More than 200 people gathered outside of Humboldt-Watrous MLA Donna Harpauer's office for a rally about public education
Samantha Becotte, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, was at the Oct. 21 rally and talked about the underfunding crisis in public schools. Becotte said Harpauer, who's also the deputy premier and finance minister, was invited but their office received no response.
The government-trustee bargaining committee (GTBC) and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) have declared an impasse in the ongoing collective agreement negotiations.
Chelsea Balaski, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan government, said the GTBC’s has proposed an offer of seven per cent over three years to the STF.
“We have asked for protection around cost of living and inflationary increases,” Becotte said. “We are trying to repair the purchasing power of teacher’s salaries due to the last two teacher’s contracts to what it was in 2017. We have proposed a four-year agreement which would provide stability and certainty to teachers and families as well as that two per cent each year, would bring us back to where we were in 2017 in purchasing power.”
The STF is requesting those same percentage increases but it would also be tied to the cost of living index on an annual basis.
Other items that the STF is bargaining for are support’s for students, class size, class complexity, violence in the classrooms, substitute and contract teachers pay, truth and reconciliation and actionable items.
In a STF press release in a 2023 survey of Saskatchewan teachers, 96 per cent of respondents said that the demands on the teaching profession have increased compared to five years ago, 87 per cent said that the complexity of the classroom has increased in the last two years, and 61 per cent of teacher respondents said their average class size increased by 5.6 students compared to two years ago.
Balaski said the GTBC has every intention of continuing to bargain on items relevant to the provincial teacher collective agreement, including salary and benefits. Saskatchewan is a large and diverse province, and school divisions make decisions every day on how to best resource classrooms that respond to local needs.
A decrease of 145 full-time equivalent educators from 2021-22 to 2022-23, while schools also experienced the highest student enrolment growth in 20 years according to the Government of Saskatchewan.
At the request of the STF, a conciliation board will be established in the coming weeks to assist the bargaining committees in reaching a new collective agreement. Conciliation boards were also established to assist the parties in 2019 and 2015 Balaski said.
At the rally in Humboldt, “People from all walks of life are joining teachers and parents to tell this government, enough is enough,” said Becotte. Becotte told SaskToday.ca that, “the best decisions are made when all partners have their voices heard.”
Lyndsay Gabriel was one of the parent speakers at the rally.
“The lack of professional supports in the schools is not because these professionals don’t want to work with children, it is not because they don’t care,” she said. “There are also fewer EAs available in the schools to work with kids who might have a treatment plan in place by these support professionals. It has become an insurmountable challenge. There is simply not enough to go around.”
This was the second in a series of mini rallies being held throughout Saskatchewan this fall. The first took place in Moose Jaw on October 14, with some estimates placing the number of attendants at nearly 1000 people. Upcoming rallies are planned for: Saskatoon – Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. outside the office of Minister Paul Merriman, and North Battleford – Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. outside the office of Minister Jeremy Cockrill.
Nicole Goldsworthy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SASKTODAY.ca