'Educational assistants, librarians, financial clerks, administrative assistants, IT ... the work all our educational support staff members do affects students'
The provincial government’s cut to school board funding has turned out to be smaller than some people said it would be, but NSGEU President Joan Jessome is still very concerned that they will hurt school support staff and the students they help.
“The government is telling school boards that the cuts should target administration and not the classroom,” says Jessome. “I’m worried that school boards will take that to mean that they should target our members for cuts.
“But the work of our members supports the classroom,” she says. “Financial clerks, administrative assistants, IT specialists … they are the classroom. It takes a team to educate a child, and these cuts could break the team and affect the classroom.”
On Feb. 8, the education minister told the province’s school boards that their budgets will each be cut by around 2 per cent. The boards will now spend the next couple of months deciding how they will deal with those cuts.
As the boards go through their decision-making process, Jessome is urging members to remain vigilant.
“We need to keep going to the school board meetings where these decisions are being made,” she says. “We need to keep explaining to people how the work of our members significantly contributes to the education of the student and any cuts to our members will affect the classroom.
“Whether you’re an educational assistant or a bus driver or a librarian, you contribute to the classroom.”
Jessome is also sceptical that relying on attrition to save money – simply not replacing workers who retire or leave for work elsewhere – is not as painless a process as we are being lead to believe.
For one thing, she doubts it will save much money. “A lot of our members don’t work full-time and haven’t worked long enough to have built up much of a pension,” she says. “The savings just aren’t there.”
For another thing, Jessome says that regardless of how a worker leaves, their absence will inevitably hurt the classroom their work doesn’t leave with them. She says it’s clear from what she’s hearing from her members there is an increase in the level of needs for students with behavioural problems and/or special needs.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE