Educators for Social Justice Support the Fight for 15

oooFight for Fifteen & Fairness Rally, October 2nd, 2018.

Educators see the effects of poverty first hand.

Every day, we teach students from homes which lack the basic necessities for a healthy, dignified life. The effects of poverty are many and varied: a lack of nutritious food; decreased access to health care services such as dental care or prescription drugs; constant stress and anxiety related to precarious finances; unsuitable housing; and more. All these factors eat away at the potential of learners in our classrooms. Through absolutely no fault of their own, students living in poverty are disadvantaged before they even reach the start gate.

Fighting child poverty means fighting family poverty. Children do not earn wages; their parents and guardians do. In Nova Scotia the median annual income for an individual is just under $32,000. Low-wage workers (those who make less than $15/hour) make up 32% of all working people. In households led by a single parent, 48% of children live below the poverty line. In all, nearly one in five children in Nova Scotia lives in poverty, a number that reaches one in three in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

This is why we endorse the Fight for 15 and Fairness campaign in Nova Scotia. The campaign calls for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15, along with other measures to improve workers’ security and well-being, such as paid sick leave, better access to maternity leave benefits, and “just cause” protection for all workers.

In general, teachers in the public sector enjoy all these benefits and see the impact they have on our lives. We want all Nova Scotians to benefit from this same security. In our own workplaces, there are workers such as educational program assistants (EPAs) who make wages that are barely enough for a single person to live on, and even some teachers, especially substitutes, feel the impact of precarious employment.

Of course, any improvement in wages and employment standards must be accompanied by an improvement in measures to protect those who, for whatever reason, cannot work. The elderly, disabled people, and others deserve a decent, dignified life as much as any active worker.

As well, a $15 hourly wage is by no means enough to guarantee a dignified life for earners. In 2015 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia calculated that a “living wage” that would allow for a family in Halifax to cover all its basic needs with a bit left over for savings was $20.10 per hour, a figure which has certainly risen since.

A $15 minimum wage and improvements in labour standards are the least that our government can do to begin to give working people a leg up and lift themselves out of poverty. We call upon this government to act immediately.

Public Education: Social Justice Project or Job Training?

edevent

Please join our panel for a discussion on “Public Education: Social Justice Project or Job Training?” Our panel will feature:

– Erika Shaker, Director, Education Project and Editor, Our Schools, Ourselves, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

– Tina Roberts-Jeffers, Community Activist for Inclusive Education, Steering Committee, Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education

– Rachel Brickner, Department of Politics, Acadia University

– Pam Rogers, Researcher and Policy Analyst, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, former teacher, Halifax Regional School Board, member Educators for Social Justice

The event will take place Friday, September 28th from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Sobey Building, Saint Mary’s University, Room 255.

There is no attendance fee, but donations are welcome.

Sponsored by:
Educators for Social Justice
Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education
Saint Mary’s Department of Social Justice and Community Studies
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–Nova Scotia

The Facebook event can be found here.

Nova Scotia Educators wonder if Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives support Doug Ford’s Education Policies

As Ontario premier Doug Ford speaks to the federal Conservative convention in Halifax tonight, Educators for Social Justice wonders if Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives share his views on P-12 education policy.

Since taking office on June 29th, Ford has abruptly cancelled a curriculum-writing session for Ontario teachers on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, he has ordered teachers to teach an outdated sex-ed curriculum written in 1998. This curriculum was created before social media and sexting existed, and makes barely any mention of LGBTQ people. This week, Ford set up a “snitch line” for parents to contact if their children’s teachers teach content from the newer, banned sex-ed curriculum.

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party (NSPC) leadership candidates John Lohr, Tim Houston, Cecil Clarke, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and Julie Chaisson have all tweeted support for Doug Ford since his election victory and will presumably be in the audience applauding him tonight. However, none have mentioned how they feel about his policy decisions on education.

As the official opposition in Nova Scotia, it’s reasonable for NSPC candidates to state publicly whether they support Doug Ford’s positions on sex education, as well as education to support reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Nova Scotians deserve to know what they could expect from a PC government.

Media: contact esjnovascotia@gmail.com or 902 880 4714

Response to Article By Paul Bennett (July 7th, 2018 – Chronicle Herald) Regarding School-Based Specialists

I am concerned that you have published yet another opinion article by Paul Bennett that represents a one-sided perspective regarding the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s decision to alter the terms of contracts for school-based specialists.

What this opinion piece would have benefited from is perspective and input from a school-based specialist, such as a speech-language pathologist, school psychologist or school social worker. Since this opinion piece has neglected to do so with the goal of providing yet another outside opinion targeted at damaging the hard-working professionals of the NSTU, I would like to provide that perspective so that your readers can make an informed choice instead of being misled.

I am deeply concerned with a number of quotes from stakeholders taken out of context and applied to this opinion piece. For example, the direct quote from Jan Keddy, regarding “family centered practice”, used in this context, implies that school-based specialists do not follow the family-centered model of support, which is not the case. An author that quotes partial pieces from a statement in order to make his or her point is not following best practices for accurately quoting sources and may be doing so misleadingly. All school-based specialists are deeply engaged with family-centered approaches. During any given week, a speech-language pathologist will make contact with all families through home programming and communication through phone or email; parents attend therapy sessions and feedback meetings with school teams designed to ensure parent engagement is maximized. A school psychologist will be involved with parent communication to ensure strategies for support are able to be used at home, conducting demonstration sessions and engaging in frequent communication. A social worker will meet with families, attend meetings with family physicians and other specialists, and assist students in attending community settings and events. To imply that school-based specialists do not follow a family-centered approach shows the lack of knowledge this piece presents.

