In its submission to the kindergarten to Grade 12 educational governance review, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation made it clear that potential wide-sweeping changes in the sector are not necessarily bad, but at the same time stressed there are some ifs and buts that need to be contemplated.
STF President Patrick Maze emphasized that the Federation is not blindly resistant to potential change “but the decisions that are made in all of this have to be for the right reasons, and ultimately they have to be made with the consideration of what is best for the classroom and the delivery of education to our students.”
According to the brief, Saskatchewan teachers recognized that as society changes, educational structures and institutions may also need to undergo change in order to fit needs and different contexts.
“The governance review is an opportunity to consider what changes are necessary to ensure that the governance and funding structures for education in this province are both effective and viable. Important questions have been raised about them and this is an opportunity to work together in order to find solutions to sector-wide challenges,” according to the submission.
It goes on to say that educational governance is not simply a question of power, structures, elections or dollars and cents. It is the way in which the public, government, teachers and other education sector partners work towards a better future for all children and youth. Reviews of governance are part of a perpetual drive to do things better, to achieve greater equity, to reach all students and to ensure that this province has a bright future.
The public and all partners in education have an obligation to fully consider all perspectives, options and views from a multitude of stakeholders before undertaking fundamental changes or enacting modifications to educational governance.
In submitting his findings to the Ministry of Education, there were four options presented for consideration by Dan Perrins, who set out options for the review. These ranged from maintaining the status quo of 28 school divisions to potentially the most extreme, which would be creating a single provincial board with a CEO who would oversee fourto six regions throughout the province.
The STF, in its submission, based its response on a set of five principles including universality and equity, roles and responsibilities in the education sector, changes to governance and administration that must support and improve the teaching and learning relationship, putting students first by enhancing holistic service delivery, and the need to maintain respect for collective bargaining rights and conventions. The latter of which has been in the news lately following the provincial government’s focus on holding the line and looking for savings among the public sector employee groups.
According to the submission, “the responsibility of the provincial government, as it pertains to governance and restructuring, is to ensure that any reorganization of school divisions results in the equitable rationalization of educational services. The provincial government also has the responsibility to meet the public’s expectations by setting common goals and standards and fully funding an education system that supports the achievement of those goals and standards.” The submission also stresses that the teaching profession expects to be directly involved in any changes that will have an impact on the teaching and learning relationship.
It too reiterates a long- held Federation belief that publicly funded public education is a universal right of all children and youth.
Moreover, the submission emphasizes in the event of any school division reorganization, teachers expect that existing teaching and learning conditions be enhanced via reallocation or reinvestment of resources and supports. Resources saved by governance changes should be reinvested into the teaching and learning relationship.
In addition, the submission made it clear that curriculum and professional development should be professionally led by Saskatchewan teachers.
Maze lauded the work of the STF research and policy staff in preparing the submission while also expressing his admiration for the way Executive Director Gwen Dueck and Associate Executive Director Randy Schmaltz presented the findings to the members of the panel charged with listening to stakeholders across the province.
“I felt we were definitely listened to and we received very positive feedback from the panel,” Maze said, while being cautionary not to read too much into that in terms of how it might affect the ultimate decision to be made by the Ministry of Education.
“We trust the people who will be making the decisions will get this right for our students and for classrooms. There is a responsibility there that we have to think long term.
“This can’t be seen as a way to cut expenses wherever you can; it has to be seen more as an investment into all our futures and it can’t be just about looking at what can be pulled out of the system.”