January 25, 2015

MTA Referendum: Is NOW the time to propose extending term limits?

By Robert Green

Next week members of the MTA will be asked to vote on an amendment to the union’s constitution that will result in the electoral terms of MTA executive members being extended from one year to two years.

calvin-on-term-limits-for-dadsOstensibly this is being proposed by MTA President Peter Sutherland as a cost-saving measure for the union. While this measure, if approved, will certainly lead to the union saving on the cost of annual elections, there are several questions MTA members should be asking themselves before deciding how to vote.

The first question is why now? We are currently in negotiations for a new contract. Is this the time to come forward with a referendum that will potentially divide the membership? At this time when the stakes are so high for teachers and the future of education in Quebec, is this not the time that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing the collective power of MTA members? In proposing this referendum he seems to be focusing instead on enhancing his own power as MTA president. Even if one believes that this proposal is valid as a cost-saving measure, what would be the harm in waiting until after negotiations are complete in order to have this debate?

While it is undeniable that if approved by the members this proposal will save the union money, it is also undeniable that this proposal will reduce the degree of democratic accountability for our union leadership. Crucially it will mean that Mr Sutherland will not have to face the possibility of an election in the year following these negotiations. Thus far the MTA’s leadership has provided little vision as to how teachers can actually succeed in these negotiations and avoid repeating the debacle of 2005 when we were decreed back-to-work. By proposing this referendum now, instead of after the negotiations our current leadership will enjoy the benefit of not having to face the possibility of being held accountable for what transpires in these negotiations for almost two years.

Related to the issue of regular democratic accountability, is the issue of raising the MTA’s fees. Given our declining membership the MTA is in a financial crunch. Either we will have to make deep cuts to spending or we will have to increase the fees that teachers pay. The small savings that would occur if this referendum passes will not change this fact. Mr Sutherland knows very well that this is the case. He also knows very well that a referendum to increase fees will not be popular with the membership, particularly in the absence of any sacrifices being made by the union president with respect to his $92k+ salary.

To stand for election the same year that one is proposing to raise fees is not an attractive proposition for anyone. Indeed the last time the MTA leadership attempted to raise fees was six years ago, before the president’s post was being regularly contested in election. Since this time no MTA president has dared to raise fees, instead choosing to eat into the union’s accumulated surplus. In other words the possibility for annual elections served as a real disincentive for our union leadership to propose fee increases. MTA members should be asking themselves if eliminating the possibility for annual elections will not be making it easier or more tempting for our union leadership to propose raising fees.

The stakes have never been higher for Quebec’s teachers. Nearly every aspect of our working conditions are currently under attack by government. If MTA members want to send a message that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing our collective power rather than his own personal power as MTA president, they should vote no in this week’s referendum.

January 19, 2015

LES ENSEIGNANTS SONT TROP GÉNÉREUX

By SYLVAIN DANCAUSE | Published Jan 18, 2015 by La Presse

Excerpt:

Qui plus est, ce bénévolat en moins aura un impact économique. Ensuite, j’imagine que j’ai le droit à deux pauses de 15 minutes par jour et à un dîner d’une heure. Excellent ! Je ne serai pas disponible pour mes élèves. Ils ont des questions, des conseils, du rattrapage, des explications, de la récupération, des pleurs, de l’anxiété, etc. Désolé ! La porte est fermée.

Faire des appels aux parents ? Je suis prêt à discuter et à partager lors de mon temps officiel de travail. Dorénavant, je ne ferai que ce pour quoi je suis payé et je le ferai du lundi au vendredi de 8 h 30 à 16 h 30. La correction et les préparations de cours les soirs et les fins de semaine ? Terminé. Je ne travaille plus lors de ces moments. Bref, une belle grève du zèle en perspective.

Read more: http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/d726381c-29f3-4f92-a96c-b8895f436586%7C_0

January 18, 2015

Éducation : l’hypocrisie de Philippe Couillard

January 16, 2015

ENSEIGNEMENT : J’AI ENVIE DE DÉCROCHER

By KARINE HAMEL | Published Jan 15, 2015 by La Presse

Excerpt:
Je ne veux pas devenir une simple fonctionnaire qui compte ses heures et fait le minimum. Ce n’est pas pour ça que j’ai choisi cette « vocation ».

