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What the government can’t afford to stop doing

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We’ve been asked as a public and as public-sector unions to engage in the consultation process as part of the government’s renewal initiative — which we have. While “renewal” and “initiative” suggest hope, the process seems to inspire fear and cynicism.

Consider the first question asked during the sessions: what does government need to stop doing? Despite the assurance that all options are on the table, it seems that layoffs and cuts are the preferred measures. While public sector unions met with Finance Minister Cathy Bennett on Feb. 12 as part of a stakeholders’ consultation meeting, Premier Dwight Ball was telling Telegram reporter James McLeod that budget targets will be linked with contract negotiations and layoffs. This does not inspire confidence or trust in the process; nor does it inspire hope.
So, let’s be clear what we are talking about when we ask, “What does government need to stop doing?”
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are talking about fewer government services, and we may as well ask ourselves: “What are we willing to do without?”
Over the past few years in education we have seen reductions in teacher allocations, increases in class sizes, and the rise of mental health issues. We have an inclusive education system that is already woefully under-resourced, struggles to meet the needs of students requiring supports and those who don’t, and is the source of deep frustration for teachers and parents alike. Our schools have been cut to the bone and cannot be cut further without irreparable harm.
So, for the children of our province, the answers to the above questions are starkly simple.
It will mean that class size will increase again and the ability of the classroom teacher to provide your child with individual attention will decrease yet again. If your child has diagnosed learning exceptionalities, expect fewer supports, not more. Waiting for your child to be assessed? Count on waiting longer.
Do you want inclusive classrooms or classrooms that are inclusive in name only? Is it important that your child have access to speech-language pathologists, school counsellors, music teachers, physical education teachers, teacher librarians and other specialists? Do you want your child to have access to technology in their school and teachers to teach it? What extracurricular activities are you willing for your child to do without? Is it important for you to be able to meet with your child’s teacher in a timely manner?
You get the point.
We are asking the wrong questions. We need to ask, how do we invest in our schools and our students? The future of our province depends on it.

James Dinn, president, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association
St. John’s

Consider the first question asked during the sessions: what does government need to stop doing? Despite the assurance that all options are on the table, it seems that layoffs and cuts are the preferred measures. While public sector unions met with Finance Minister Cathy Bennett on Feb. 12 as part of a stakeholders’ consultation meeting, Premier Dwight Ball was telling Telegram reporter James McLeod that budget targets will be linked with contract negotiations and layoffs. This does not inspire confidence or trust in the process; nor does it inspire hope.
So, let’s be clear what we are talking about when we ask, “What does government need to stop doing?”
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are talking about fewer government services, and we may as well ask ourselves: “What are we willing to do without?”
Over the past few years in education we have seen reductions in teacher allocations, increases in class sizes, and the rise of mental health issues. We have an inclusive education system that is already woefully under-resourced, struggles to meet the needs of students requiring supports and those who don’t, and is the source of deep frustration for teachers and parents alike. Our schools have been cut to the bone and cannot be cut further without irreparable harm.
So, for the children of our province, the answers to the above questions are starkly simple.
It will mean that class size will increase again and the ability of the classroom teacher to provide your child with individual attention will decrease yet again. If your child has diagnosed learning exceptionalities, expect fewer supports, not more. Waiting for your child to be assessed? Count on waiting longer.
Do you want inclusive classrooms or classrooms that are inclusive in name only? Is it important that your child have access to speech-language pathologists, school counsellors, music teachers, physical education teachers, teacher librarians and other specialists? Do you want your child to have access to technology in their school and teachers to teach it? What extracurricular activities are you willing for your child to do without? Is it important for you to be able to meet with your child’s teacher in a timely manner?
You get the point.
We are asking the wrong questions. We need to ask, how do we invest in our schools and our students? The future of our province depends on it.

James Dinn, president, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association
St. John’s

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