ATA accuses Alberta government of trying to ‘punish’ teachers by passing Bill 15

Click to play video: 'New bill would strip Alberta Teachers’ Association of its disciplinary function'
New bill would strip Alberta Teachers’ Association of its disciplinary function
WATCH ABOVE: (From March 31, 2022) Proposed legislation could overhaul an 80-year-old process for disciplining teachers in Alberta. Alberta's education minister says Bill 15 will ensure transparency, accountability and public trust when it comes to holding teachers accountable for misconduct. As Jill Croteau reports, the minister says the broken system has let children and their families down, but the ATA plans to fight it. – Mar 31, 2022

Despite pushback from a professional teachers association, new legislation passed in the Alberta legislature on Wednesday was lauded by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange as a positive step towards improving the professional discipline process for teachers.

“Under this act, the same professional discipline process will apply equally to all teachers and teacher leaders, regardless of where they are employed,” LaGrange tweeted. “The creation of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission means an arm’s-length commissioner will be appointed to oversee teacher and teacher leader conduct and competency complaints for the entire profession starting in January 2023.

“As of September 2022, duty to report requirements will be strengthened and reaffirmed within the education system. Education partners will have to report to police if there may have been serious harm or a threat to student safety caused by a teacher or teacher leader.”

LaGrange argued the legislation will make the disciplinary process “more timely, transparent, free from bias and elevates the status of the teaching profession to best meet the needs of our children.”

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In a statement issued Wednesday night, the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association called Bill 15 “an effort to punish the association and teachers for daring to stand up to the government’s bad decisions when it comes to education, and to coerce us into complying with their agenda.”

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Jason Schilling said he believes “Albertans should be very concerned” by the legislation, arguing it is the product of misinformation and tied to unfounded allegations.

“However, we will continue to act with integrity and, despite the efforts of the minister to undermine public confidence, we will continue to do our important work to protect the public interest by upholding professional standards in the transition period,” he said.

“We are worried, though, that the minister believes she can establish a commissioner’s office ready to take over this work in just seven months. She has severely miscalculated the complexity of this critical work.”

READ MORE: Alberta proposing that an independent commissioner discipline teachers

The ATA had been responsible for disciplining its members. When the bill was first introduced in March, LaGrange argued that the organization being responsible for disciplining members while also defending them during collective bargaining posed a conflict of interest.

“The ATA would have you believe that this is an attack on teachers. Nothing, but nothing, could be further from the truth,” she said at the time, noting the ATA would still be able to fight for its members when it comes to collective bargaining.

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When the bill was first introduced, Opposition education critic Sarah Hoffman described the legislation as akin to “political harassment.”

While LaGrange said Bill 15 was crafted with input from various stakeholders, Schilling described the process as one “without any meaningful consultation.”

“(This) fundamentally changes the identity and culture of the Alberta Teachers’ Association,” he said.

“While the minister attempts to distract the public from her mishandling of the education file, particularly when it comes to issues like curriculum, underfunding, deteriorating classroom conditions and privatization, we will continue to focus on the things that matter most-students and schools.”

Now that the bill has passed, LaGrange said more consultation will follow. Regulations as well as “a single code of conduct for the entire profession” will also be developed, along with “an open recruitment process for the commissioner.”

–With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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