vote on October 1st.

There is also a petition asking for government to invest in public education. You can find it at the following link (at this time, the petition is only available in French):élections-provinciales-2018-exigeons-des-engagements-pour-l-école-publique

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