Posts tagged ‘PLQ’

September 10, 2015

Quebec teachers are defending children’s learning conditions

By Robert Green ! Published  Sept 10 By the Montreal Gazette

Imagine your child sitting in a classroom with 35 to 40 other students. What kind of education do you think they will receive in such a context? How much help are they likely to get if they find themselves struggling with the material? How much time do you suppose the teacher will be having to spend on the unpleasant task of discipline versus the joyous tasks of fostering learning, creativity, compassion and a sense of wonder in students?

Now imagine your child is one of many with special needs in this enormous class. What will be your child’s chances of succeeding if the limited supports currently in place for students with special needs are removed: no weighting system that ensures smaller classes when there is a higher proportion of students with special needs; no childcare workers in the class to assist the teacher; no resource room to turn to for extra help?

Now imagine all of this is happening in a context where deep budget cuts mean reduced access to psychologists, behavioural specialists and counsellors.

Parents throughout Quebec need to understand that this is what’s at stake in the current negotiations between the province and its teachers. It is no exaggeration to state that the Couillard government is proposing to rid our contract of nearly every clause that protects the learning conditions of students, from class-size limits to the various measures aimed at providing support for students with special needs.

As professionals whose primary concern is the welfare of children, we cannot stand for this, which is why the teachers of Quebec have been left no choice but to engage in pressure tactics.

read more »

Advertisements
May 16, 2015

Podcast: The impacts of austerity for students and teachers in Quebec’s public schools

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:

  • 20150507_133640

    Teachers and parents protest austerity in front of Westmount High

    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:

Click here to download mp3

May 8, 2015

Does Quebec’s government have a mandate for austerity?

By Robert Green | Published April 29, 2015 by Ricochet.media
The Liberals won a majority promising stability, not a quiet counter-revolution of cuts

Quebec’s growing popular movement against government austerity is about much more than opposition to a particular government policy. It is quickly becoming a battle over the legitimacy of Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government.

The concept of legitimacy is central to the study of political science, and it’s what politicians are getting at when, for example, they refer to a pipeline project failing to achieve social licence. Definitions of the concept by numerous philosophers all share the idea that legitimacy is tied to the notion of popular acceptance of the exercise of authority — what John Locke referred to as “consent of the governed.”

Whereas dictatorships and theocracies have relied on religion, tradition, ideology and the charisma of leaders as sources of legitimacy, secular democratic governments, which are supposed to be the heirs of Enlightenment values, have relied on elections and notions of the common good. In theory then, a legitimate democratic government is one that is elected on the basis of a transparent political program aimed at advancing the public interest.

This raises the question of whether the government of Quebec, given its actions since coming into office, should be viewed as legitimate.

A government with political legitimacy?

Supporters of the Couillard government are quick to point out that his Liberal party won a significant majority in the last election and therefore has the right to govern as it sees fit.

read more »

February 28, 2015

The gloves come off as the CJAD teachers panel discusses the PLQ’s ongoing assault on public education

boxing_gloves3Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green pull no punches in discussing the PLQ’s ongoing assault on public education with James Mennie (sitting in for Tommy Shnurmacher). Originally aired February 17, 2015.

Click here for the podcast.

January 18, 2015

Éducation : l’hypocrisie de Philippe Couillard

September 26, 2014

La Presse reports Liberals planning massive overhaul of education system

September 26, 2014

La Presse is reporting today that Couillard Liberals are planning a massive education reform that includes the abolition of school boards, reduction of private school subsidies by 50%, reduction in the number of ministry exams and the creation of a professional order by teachers.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/education/201409/25/01-4803683-reforme-tous-azimuts-en-education.php

September 17, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses cuts to parental leave

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Trudy Mason discuss cuts to parental leave and the Couillard government’s austerity agenda.

Click here for the podcast.

September 6, 2014

Hey, premiers, leave them teachers alone!

