The province does want to discuss classroom size and composition with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), just not at the bargaining table.
Ahead of collective bargaining negotiations beginning, the STF polled their membership and found class size and composition tied pay for the first time as the main issue for educators heading into contract talks.
However, the province said they did not want to discuss this issue at the bargaining table.
Education Minister Gordon Wyant announced Wednesday that the province now wants to establish a committee to figure out solutions to class size concerns.
“We’ll bring all our education partners together to have a discussion about how we can deal with obviously a significant issue in the classrooms of Saskatchewan,” Wyant said.
In addition to the STF, Wyant wants to see local school boards, senior administration, and the Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials at the table with the ministry.
However, STF president Patrick Maze still wants to see this issue hammered out at the bargaining table.
“Once it’s in a collective agreement we have an ability to enforce it, whereas just forming a committee down the road has no teeth, it has no accountability to government, and no guarantee it’s going to be funded or that same commitment going forward,” Maze said.
Wyant said this is a complex issue that looks different in different school divisions. This is why he thinks a “blanket policy” built into the teacher’s contract isn’t the way to go.
“How are we going to deal with that across the system? Each school division has particular concerns around that. In some school divisions, class size and composition are significant issues and in others, it’s not. So to have a blanket approach in a collective agreement, I don’t think is the right way to go,” Wyant said.
The minister added that British Columbia has rules for class size and composition in their collective agreement with teachers. He said this essentially turns principals and administrators into “compliance individuals” trying to reach “arbitrary numbers for class size.”
Instead, Wyant said these numbers should be determined by the needs of children and individual classrooms.
Maze disputed Wyant’s characterization of the B.C. situation, saying the issues stem from that government not funding the collective agreement at the level it’s supposed to be at.
When it comes to addressing class size, Maze said another committee is not the answer.
“We know there’s already the provincial leadership team, there’s already school boards across the province. If these bodies aren’t able to provide a solution, then why would one more committee be able to provide a solution?” Maze pondered.
“What we need is a commitment from government to fund education appropriately and the collective agreement is the means with which we can enforce that.”
Maze added that the refusal to include classroom size and composition in talks at the bargaining table could stall negotiations between the province and STF.