(en) Largest Teachers Demonstration against Education Cuts Held

EW Plawiuk (ewplawiuk@mail.geocities.com)
Mon, 06 Oct 1997 07:10:35 -0600

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

October 4, 1997

Teachers rally to demand more education


EDMONTON (CP) - Thousands upon thousands of Alberta teachers

hope their rally at the provincial legislature Saturday teaches Premier Ralph

Klein's government a lesson.

Teachers from every corner of the province said the public education

system is in dire need of financial help after five years of budget cuts by the

Conservative government.

"It comes down to money, doesn't it?" said Glen Buchan, a teacher from

Elk Island, east of Edmonton.

"Public education in Alberta has been underfunded for the past number of

years and we don't see any real major sign that it's going to increase."

It is estimated between 8,000 to 15,000 people were at the rally, one of

the largest to be held at the Alberta legislature.

"We want equal opportunities for all children," said teacher Stacey Beattie

who travelled five hours from Fort McMurray in northern Alberta to attend

the protest.

"Education is supposed to be the great equalizer but it's difficult when the

funding isn't there."

Buchan said he hoped the rally would reinforce the message from the

recent so-called Alberta growth summit that education and health care must

be goverment's top priorities.

"We want Albertans to get the message that teachers can no longer hold

together an excellent public education system under increasingly

deteriorating conditions," said Bauni Mackay, president of the

30,000-member Alberta Teachers' Association.

"We can no longer pay the price with our health, our personal lives and our


Mackay said Alberta concerns include:

- Deteriorating conditions in classrooms - class sizes have increased by five

to 10 students.

- The integration of disabled students without the support of teachers' aides.

- Shortages of equipment, supplies and books.

- Lack of money to adequately equip schools with computer technology.

Teachers, who took wage rollbacks as part of Klein's efforts, are also in

contract talks and on the verge of striking in many parts of the province.

"I hope we'll convince some people that education is important and that

teachers have played a major role in solving the debt problem, now they

need some recognition," said David McWhirter of Calgary.

Education Minister Gary Mar, who was invited but did not attend the rally,

has conceded some of the teachers' concerns are valid but he rejected


"We've always said we are prepared to reinvest in targeted areas, but we

are not going to increase spending across the board," said Mar.

Earlier this week, provincial Treasurer Stockwell Day suggested more than

$100 million in surplus funds could be made available to address problems

in Alberta's education and health systems.

Teachers in many parts of the province are in contract talks, trying win

back a five per cent wage rollback they took in 1993, and make up for

years of no pay increases.

Calgary teachers could strike soon and are already working to rule, which

has eliminated many extracurricular activities.

Alberta teachers have yet to go as far as Ontario teachers, who have

threatened a provincewide strike if the Conservative government does not

withdraw legislation that would increase teacher duties and could eliminate

4,400 jobs.

Eileen Lennon, president of the Ontario Teachers Federation, said the

legislation will destroy Ontario's education system.

For more information on this rally and other labour struggles in Alberta, Canada go to:

<bold>Alberta Strike Solidarity Page


In solidarity,

Eugene Plawiuk

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