Comme je songe à aller voir ailleurs si ma place y est, le gouvernement Couillard fait l’annonce de nouvelles mesures. Je vais le prendre comme la confirmation de mes doutes. Un nouvel enseignant sur cinq quitte en début de carrière. Et je crois que je ferai partie du lot. Je lis tous ces enseignants d’expérience qui disent être de plus en plus découragés, au bout du rouleau, qui craignent pour la relève. Je les approuve.
Read more: http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/1448cf9a-fbd1-4d6e-81d9-2b1fcad52b65%7C_0.html

January 10, 2015

Teachers should not be the only ones who take teaching seriously

By Katharine Cukier | Published Jan 9, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette

Excerpt:

I have 150 wonderful students in an enriched-program high-school, but I have reading and writing levels that range from Grade 5 to CEGEP level in each of my classes of 28-30. The trick, or the art, if you will, is how to stimulate the top third, while keeping the middle engaged. The more challenged third always need one-on-one time for revising and editing, review and encouragement. And then there are the 30 individuals, mini human universes, in each class to consider, as well. In my classroom, I am a non-stop stand-up comedian, sergeant-major disciplinarian, brownie baking and naggy mom-ster. I’m also an 21st-century anachronism, so I also get really, really excited about poetry and Shakespeare and do my best to think of fresh, inspired pedagogical cartwheels to light the spark.

Teaching kids in the 21st century demands patience, humour, creativity and stamina. And humility. It also demands that governments support the role of teachers in our society and that means genuine attention to our working conditions. The contract issues of workload, salary, class size, pensions are all issues of respect for teachers, but are implicitly tied to respect for our children and their future. We need to reinvigorate the truism: education matters to the well-being of individuals and societies and therefore, teachers, the essential human capital in education, require long-term investment.

Read more: http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/opinion-teachers-should-not-be-the-only-ones-who-take-teaching-seriously

January 8, 2015

Austerity for Quebec’s schools and an insult for Quebec’s teachers

By Robert Green | An edited version of this article was published Jan 7, 2015 by the Montreal Gazette

During his most recent election campaign Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard stated that protecting the quality of education would be one of his government’s main priorities.

It is now clear, Phillipe Couillard was not telling the truth.

Since coming into office he and his hapless Minister of Education Yves Bolduc have done nothing but propose policies that will harm the quality of education in Quebec.

teacher_payBy insulting teachers with a contract offer that will likely see their real wages eroded by at least 7 percent over five years, the Couillard government is sending a clear message that it does not value the teaching profession. Quebec’s teachers are already the lowest paid in Canada with some of the most difficult working conditions. If this initial offer is any indication, the government is intent on ensuring that this wage gap with teachers in other provinces not only remains but in fact widens.

What is the cost for students and for society as a whole when high quality teachers are driven out of the profession, or worse, when high quality candidates choose not to enter the profession in the first place? Sadly, if Couillard has his way, we may soon find out.

Perhaps even more insulting to teachers is the government’s proposal to increase our workload. What Mr Bolduc doesn’t seem to realize is that past increases to our workload have made it such that teachers already cannot accomplish the task they have been assigned within the hours they are paid. Despite this fact, the vast majority of teachers, because they are committed professionals, choose to take marking home to do during evenings and weekends. It is also extremely common for teachers to use their sick days to catch-up on marking. Each time teachers do either of these things they are in effect making a personal donation to Quebec’s public education system and helping to cover-up the fact that past governments have not made adequate investments in education.

To threaten to increase the workloads of teachers in such a context where the vast majority of teachers are already working an untold number of unpaid hours from home demonstrates that Couillard and Bolduc are either utterly ignorant of the realities of Quebec’s teaching profession or reckless ideologues that simply don’t care. The government is risking alienating teachers to the point where we stop working hours for which we are not paid. If that happens we will not need to strike because the system, which is being propped up by the thousands of volunteer hours donated by Quebec’s teachers, will fall apart.

