What Educators Really Need

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By teacher and Solidarity Halifax member Ben Sichel. Originally published at no need to raise your hand.

Saulnier
Christine Saulnier, director of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia, and economist Michael Bradfield unveiled the Nova Scotia Alternative Provincial Budget last Wednesday in Halifax (photo courtesy of Robert Devet, Halifax Media Co-op)

The authors of a couple of reports by right-wing think-tanks have been doing their best to discredit teachers in Nova Scotia this past month.

I’d rather not mention the names of the think-tanks or their authors, so they don’t get any more attention than they already have. If you’re familiar with the political landscape in this province though, you probably know who they are.  (If not, one of them is the first hit when you Google “Nova Scotia think tank.”)

Rather, I want to point you to an alternative report put out last week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS). The CCPA-NS report, entitled “A Budget for the 99%,” lays out a vision for Nova Scotia not beholden to the fatalistic logic of austerity, under which our belts are never tight enough and times are always tough.

It’s true that there are problems in public schools. But the P-12 education section of the CCPA-NS document argues that adequate funding for smaller classes, hiring of enough guidance counsellors to deal with increasing incidence of mental health issues in our schools, and targeted equity initiatives are essential steps toward building schools that work for everybody. (Disclaimer: I had a big part in writing this section.)

Here are a few excerpts:

“Education is a public good. A core principle of public education is that a universal, inclusive, equitable school system is vital to our collective well-being. However, public education in North America currently faces deep challenges from a corporate-driven ‘reform’ agenda. […]

“Class caps for grades P-6 were promised by all three major parties in the 2013 provincial election. These caps — 20 students for grades P-2 and 25 for grades 3–6 — are commendable and should be fully implemented immediately. The DoE should also reduce class sizes in the higher grades; it is not just young students who do better with more individual attention and student-teacher contact. Yet in several junior high and high schools across the province it is not unusual for classes to have more than 35 students. […]

“Beyond academic concerns, schools strive to meet the social and emotional needs of all students… Our understanding of mental illness and mental health is more advanced and yet, while we are better equipped to spot and understand the kinds of mental-health challenges our students face, there are seldom sufficient resources on hand to do so. […]

“An integral part of the current public education review must be a commitment to inclusive education. The [Nova Scotia Alternative Provincial Budget] ensures that the Nova Scotia educational system is better able to meet the needs and to support the strengths of all students, including those with disabilities; African Nova Scotian students and Mi’kmaq students, whose communities have faced historical and ongoing discrimination; and students living in poverty.”

You can download the entire document and see an overview of all its sections here. The P-12 education section is on pages 65-69. Click here to read Dr. Larry Haiven’s  closing piece to the budget, “Nova Scotia: We Have Everything We Need to Succeed.

 

Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.