To further imply that school-based specialists do not work outside of school hours or during the summer is also false. School program planning meetings and parent meetings are almost always conducted outside of regular working hours to ensure all staff can be in attendance and to not take away from regular programming during the day. Specialists regularly work after hours to prepare materials, programming, update the records system, or write reports for parent meetings. Students are provided with home programming for summer months, with parents meeting with staff before hand to ensure demonstration and adherence to techniques. Most of our specialists participate in professional development over the summer months in order to keep their professional credentials up to date. Furthermore, outside agencies that provide these services do not treat students the entire year. For example, Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centers provide parent-training sessions that only run for a certain duration, and treatment blocks are pre-determined in length. It is not expected that these professionals treat the same students for the entire year, why would this be enforced on school-based specialists? Speech-language therapy can be taxing and students require breaks to practice their skills in outside, naturalistic environments. To suggest otherwise shows a lack of understanding by the author of this piece.

Creating a division between specialists in terms of those working full-year and those not will only break-down the flow of support for students. In the process, specialists will seek work elsewhere. One only has to look next door to New Brunswick to see what has happened when these changes were enforced on their school-based specialists – there is currently a lack of trained specialists in the province who have chosen to work elsewhere because of these imposed work conditions.  I question where Mr. Bennett has found data suggesting that there are “48” speech-language pathologists across the province serving school populations, when this is simply not the case. Perhaps he means 48 positions now not under the union, which may be likely. Or perhaps he meant “48 positions that have had job rights taken away from them and can expect overworked job conditions”. There is no mention of the current working conditions for specialists; with caseloads triple the recommended size, moving staff to 12 months will not alleviate these caseloads nor provide more service for students.

In summary, families should be aware that the impression being provided by consultants and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is not an accurate representation of the current situation. All specialists provide family-focused care; all specialists work outside of daily hours and over summer break; all specialists are overworked and have huge caseloads that are not manageable; initiatives to provide additional staff are not working due to the loss of staff because of job conditions. Students will not get better service with these changes; specialists will be further overworked and our most vulnerable populations will suffer.

The Glaze Report: An Illusion of Improvement to Hide McNeil’s Failures

The Nova Scotia Liberal government’s recently-announced reforms are part of a broader, troubling global trend in education.

The recommendations from Dr. Avis Glaze’s report will do nothing to improve the experience of students in Nova Scotia schools. They are a thinly-veiled attack on the teachers union, and an attempt to turn our community-focused education system into the problematic business-driven model prevalent in many U.S. states.

Even if it were true, as Dr. Glaze claims, that Nova Scotia’s students were consistently under-performing on standardized tests – and several observers have pointed out that the results cited in her report do not support this claim – there is no evidence to suggest that any of the proposed reforms will improve test scores.

The Liberal government must recognize that standardized test scores in a handful of subjects are by no means the measure we should use to evaluate how our schools are doing. Academics around the world oppose using large-scale test scores to make drastic changes to education policy. All these tests do are show the powerful effects of economic disparity on student learning.

Stephen McNeil’s Liberals say they want to improve student achievement, yet their proposed reforms do nothing to address the fact that one-fifth of Nova Scotia’s children live in poverty.

The Liberals have dragged their feet on changing rules that claw back child support for families on income assistance.

They stubbornly refuse to raise the minimum wage to anything close to a livable amount, condemning low-income parents and their families to live in poverty.

They have mismanaged the department that oversees the care of our most vulnerable children.

Addressing any one of these issues should be more of a priority than dissolving democratically elected school boards and creating new layers of educational bureaucracy. We oppose the Liberals’ agenda, and urge them to reconsider implementing these reforms so they may instead address the issues that truly have an impact in our children’s lives.

Teacher’s Voices: An Independent Report on Nova Scotia’s Education System

Educators for Social Justice Nova Scotia is collecting information from teachers for an independent report on Nova Scotia’s education system. We are encouraging Nova Scotia teachers to contribute by participating in this survey.

Why do we want to hear from you?

Following a year of contract negotiations which ended with an unprecedented teachers’ strike and an imposed contract, the provincial Liberal government has committed to researching conditions in our schools via the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions. For a variety of reasons, many teachers have expressed skepticism with the partisan interests of the Council. Our goal is to provide an alternate reading of classroom conditions in Nova Scotia through the eyes of teachers and others who work within the school system.

We are not receiving any funding to complete this report, nor are we connected to any governing body, school board, or government department. Through multiple teachers’ perspectives, we want to create a nuanced understanding of education that centers the experience of teachers, and is free from partisan interests.

What we will do with this information?

The collected information will be widely distributed through social media networks and possibly other online local press outlets. Since teaching is a dynamic occupation with a wide variety of experiences, we are open to all perspectives and will take all voices into account. Answers are anonymous, and unless participants choose to volunteer their information, no email addresses will be collected through the survey. We won’t contact you for any follow-up questions or for any other reason.

Thank you for taking the time to complete our survey. Your voice matters to us, and could possibly make a difference in shaping public perceptions of teaching in Nova Scotia. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at: esjnovascotia@gmail.com.