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Teachers must seize their own mastery

May 31, 2022 Kate Toogood, ATA News Staff


Executive secretary outlines period of unprecedented attacks

Teachers need to stick together in the wake of unprecedented levels of attack from government, says ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald.

Theobald delivered the remark during his annual report to delegates of the Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) in Calgary on May 21.

“We were subjected to a series of legislative and regulatory measures that collectively constitute the most serious and sustained attack on teacher professional autonomy and agency that we have ever seen in the history of this province,” Theobald said.

The attacks began when the newly elected United Conservative government cancelled the partnership between the government and the Association on curriculum development and implementation, and continued over the past year with three pieces of legislation, he said.

The first of these was Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta Workplaces Act, or what Theobald calls the “Imposing Useless, Annoying and Expensive Red Tape on People We Don’t Like Act.

“The Association has spent a great deal of time and effort over the last four months explaining to members the mechanics of Bill 32 in application to the Association and how the Association is proposing to effectively manage its implications,” he said.

Next, Theobald turned his attention to Bill 22, which attempted to give control of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). Theobald said the effect of the legislation was minimized by the combination of teacher advocacy and ATA legal activities.

The attack on teacher autonomy was blunted when the Association was able to demonstrate in court that regulations allowing the minister of finance to impose an investment management agreement on ATRF were overreaching, he said.

“The successful legal strategy, coupled with sustained and vigorous teacher advocacy, eventually forced AIMCo to enter into a new agreement with ATRF that restored their authority,” Theobald said.

The most recent attack came via Bill 15, which seeks to remove professional regulatory responsibilities that the ATA has held since 1936. Although passed, the bill has yet to come into effect and the ATA’s advocacy on this matter continues, he said.

All told, Theobald believes that the government has one purpose: “the systematic deprofessionalization of teaching by stripping our collective autonomy and agency as an association.”

Despite the challenges facing the ATA, Theobald said he derives hope from the strength of teachers, the support for public education he has seen from Albertans and elected officials (including some that he said might surprise members), his colleagues and the ATA motto itself.

“This Association was not created as a gift of the government. It was created by teachers banding together in a common cause,” he said. “The Latin motto of our organization, Magistri Neque Servi, Masters Not Servants, is a sentiment that we need to seize upon.”

“If we continue to band together, we can protect our autonomy and agency in the face of whatever might come forward — we must commit to and seize our own mastery.” ❚


ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald speaks at ARA on May 21.


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