After weeks of vicious debates carried out through the media, the Nova Scotia government is moving ahead with plans to overhaul the education system but it made key concessions to the union.
The main change from the initial plan announced in January is that the province will not move ahead with the creation of a college of teachers.
The omnibus bill will be tabled in the legislature Thursday afternoon.
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The bill is a response to the Glaze Report, which was commissioned by the Liberal government in October and released in January.
It will make English-language elected school boards a relic of the past but, in what appears to be a key concession to the union, it allows principals and vice-principals to continue to have an affiliation with the union
The infrastructure and staff at the school boards will remain in place but the boards will now be called regional education centres.
The province says a one-time pay-out of $2.4 million will be paid this year to cover elected members’ stipends to the end of their term in October 2020.
School administrators will be moved from the main Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) bargaining unit to a newly-created Public School Administrators Association. This means principals and vice-principals will no longer be direct members of the teachers union but will maintain an affiliation at least until 2019.
The association will be created effective August 1.
The union had spoken out forcefully against the removal of administrators from the union.
On Thursday afternoon, NSTU President Liette Doucet told reporters they will not be pursing job action in response to the legislation, following “numerous compromises by the McNeil government.”
She added that the union was still opposed to the legislation, which they believe could do “more harm than good to public education.”
The bill also creates a Provincial Advisory Council on education, which will have a maximum of 15 members. The government says at least one member of the council will have experience with inclusive education.
New association for principals and vice-principals
The government says the association with the teachers union allows administrators to keep their seniority in the teachers union and also allows them to go back to teaching if they choose.
The changes affect approximately 1,000 administrators who are currently in the teachers union.
Administrators will not have a right to collective bargaining or striking but their compensation increases will be tied at minimum to the increases that the union negotiates for teachers.
It will be up to the association and the union to negotiate the dues that administrators will have to pay for the affiliation but the government’s bill bars it from being higher than the dues that teachers pay.
This new plan from the government ends the previous announcement in February that administrators would have a year to choose whether they want to go back to teaching full-time or remain as administrators.
In February 2019, the association will be required to vote on whether to keep its affiliation with the union. The decision would be made by a majority vote. Subsequent to that, a vote can happen every two years.
The bill will also permit principals and vice-principals to continue working in the classroom but only for a total of 50 per cent of their time.
The government says the change will require 25 to 30 new full-time teachers to be hired to make up for the smaller class time for administrators.
Increased fines for illegal strikes
The government is also dramatically increasing the fines if the union starts an illegal strike by ten fold.
Under this bill, the fines will go from $10,000 to $100,000.