The Alberta Teacher's Association says they are prepared to fight new legislation introduced by the province Thursday, which would see the ATA stripped of its disciplinary powers.
The professional organization deemed this move "vindictive."
“The minister is misrepresenting cases and re-victimizing students and witnesses for her own political advantage," ATA President Jason Schilling said in a press release. "This is a crass, insensitive bid to undermine public confidence in teachers and the ATA.
"The minister’s plan is to de-professionalize teachers, and in doing so, she will destabilize one of the best performing public education systems in the world.”
On March 31, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange tabled a bill in the legislature that would see the establishment of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission and appoint a commissioner to oversee teacher and teacher-leader conduct and competency complaints for all educators, regardless of where they are employed.
The minister previously said the Education (Reforming Teacher and Profession Discipline) Amendment Act would establish one legislative structure to govern matters of discipline using an arms-length organization, garnering inspiration from processes already in place in Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Under this legislation, the ATA would still hold its role in collective bargaining, professional development and member-focused advocacy services, LaGrange said.
But, the ATA said that Bill-15 would leave the organization to act solely as a labour union, removing its role in professional regulation and altering the operation. There will be repercussions from this decision throughout schools in the province, it said.
“The ATA is a professional association and professionalism is the essence of our being," ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald said. "This bill strips out an integral piece of our professional identity and culture. It will change fundamentally the collaborative, collegial culture that has evolved here over decades and has contributed to Alberta’s success in education.”
Schilling said teachers are tired of continuous attacks from the government and added they have little faith in LaGrange's ability to regulate the profession in the public interest, given the system proposed which they said lacks transparency and accountability.
The organization is confident in its current disciplinary process which Schiling said has always maintained the honour and dignity of the education profession by protecting the public interest.
“The process that the ATA has established is transparent and accountable — it stands in stark contrast to the secretive and unaccountable process that the minister has maintained in place for private and charter school teachers and superintendents who have been regulated directly by the government — this hardly inspires confidence in a process that will be run by government and answerable only to the minister," he said.
Deputy Leader of the Official NDP Opposition and education critic Sarah Hoffman echoed the sentiment, writing on Twitter Thursday, "The UCP government has been attacking Alberta teachers for three years and this bill is just more political harassment from an education minister desperate to distract from the catalog [sic] of harm she has inflicted on our education system."
Hoffman said in her thread that the province mishandled the pandemic and decreased the number of teachers in classrooms. She also noted the K-6 curriculum, which she called "widely discredited."
"This minister needs to reverse the damage she has caused to Alberta’s education system instead of using her position to bully Alberta’s hard-working, dedicated teachers and staff," Hoffman wrote.
On the ATA website, the organization suggests that members stay united, encouraging those opposed to the legislation to educate themselves and inform their colleagues.
"The attack on the association is an attempt to weaken the profession," reads the site.
"The premier and minister are trying to distract the public from the minister’s own inability to handle the education file, and they are trying to punish the association for standing up to the government’s bad decisions," the entry continues.
"The government has cut funding, created a disastrous curriculum and responded inadequately to COVID-19. The announcement to remove professional regulatory functions related to discipline from the ATA is an attempt to change the channel, pure and simple."