By Robert Green | Published Sept 1 2014 by Ricochet

The beginning of the school year should be a time of great optimism and excitement for teachers. We’re energized by seeing our colleagues again and excited to meet the students we’ll be teaching for the year. Our thoughts should be focused on making our classrooms more welcoming, our lessons more engaging and our contributions to our school community more meaningful.

Unfortunately, for too many teachers across Canada the positive feelings that normally accompany the beginning of the school year will be overshadowed by more negative sentiments: uncertainty, frustration, anger and above all the feeling of being profoundly disrespected.

British Columbia

Nowhere is this more true than in BC. The province’s teachers have been on the picket line since the spring as part of the latest chapter in an exasperating decades-long struggle with the province’s Liberal government. The bad faith demonstrated by the government over the course of this struggle boggles the mind. While the media wants to malign BC teachers as greedy, the heart of this dispute has always been about protecting quality of education for students by reducing class size. After teachers gave up salary concessions in the nineties in order to win class-size reductions (greedy bastards!) the BC Liberals went on to unilaterally remove these provisions from their contract in 2002.

read more »

August 29, 2014

Will the Liberals ensure schools get proper funding?

By Robert Green | Published Aug 27, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Along with just about every teacher in the province, I was left speechless by Liberal Education Minister Yves Bolduc’s statement last week that “no child is going to die from (budget cuts) or stop reading because there are already books” in school libraries.

That such words would be uttered by a minister of education is just baffling. Either Bolduc is unaware of the very serious impact of denying Quebec’s schools the resources they need to get kids excited about reading, or he simply doesn’t care about the quality of education in Quebec’s public schools.

That this statement happened to also have been made by a man who saw no problem double-dipping into Quebec’s public coffers for over $200,000 in personal gain is downright infuriating.

Thus far, the government’s attempts at damage control have done little to restore confidence. While Bolduc has apologized for his statement and both he and Premier Philippe Couillard have affirmed that it’s important for school libraries to be able to purchase new books, neither has provided an alternative that won’t affect the province’s most needy students in other ways. Both have made vague suggestions that school boards should choose to cut elsewhere.

This of course raises the question of where exactly school boards should cut.

read more »

August 11, 2014

The Hypocricy of Austerity

By Robert Green | Published August 9, 2014 by Ricochet

In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec’s elites.

rich_get_richerThough his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time it has sent such a message. The government’s first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched. Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec’s public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.

In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ’s “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government’s attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec’s political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is “out of control” and that we as a society are “living beyond our means.”

In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.

However, a cursory examination of Quebec’s recent spending trends shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec’s expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures.

read more »

August 8, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Dino Mazzone discuss the Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS with Tommy Schnurmacher. Click here for the podcast.

Tags: ,
June 15, 2014

A response to Jim Wilson’s letter “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening”

By Robert Green

On June 13th the Gazette published a letter entitled “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening” by Jim Wilson. The letter was an attack on my recent op-ed about the injustice of the Liberal government’s austerity measures for education. As Mr Wilson is a well known commentator on Quebec’s English school system whose writing has been often published on this blog, I feel it is important to publicly respond.

The whole reason I submit articles to the Gazette is to stir up public debate. Though I strongly disagree with the positions Mr Wilson takes in his letter, I am more than happy to debate these issues with him. I hope this exchange of ideas will be interesting and informative for readers.

As Mr Wilson’s letter raises a number of points and poses a number of questions, I will deal with them one paragraph at a time.

Robert Green makes one point that I fully support: that public funds should not be used to support private schools. However, he fails in his principal arguments that the budget means that “the neediest students are asked to make serious sacrifices” and that cutting the private-school subsidies would do much to remedy the overall financial situation.

Actually my principal argument was not about remedying the province’s overall financial situation so much as it was about the injustice of imposing austerity on the public education system while leaving generous subsidies for the rich to attend private schools untouched. I’m surprised that someone who claims to oppose public subsidies for private schools doesn’t share my outrage over this blatant injustice.