Perhaps the most obvious example of the Couillard government’s total disregard for public education is his proposal to remove limits on class size. This was accompanied by Bolduc’s astonishing claim that there is no evidence to suggest that class size reductions improve educational outcomes. That Quebec’s Minister of Education is unversed in the enormous body of research demonstrating the contrary is disturbing enough; that he apparently didn’t even bother to do a little research before making this announcement demonstrates a shocking level of disregard for the public interest.

Of course the government claims that these tough decisions are necessary to tame Quebec’s ballooning deficit. The problem with this claim is that in many places around the world where such austerity measures are being implemented economic growth is harmed and deficits end up growing. Since 2012 the IMF has made repeated warnings against further austerity because of its demonstrated capacity to harm economic growth.

The other problem with the government’s claim is that our current deficits were not in fact caused by spending. Since the early nineties government spending in Quebec has been trending downward. Quebec’s public sector has time and again done its part to help government achieve the goal of deficit reduction. The real cause of our current deficit is a series of tax cuts enacted since the early 2000’s that have disproportionately benefited Quebec’s wealthiest citizens to an enormous degree. For example, according to L’Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economique (IRIS) the $950 million in tax cuts the Liberals offered in 2007-2008 provided absolutely nothing to households with $25,000 in income, $110 to households with $50,000 in income and a whopping $1859 to households with $150,000 in income. The cut to taxes on capital gains which began in 2005-2006 was essentially a massive gift to the banks that deprives Quebec’s public coffers of 1.9 billion annually.

Reversing these two tax cuts alone would almost eliminate Quebec’s deficit. Instead, Couillard is asking vulnerable public school children to pay for these tax cuts. This is not a necessity; it is a choice he is making.

If Couillard wants Quebecers to believe that he is anything other than a reckless right-wing ideologue intent on protecting the interests of the wealthy he should explain how cutting a public education system that benefits all Quebecers is preferable to reversing these tax cuts which have benefited so few.

 

January 6, 2015

Enseignant cherche employeur pour réorienter sa carrière

By Jean-François Mercure | Published Dec 29, 2014 by Le Devoir

Cher employeur potentiel, par la présente, je vous signifie mon désir de réorienter ma carrière.

Je suis jeune, dynamique, souriant, etc. Mon travail acharné des dernières années m’a amené à développer moult compétences, à raison de plus d’une cinquantaine d’heures par semaine (mon employeur actuel vous dirait sans doute que j’en fais 32, mais qui peut bien croire un ministre de nos jours ?). Voici un bref résumé de ces compétences.

J’ai un grand sens de l’organisation : j’arrive à mener de front une planification tant annuelle qu’hebdomadaire, en plus de maximiser chaque minute de toutes mes journées de travail. Cette planification, modulable en tout temps, se déploie dans six disciplines et fait interagir plus d’une centaine de personnes. « Logistique » est mon deuxième nom !

J’ai un bon niveau de maîtrise de notre chère langue maternelle, tant à l’oral qu’à l’écrit. Patiemment, dans une rétroaction éducative, je suis en mesure de reformuler diverses phrases comme : « Tu comptes-tu ça ? », « ch’rais bin mieux chez nous d’vant à Wii » et autres atrocités du genre. Je suis aussi apte à réviser et annoter des dizaines de copies écrites dans un français parfois plus qu’approximatif. Une vraie machine…

Read more: http://m.ledevoir.com/societe/education/427716/enseignant-cherche-employeur-pour-reorienter-sa-carriere

 

January 5, 2015

A Montreal teacher’s wish for 2015

By Robert Green | Published by the Montreal Gazette as part of the article “15 Wishes for Montreal in 2015” by Katherine Wilton

In 2015, I would like to see an end to politicians attempting to accomplish their goals at the expense of vulnerable public-school students. Last year, it was teachers and students from various religious minorities being stigmatized by the Parti-Québécois government’s proposed charter of values; this year, it’s (Quebec Premier Philippe) Couillard attempting to balance the budget by asking vulnerable students to pay for all the tax cuts the previous Liberal government had doled out to the rich. Montreal’s public schools have a high numbers of students with special needs and students from low-income families. These are inevitably the students most affected when budgets for education and other social services are cut. When Mr. Couillard was running for election, he stated that he saw education as an investment in Quebec’s future. It would be nice if in 2015 he showed this was more than empty rhetoric by doing two things: 1) reversing the cuts to public education; 2) dealing fairly with the province’s teachers in upcoming contract negotiations.

