UPDATE - P.E.I. teachers and parents protest against cuts to education

Mitch MacDonald
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The provincial government needs to stop looking at budget numbers and teacher-student ratios and turn their attention towards the needs of Island students, says the president of the P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation.

Gilles Arsenault spoke on behalf of teachers in front of a crowd of more than 100 during a protest rally at province house Sunday.

The rally was organized by a group calling itself Islanders Against 2014 Cuts to Education and was in response to the 32 full-time teaching positions being lost across P.E.I. for the coming school year.

While Arsenault acknowledged declining enrollment and economic challenges, he said the government needs to re-instate those positions.

“This government needs to establish and follow a staffing model that meets the needs of our children,” he said. “It needs to stop hiding behind numbers that have little or no meaning and needs to stop trying to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and students.

“We need to stop cutting teachers and it needs to stop now.”

Patty van Diepen, a spokesperson for the group, said the cuts will mean some smaller schools will lose the Reading Recovery program, which was implemented to strengthen literacy skills in Grade 1 students.

Van Diepen said the group’s goal is to lose the “antiquated” student-teacher ratio that fails to reflect the needs of classrooms.

“It’s a model that just isn’t working and we want our government to develop policies that will support excellence in student achievement,” she said, urging those at the rally to contact their school board and local MLAS. “We can no longer withstand any further cuts. The negative impact in our children is showing in assessments and our children need us now.”

Arsenault said enrollment, class size and student-teacher ratios indicate very little about the needs of an education system.

“The numbers do not tell you that P.E.I. now has more students than ever that do not speak English as a first language,” said Arsenault, who also pointed towards an increase of students diagnosed with learning difficulties. “But support and teaching training are not keeping pace… Islanders deserve an accurate picture of today’s classrooms and Island students deserve the same level of support that is provided in other provinces.”

The day also saw speeches from English Language School Board chair Fred Osborne, leaders of the provincial New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative Party as well as  Education Minister Alan McIsaac.

McIsaac said while the Programme for International Student Assessment results taken from P.E.I. test scores in 2012 were low, there has been continued support to the education system.

He said the department’s budget has grown from $170 million to $231.9 million since 2007, which included adding the Early Years program, full-day Kindergarten and later year assessments.

McIsaac also spoke on the loss of teaching positions and said that during a 15-year period, from 2001 to 2016, there will have been 71 teachers added to the system as well as 106 positions removed.

That makes for a total loss of 35 full-time positions during that period, he said.

“But over that period of time our student enrollment will have dropped by over 5,000 students,” said McIsaac.

He said the province is also trying to deal with a discrepancy in numbers, with many schools near Charlottetown and Summerside “bursting at the seams” compared to the smaller classrooms in rural areas.

There are 63 classrooms in P.E.I. with 16 or fewer students, with most of those being in rural schools.

“If we had all our students in a cookie cutter area and we could split them up evenly we’d have plenty of resources,” he said. “We’re trying to deal with the fact that there is a discrepancy in numbers… but we are dealing with that.”

McIsaac said he valued input from the group and also invited members to continue cooperating with himself, teachers and the school board to solve the issue.

“Nothing is corrected and improved overnight, it’s a big job,” he said. ““We just need to work together…. I know we’re going to have one of the best education systems in the country very soon because of some of the investments we’ve made.”


Organizations: Province House

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Joe
    June 09, 2014 - 19:23

    Perhaps MLA positions need to be cut just like teaching positions. If student enrolment is down due to islanders relocating to other parts of the nation then there must be fewer people needing MLA representation!

  • Liberal disgrace
    June 09, 2014 - 15:50

    We as voters and taxpayers of this province we can fix this education cuts and not to reduce teachers, IE first fire MacIssac ,and cancel the 2014 celebrations,then give 22 MLAS Their termination papers the money saved then put into the education system problem solved there is always solutions to saving money ,start on the inside first.

  • ralph
    June 09, 2014 - 11:42

    It is in the best interest of the politicians to keep the population stupid, -- and it works, obviously, --- look at the poll and the numbers stating they are satisfied with Ghiz

  • don
    June 09, 2014 - 11:36

    Gilles should be forced to step down if he is running for the liberals then he maybe helping ghiz out by screwing the teachers to get a boast in the liberals. this could be why he is NOT fighting for the teachers.

  • oranges
    June 09, 2014 - 11:11

    As someteachers told me that they wouldn't go to the rally as they were scared that they would be either fired or transfered to other parts of the Island. Hope this doesn't happen to the few attending?

