In the Motherhood host Trixie Dumont discusses the Couillard government’s attacks on public education with teachers Fernand Deschamps, Robert Green and Chantal Kers and parent Stacey Dumont.
CKUT’s ‘In the Motherhood’ explores what the Couillard Government’s attacks on public education mean for students, teachers and parents
Robert Green speaks with CBC’s Sue Smith about recent developments in negotiations with Quebec’s teachers
(the last 30 seconds of the interview unfortunately get cut off)
October 25, 2015
Those present at the meeting for the Montreal Teachers Association’s strike vote heard a number of remarkable things from our union leadership. QPAT’s chief negotiator, Olivier Dolbec, for example described the various times teachers had been legislated back to work as victories in which teachers came out ahead. Dolbec’s central piece of evidence for this claim was that the back-to-work legislation of 2005 won us our current limits on class size.
This might be an interesting point if it were true. In fact the current limits on class size were the central element in the 2010 negotiations that convinced teachers to vote in favour of a negotiated settlement. The 2005 strike resulted in teachers being legislated back to work with the exact provisions government had put on the table prior to the strike. In other words, this strike did absolutely nothing to move government from what it was intending to do all along. One would think that QPAT’s chief negotiator would have his facts straight on such matters.
As if this was not enough to cast serious doubt on the judgement and integrity of our chief negotiator, Mr Dolbec then stunned the room with this remarkable statement:
“This is – and I challenge anyone in the room to say the opposite – this is the best collective agreement for teachers AROUND THE WORLD”
WHS teacher Robert Lavoie has taken up Mr Dolbec’s challenge. In this the first of a multi-part series Mr Lavoie presents a thorough comparison of the collective agreement of Quebec’s teachers with that of New Brunswick’s.
By Robert Green | Published Oct 14, 2015 by Ricochet.media
Government appears indifferent to the harm their policies cause to students
As public outrage over the Quebec Liberal government’s attacks on public education has grown, so too has the movement to surround schools in human chains on the first day of each month. Oct. 1 saw this movement not only grow to over 300 schools throughout Quebec, but also include a significant number of schools in the province’s English school boards which were participating for the first time.
The aim of this action was to send a clear message to Premier Philippe Couillard and his cadre: parents, teachers and support staff are united against the government’s attempt to balance its books on the backs of students. Of particular concern are proposals to remove limits on class size and cut a whole range of supports for students with special needs.
While the potent symbolism of community after community uniting to form a human chain in defence of their schools was not enough to persuade the government to change course, it did at least force the minister of education to publicly defend his actions.
His comments were disturbing to say the least. When asked why he would not restore funding for support for students with special needs, Education Minister François Blais stated that given Quebec’s current budget situation, such an investment would be “maladroit.” The minister was essentially saying that to leave in place existing supports for students with special needs would be “awkward” or “clumsy.”
A government of sociopaths?
CJAD Teachers Panel discusses pressure tactics, class size limits and cuts to librarians and school maintenance
Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss pressure tactics, class size limits and cuts to librarians and school maintenance with Tommy Shnurmacher.
May 16, 2015
The Liberal government’s proposed austerity measures have some very serious consequences for students and teachers in Quebec’s public schools. In addition to the insulting salary offer to teachers and the proposal to raid our pensions there are a number of measures that will directly affect students:
removal of limits on class size
- removal of the weighting system for special needs students
- cutting the funding for resource teachers that help special needs students
- cutting funding for after school homework programs
- cuts to support staff including child care workers and special ed technicians
Robert Green discusses the impacts of these proposed policies with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher:
Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss homework bans, success rate pressures & the importance of class size with Tommy Shnurmacher:
By Robert Green | Published February 26, 2014 by Ricochet.media
Quebec Minister of Education Yves Bolduc resigned today, after a short tenure marked by one frighteningly obtuse statement after another.
First he claimed that “no child will die” from funding cuts to school libraries. Next he proposed to remove limits on class size in contract negotiations with the province’s teachers, claiming there is “no evidence” that such limits help improve student achievement. Then, in response to the release of an extensive study commissioned by his own ministry demonstrating the failure of the pedagogical reform first implemented back in 2000, he flat out denied the study’s results, claiming that it was “too early” to judge.
The most recent outrage came from Bolduc’s statement that it was okay for schools to strip-search students, provided it was done “respectfully.”
To characterize Bolduc as an incompetent clown in a comedy of errors is a mistake. He is no fool and knows exactly what he is doing.
If it seems he doesn’t care about the consequences of his policy proposals for public education, it’s because he doesn’t.
An education minister with no vision
In Margaret Thatcher’s England, Bolduc would have been referred to as a “dry.” The “wets” were those in Thatcher’s government ridiculed by the more hard-line conservatives for wetting their pants at the thought of implementing the various Thatcherite policies that would be so harmful to Britain’s working class. The “dries” were those unfazed at the thought of harming society’s most vulnerable.
By Robert Green | Published February 16, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette
Earlier this month, an extensive study commissioned by Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport confirmed what Quebec’s teachers have known for over a decade: The famous “pedagogical reform” that was supposed to revolutionize the way students are taught in Quebec is a failure.
The study, which followed nearly 4,000 students, compared two cohorts of post-reform students with one that entered high school in 2004 just before the reform was implemented.
The results paint a portrait of an ongoing policy disaster.
Despite having added 50 hours of instruction in Mathematics and 150 hours of first-language instruction, results in both core subjects are significantly down.
Despite the fact that the reform was intended to raise the dismally low graduation rates of boys and at-risk students, these rates have instead seen significant declines for both groups.
Perhaps most worrisome for Quebec’s anglophone community is the fact that students in Quebec’s English school system were also identified by the study as one of the groups that saw a significant decline in graduation rates.
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.
By 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.