December 23, 2014

Lettre à «mon patron» Yves Bolduc: un enseignant se vide le cœur

By Pierre-Olivier Fortin | Published Dec 22, 2014 by Le Journal de Montréal

Excerpt:

«Hypocrisie»

Il ne conçoit pas qu’un ministre de l’Éducation puisse commander de telles coupes. «À combien se négocie votre hypocrisie, au fond de votre conscience muette?»

M. Bernière craint que le temps ne finisse par faire oublier ces réformes lancées coup sur coup ces dernières semaines. «Ceux qui essaieront de dénoncer votre incompétence auront trop de difficulté à suivre le rythme, tandis que les autres s’en lasseront», écrit-il.

«Méprisable marionnette»

Mais lui, promet ne pas oublier. «Vous resterez à mes yeux, […] aussi longtemps que je […] m’évertuerai à façonner tête par tête un monde meilleur, la méprisable marionnette de M. le premier ministre [Philippe] Couillard, lui-même le disciple servile d’une idéologie élitiste et mercantile.»

Read more: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2014/12/22/lettre-a-mon-patron-yves-bolduc–un-enseignant-se-vide-le-cur

December 16, 2014

Quebec unions call government wage offer ‘insulting’

By Phillipe Authier | Published Dec 15, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

A showdown is looming between Quebec’s common front and the government as a result of Quebec’s plans to freeze their wages for two years and discourage retirement because it costs the treasury a bundle.

“It’s as if the government is lonely for the sound of banging pots,” said Lucie Chabot spokesperson for the Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics in threatening to send workers into the streets to make sure cabinet ministers have a “warm winter” in their ridings.

“What we have here are five pages of contempt,” added Sylvain Mallette, president of the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement. “Quebec is saying to its employees, you are not worth the rate of inflation.

“This is a government that does not like its employees,” said Régine Laurent, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, representing 65,000 nurses and health care workers.

“This is a government that wants to drive its employees out of the public sector.”

Read more: http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/government-presents-wage-offer-to-public-sector

December 14, 2014

Vers une hausse du ratio maître-élèves?

By Denis Lessard | Published Dec 13, 2014 by La Presse

(QUÉBEC) Augmentation du ratio maître-élèves, réduction du nombre de congés de maladie; le gouvernement Couillard s’apprête à déposer une série de propositions normatives qui seront dures à avaler pour les 550 000 salariés du secteur public.

Des demandes musclées qui s’ajoutent à des propositions salariales exigeantes: deux années de gel salarial et des augmentations à doses homéopathiques étalées sur une convention de cinq ans.

Ces propositions seront faites, au cours de la semaine prochaine, aux tables sectorielles qui entreprennent la négociation de la prochaine convention collective – celle en cours se termine le 31 mars. Lundi matin, le président du Conseil du trésor, Martin Coiteux rencontrera la table centrale, réunissant les présidents de la CSN, de la FTQ, le SIPS, le secrétariat intersyndical des services publics, pour leur transmettre les offres salariales.

