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Alberta education layoffs

| Funding and resourcing, Labour rights, Unionization

Shelley L. Morse 

Alberta education layoffs deem vulnerable students as expendable

OTTAWA – The Alberta Government’s decision to lay off thousands of substitute teachers, education assistants and support workers in the midst of this COVID-19 health crisis is appalling. 

At a time when schools across the country have been closed to protect children, physical distancing has also left our most vulnerable students without the support and structure they depend on. To effectively add 25,000 people to the unemployment line, including 6,000 substitute teachers and up to 20,000 non-certificated staff, is unconscionable. Handing out pink slips only places more families in precarious situations, and leaves them without the means to help others. 

The government’s decision should also be viewed as a shot across the bow for public sector workers everywhere. This is not what our society needs right now. 

Although being referred to as a temporary measure, this opportunistic move is nothing more than an excuse to gut publicly funded public education under the cover of a pandemic. This short-sighted move will also have long-term repercussions that threaten not only the education system and the professionals who run it, but the children and youth they help nourish each and every day. 

Children living with special needs who rely on education support workers to learn will now be left without the care they so desperately need. Attention must turn to how these students’ needs will be supported through this time. With many parents struggling to cope with the already challenging circumstances, more help, not less, is needed. 

Equity and inclusion must be priorities 

With the province of Alberta set to roll out distance learning plans, the decision to eliminate those dedicated to helping students learn could not come at a worse time. Education Assistants were filling the void left by school closures by stepping up and pitching in to help with accommodations and to deliver resources to students with inadequate technology. Now, students without the resources to learn online will be left to fend for themselves. 

For too many children across the country, school was their safe place. Now confined to their homes, or worse, living without shelter, children living in poverty or in abusive situations have lost one of the few refuges they had. This is why it is crucial that in this moment of crisis, we turn toward those most trusted by children: their teachers and education support personnel. 

Even from a distance, education professionals can play an integral role in seeing that our most vulnerable children have a lifeline to reach for. Let us not cut it when they need it the most. 

This is why we are calling on all governments in Canada to work with the dedicated education professionals and their unions to collectively find the solutions needed to help our children and youth during these extraordinary times. Now is not the moment to abandon our kids. 

Background information

Shelley L. Morse is President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE), the national voice for the teaching profession. As the national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations, the CTF/FCE represents over 300,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada. The CTF/FCE is also a member of Education International, the global body of national education organizations in 173 countries.

Media contact

Andrew King,
Canadian Teachers’ Federation
Mobile: 819-213-7847