The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA) does not like the chatter coming from the provincial government in advance of the 2013 budget.
Without cuts, the government says, the 2013 budget would have a $1.6-billion deficit. Earlier this week, it announced a public sector hiring freeze, and both Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy and Premier Kathy Dunderdale have stated departments will experience cuts in the next budget.
“We’re saying right now is not the time to cut education,” NLTA president Lily Cole said. “Our students in this province, Newfoundland and Labrador, deserve the best education possible.”
Cole said the NLTA is worried the K-12 system may be the victim of a disproportionate cut.
“We are already hearing that without any cuts, teachers are needing more resources to meet the needs of the diverse population of the classroom, so with the announcement that there’s cuts definitely coming, we are certainly concerned that will affect the classrooms and our students,” Cole said.
The NLTA has already outlined the areas where it is looking for improvements in education through its pre-budget submission.
It mentions the need for resources and professional development to make the inclusion model for students with special needs work, an improved teacher allocation system, more substitute teacher days to accommodate professional development and family leave, external paid supervision for students at lunchtime and more human resources for integrating technology in the classroom.
All of those issues were listed in last year’s pre-budget submission to the government.
In that submission, the NLTA said the 2011 provincial budget “was very much status quo for primary, elementary and secondary education in the province.”
It also labelled the 2012 provincial budget as one that offered “no improvements” in a news release issued after that budget’s release.
“In the last three pre-budget submissions we have presented very similar concerns in our classrooms that our teachers are constantly telling us (about),” said Cole. “If that was a time when they were saying that their budget was fine, then we obviously are very concerned with the conversations that Minister Kennedy and Premier Dunderdale are having in the public.”
Talk of a tight budget might also concern teachers in light of the fact their contract with the government expired at the end of last August. Cole said the collective bargaining process is being left in the hands of the NLTA’s negotiating team.
“All those things, we will not be going public with,” she said.
If Newfoundland and Labrador hopes to remain prosperous, the government must consider education to be “an investment in society itself,” Cole said.