Plus d’élèves par classe

Selon les informations obtenues par La Presse, en dépit des engagements de Philippe Couillard à ne pas sabrer les services à la population, Québec demandera qu’on augmente le ratio maître-élèves au second cycle du primaire et au secondaire.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/education/201412/12/01-4827895-vers-une-hausse-du-ratio-maitre-eleves.php

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December 8, 2014

Conference: How School Board Elections are connected to Corrupt Quebec Politics

By Celebrity journalist, broadcaster & public commentator: Anne Lagacé Dowson

Citizens in Action is honoured to host Anne Lagacé Dowson, journalist broadcaster and public commentator, as guest speaker for our December conference. Anne can be heard every day on CJAD 800 on the Gang of Four with Tommy Schnurmacher. In 2008, she ran for the NDP in the Westmount/St. Louis riding and more recently, as chair for the English Montreal School Board. She has the inside story of how Quebec Politics manages to permeate every aspect of our lives, even our children’s education

Organized by Citizens in Action
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2014.
Place: Concordia University, School of Community & Public Affairs, (basement

December 3, 2014

Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths

By Antonia Darder | Published Nov 30, 2014 by Truthout

Rather than an oppressive and manipulative engine for capitalist accumulation, schools should function as centers of creativity and imagination where an ethos of democratic life is grounded upon cultural inclusiveness, social justice and economic democracy.

For almost three decades now, the charter school movement has sought to create the illusion that it is a better alternative to public education. Steeped in a narrow language of choice and student success, charter schools have also begun to quickly populate the terrain of educational justice, despite the conservative roots from which this movement sprang. Despite what was once a central commitment to public schooling in the United States, radical education advocates cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles against racism that exist and persist within charter school environments, despite the rhetoric of equality and justice. This is particularly necessary because many of the most vulnerable students, with the greatest needs, have generally remained within now even more poorly funded and resourced public schools, while more and more public dollars, under private control, are redirected to serve the privileged few.

Common Myths

Given the growing number of teachers of color and children of color whose lives are directly affected by the consolidation of public-private resources, educators committed to a critical ethics of social justice in education must contend with the myths associated with the racialization process at work within charter schools today. One way to better understand this phenomenon is to consider the many myths at work in the charter school movement.

Read more: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/27689-racism-and-the-charter-school-movement-unveiling-the-myths

November 30, 2014

Letter: Open-house visit of Plateau EMSB school was an eye opener

By Tina Wayland | Published November 27, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Excerpt:

The school is in serious need of repair.

And all I kept thinking during the tour was how well-maintained and modern the English Montreal School Building is; how much money was spent during the recent school-board elections; and how our schools — the places where we craft the minds of our future citizens and leaders — are largely neglected, mistreated and ignored.

The upside of our visit? The two Grade 6 boys who gave us the tour were smart, polite, informed, and engaged young men who’ve obviously learned a whole lot from the dedicated, overworked and underpaid teachers at the school. These teachers do so much with so little, as opposed to our elected officials who manage to do so little with so much.

Read more: http://montrealgazette.com/opinion/letters/letter-open-house-visit-at-plateau-emsb-school-was-an-eye-opener

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November 13, 2014

Voter suppression and the English Montreal School Board

Old guard use Republican tactics to maintain hold on power

By Anne Lagacé Dowson | Published Nov. 12, 2014 by Ricochet.media

In the United States they call it voter suppression. Here we call it voter irregularity. By whatever name it taints the entire electoral process.

On Nov. 4, the Montreal Gazette reported on its front page that hundreds of people were disenfranchised on election day as they tried to vote in the English Montreal School Board election. The reporter passed it off as bureaucratic ineptitude on the part of the school board. Now there is evidence that a campaign of voter suppression may have been at work.

The first shocker was discovering that Pierre-Yves Bezazz, the man running the election for the school board, was actually in the pay of the school board. It’s hard to exaggerate how wrong that is. Picture entering the playing field for a final match and finding that the referee is wearing the team sweater of your opponent. The result? Every time we cried foul, Mr. Bazzaz would respond “denied!”

The voter suppression started with the infamous voters list. Voters discovered that if there name was not on the list, they had to run a gauntlet to get registered: download a form from the internet and then trek across town to register the form with the office of Mr. Bezazz at school board headquarters. We petitioned Mr. Bezazz to make it easier to get on the list and to at least extend the deadline for getting on the list, as was done in a previous election.

Read more: https://ricochet.media/en/185/voter-suppression-and-the-english-montreal-school-board

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