A secondary point of my op-ed was to show that there is no good reason to exempt private school subsidies from sharing in the burden of austerity. The private schools claim these subsidies save the system money. However, this is a highly questionable claim due to the other forms of government support private schools receive (listed in my article) in addition to the 60% tuition subsidy. While the FAE’s claim that there are significant savings to achieve by integrating private school students into the public system may also be somewhat questionable, even if this reintegration is cost neutral it is still extremely worthwhile as it will eliminate the significant social costs associated with an education system that is segregated along class lines.

read more »

June 12, 2014

Austerity by any other name would smell as foul

An edited version of this article ran in the June 11th edition of the Montreal Gazette under the title “A bad budget for education

By Robert Green

There’s a very good reason the Couillard government wants to avoid using the word “austerity”. The word has become associated with a villainous act that evokes the names of such detested figures as Ebenezer Scrooge and the Sheriff of Nottingham; the act of taking from the poor to give to the rich.

However, avoiding the use of the word austerity may not be enough to prevent Quebecers from seeing the villainous truth behind the recent Liberal budget.

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

Nowhere is this more true than with respect to the Leitão budget’s implications for education. While Quebec’s wealthy will see no change whatsoever to the generous subsidies they receive to send their children to elite private schools, the province’s most needy students will be asked to make do with less.

The Leitão budget has extremely serious implications for Quebec’s public schools. It imposes cuts of $150 million for 2014-15, restrains growth in spending to a paltry 2.2 percent for the years following and freezes hiring for administrative posts.

The reason these cuts are so serious is that they are being imposed at a time when Quebec’s public education system is already in crisis.

School boards are in financial crisis having already been cut to the bone thanks to the $640 million in cuts since 2010. Some have resorted to running deficits while others have sought to raise school taxes. The notion that school boards still have bureaucratic fat that can be cut without affecting services to students is contradicted by both the school boards themselves and public sector unions.

Schools are in crisis due to the growing number of special needs students – a crisis exacerbated by a large and growing private school system that is permitted to use entrance exams to filter out such students, causing them to flood into public schools. The spending cuts mean that there will be even less money for psychologists, child care workers, speech therapists and drug councillors. In other words, fewer resources that can offer children with special needs the fighting chance they deserve.

read more »

May 19, 2014

We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.

austerityAnother important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.

Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.

This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.

read more »

April 23, 2014

Standardized testing is detrimental to students’ education

By Robert Green | Published April 22, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

Though education is an issue of great importance to Quebecers, the only education-related issue discussed in the recent election campaign was the question of where in the education bureaucracy to find savings that could be redirected to schools.

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he favoured abolishing school boards, while Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said he wanted to trim the staff within the education department itself.

Trimming bureaucratic fat sounds appealing, but it can also have grave consequences for the quality of services. This is particularly true in the case of school boards that provide front-line services to students.

Now that Couillard is set to officially take over as premier this week, I have a modest proposal for him: He could save some money by cutting the bureaucracy involved in the production and administration of high-stakes standardized tests.

os-ed-standardized-testing-front-burner-intro--001There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that such testing does anything to improve educational outcomes. For more than a decade, the U.S. has been involved in an education reform driven by standardized-test results. Over this time, student achievement has not improved, while a host of other negative effects have been observed: the narrowing of curriculum, the widening of achievement gaps related to race and class, and growing rates of student stress and depression.

The problems with standardized testing have become so serious that there is now a growing movement of parents and educators in the U.S. advocating that parents opt their children out of such tests.

Meanwhile, the country whose students consistently rank highest in the world, Finland, imposes no standardized tests whatsoever. Finland’s approach is to focus on equity over excellence, ensuring that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, are given the support they need to succeed.

Finland worries about the resources going into schools, while the U.S. worries about the test results coming out of them. Quebec needs to learn from this.

read more »