EAST HANTS: The provinces 9,300 teachers are back to work with imposed contracts following months of work-to-rule after the highly controversial Bill 75 was passed in the Nova Scotia legislature.
Margaret Miller spoke with The Weekly Press, discussing her position on the bill, which she, along with all her fellow Liberal MLA’s voted in favour of after long deliberations, which took place at Province House in Halifax on Feb. 21.
“I don’t think this is a place anyone wanted to be,” said Miller, “government certainly hoped that an agreement with teachers could have been reached easier within the guidelines that we had in the three agreements we approved.
We knew going into this with teachers that there would certainly be a lot of opposition to Bill 75 and the hope was always that we could come to an agreement that would be something the province could afford and also meet the needs of the classroom.”
She said she believes the law amendment committee did a great job of taking into account the problems teachers face in the classroom, whether it be the challenges they have with inclusion, with different learning abilities, with behavioural problems, or attendance. Many of these problems, she says, she witnessed for herself when talking to teachers during classroom visits.
She said she was glad to see the committee televise some of their discussions, allowing the opportunity to better inform the public of the situation at hand, “Those are all things moving forward, that made people aware, not just teachers and government, but people around the province.”
“This is an ongoing situation with classes over a multiple of years, it’s been 20 years in the making, and really hasn’t been talked about until the last few years,” said Miller.
“Law amendments were really good because they really brought that information to the foreground, and we were listening, so I think Bill 75 starts to address some of those.”
Miller believes classroom improvements will become immediately apparent with Bill 75 and the council to improve classroom conditions, with $20 million being put into classes over the next two years.
The council will be made up of 12 members, nine of which will be teachers, chosen by the superintendent, from a selection of applicants who teach elementary, middle and high school levels, “they will have the say of what happens and where the need is for this money to be directed,” she said.
When asked if she considered crossing the floor at all during deliberations, she confidently responded “no.”
“I really believe in our Premier, I know that he has such a respect for the teaching profession certainly he talks about his own family members and the teachers who have effected him, and I feel the same way,” she explained.
“I believe that the vast majority of teachers are just trying to do the right thing for their classrooms, when first talking to teachers and seeing what some of the challenges were, I cant imagine being a teachers in today’s classroom, it is so difficult, I keep asking how did we get here? how did it get this far before it’s being dealt with?”
Despite a clear backlash from opposition parties, as well as the teacher’s union representatives and teachers themselves, Miller believes the bill will work towards generating improvements.
“I certainly do appreciate what they’re going through and I’m committed and I believe all my caucus members are committed to seeing this through, that we’ve all become that much more aware of the challenges in the classrooms and we have been assured and we are committed to making sure these classroom conditions improve.”