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Education bill axes 7 school boards, offers some compromises to teachers union

Education bill axes 7 school boards, offers some compromises to teachers union
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The provincial government is introducing legislation today that will dissolve the seven regional school boards, and remove principals, vice-principals and other senior supervisors from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union but still allow them to remain affiliated with the union.

Education Minister Zach Churchill is briefing reporters on the omnibus bill, called the Education Reform Act, this morning in Halifax and will introduce it this afternoon in Province House.

The bill follows several tense weeks after the release of education consultant Avis Glaze’s report on education administration that saw teachers give their union an overwhelming mandate for illegal job action.

But while initial concerns from some teachers and their union were that the government would completely embrace and implement all 22 of Glaze’s recommendations, today’s bill shows compromise.

The government will not go ahead with Glaze’s advice to create a college of educators to oversee teacher training, certification and discipline. Instead, it has agreed to work with the union to develop teaching and leadership standards.

Vice-principals, principals and administrators will also be allowed to maintain affiliation with the NSTU while joining a new group called the Public School Administrators Association.

The union is expected to respond later today.

The government is also creating a new provincial advisory council of education, which will have 15 members representing all regions of the province. The government says the makeup will include people with diverse backgrounds and a representative with experience in inclusive education.

Two executive director positions are being created within the Department of Education to represent African-Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities.

The bill will separate Education Acts created for the English and French-language school systems. Government officials say the change is intended to reflect the culture of CSAP, the francophone school board.

As part of dissolving the seven English-language boards, a one-time payout to elected board members of $2.4 million will be made to cover their stipends through to the end of what would have been the current term. Following that payout, government officials say the elimination of elected boards will save $2.3 million annually, which will go into the system.

The new administrators association, which comes into effect on Aug. 1, will pay dues to the NSTU but won’t have the right to unionize or take job action.

A member of the administrators association, if they return to teaching, will be able to move back to the union and vice versa, as long as the affiliation with the union remains in place. Their seniority will continue to accrue under this arrangement in the event they were to return to the union.

They continue to participate in all benefit and pension plans. Beginning in February 2019, the association will be able to consider every two years whether or not to remain affiliated with the union. It can end the affiliation through a majority vote of association members.

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