HALIFAX –It will be up to Nova Scotia teachers to decide whether they participate in extracurricular activities as they adjust to a contract imposed on them through legislation, Education Minister Karen Casey said Wednesday.
Casey said the province’s 9,300 public school teachers are in a transition period now that their work-to-rule job action was halted by a contract imposed Tuesday by the Liberal government, which ended a 16-month contract dispute.
Casey said she thinks many teachers want to get back to helping with extracurricular activities, but it will be up to them to decide whether to volunteer their time for activities that are not part of the contract.
“What I’m hearing from high school students is that (extracurricular activities) are very much a part of the character and the spirit of the school. They miss those things and I’m sure that students are encouraging their teachers to continue that,” said Casey following a cabinet meeting.
“But it is a teacher’s decision and we’ll have to wait to see how many continue doing that.”
The union did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
The Liberals used their majority to ram through Bill 75, which sparked rowdy protests outside of Province House by teachers who said it infringed on their constitutional right to negotiate a collective agreement.
Teachers held a one-day strike last Friday in protest of the legislation, saying it doesn’t provide the help they need in the classroom. It was the first time in the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union’s 122-year history that members had walked off the job.
The union issued a news release Wednesday denouncing the government’s decision to put the $3.4 million saved on strike day toward one-time grants for extracurricular activities that fall outside of the instructional day.
“Teachers, students and parents who have been fighting for better education want to know why the premier chose not to use this money to reduce class sizes or provide greater support for students with special needs,” said union president Liette Doucet.
“This decision does nothing to address the significant problems currently facing our system.”
The province also announced details Wednesday on its council to improve classroom conditions.
The Education Department says the council –which will be co-chaired by government and union representatives and include nine teachers, a parent and a student –will be formed by March 7.
The department says a facilitator will also work with the committee and an arbitrator will be appointed in the event the co-chairs cannot agree on a recommendation.
Initial recommendations from the council, which will get $20 million over two years, are expected by April 28.