  • alexander stewart
    June 09, 2014 - 11:05

    How many teachers can you employ for the cost of a royal visit?

  • Who Really Cares?
    June 09, 2014 - 10:57

    In 2013 there were 20131 students in the public school system. If there's at least one teacher to every thirty students, plus administrators and support staff, that would be at least another 3000 people. Add all the parents and we're pushing 30 000 people who are directly impacted by this issue. So, if you were Mr. Ghiz, how would you interpret the attendance of 200 at this rally? Like Mr. Ghiz constantly and truthfully says, there's only one thing that matters to him and that's one day every election cycle.

  • Concerned_parent
    June 09, 2014 - 10:22

    Great job to the organizers yesterday and for those who turned out, I applaud you. Unlike what the Minister likes to tell the crowd and all Islanders, the education system on PEI is in a desperate state. We will not be a model that will be looked at from other provinces. Spending more money does not equal better education. I feel for the educators out there today because their passion for the job is being sucked out of them. And for our children of the future, I really worry for them. There is no easy solution to this problem but we cannot eliminate resources that are helping our children (ie reading recovery). I will never understand those who want to bash the teachers.

  • reality
    June 09, 2014 - 10:00

    the parent is the primary educator !!!for those of you who send your kids to school but think the system and teachers are not performing ---- - become a teacher yourself -home school your kids -send your kids to a private school - withdraw them from school if it isn't helping them !!! there are very many smart people who benefited from the school system --but it can't be expected to do the impossible !!! --again---THE PARENT IS THE PRIMARY EDUCATOR!!! as a parent --ARE YOU?

    • apples
      June 09, 2014 - 14:39

      Well said. What you put in you will get out.Nothing in nothing out. You reap what you so..

  • Craig
    June 09, 2014 - 09:24

    29 million would go a long way in education and healthcare! The government thinks it's better to waste it on 2014 celebrations! Sounds like the right people are running government!

  • Peter Llewellyn
    June 09, 2014 - 07:57

    For Paul Moxley. Interesting comments I can't find your name from a search but I did have this conversation with Gillis a few months ago? Why are critical comments about education or those who work in it met with hate comments? if you are an educator Paul I would hope your peers would keep you from teaching our young people

    • don
      June 09, 2014 - 08:52

      what we have teaching now is not doing that good of a job. when you have Rick MacLean tell us that he has to send students to glass's to learn what they should have learned in regular school. now tell me who's fault is it? tell us.

    • don
      June 09, 2014 - 08:56

      Amy. if the kids are that bad then the child is kicked out for life. plain and simple or have him/her charged. and by the way back then the parents could spank the child but due to whining hearts from people that some do not even have kids that was stopped. and today kids has more rights then adults. and it is ones like you that has helped kids get the power.

    • Amy
      June 09, 2014 - 19:55

      You are not allowed to kick out the students. That is one of the problems with the school system. They are allowed to come back everyday and disrupt everyone's learning. I could only wish that they were told to stay home. Welcome to the world teachers deal with in 2014.

  • Peter
    June 09, 2014 - 07:19

    To Unknown: nice name! To Paul Moxley: Almost 40 years ago, my 10 year old son came home with a list of school supplies he needed, including a calculator. I told him, "Of course we'll buy everything you need, but the calculator stays at school", to which he replied "How am I going to do my homework?" I answered, "The same way your Mom and I did ... with a pencil and paper, and using your head". A few days later, a couple of teachers were interviewed on TV. One stated "We don't need to teach kids the multiplication tabels anymore, or how to add and subtract.. they have calculators". I taught my son what the teachers didn't "need" to teach him. Today, he thanks me for it, and has taught my grandchildren how to use their heads. Also today, we see the results of kids not being able to think. Class sizes at the time, (as well as in my own school years) were 30 students per class. I also don't live in Georgetown.

  • Listening to the wrong people?
    June 09, 2014 - 07:15

    One indicator of a successful school system would be a system wide ability to sustain informed discussion. From the PEITF to "Peter" to the Minister of Education, all we seem to hear is fragmented babble. Wouldn't Islanders be better off listening a lot more to the children and a lot less to the adults?

  • j
    June 09, 2014 - 06:26

    Folks, many of you are talking about the wrong issues, it's not what teachers are doing you should be concerned with. As one person said, it's what goes on in our classrooms on a daily basis that should be the concern and the effect caused by budget cuts and teacher positions not being filled. teachers have to deal with so many issues, that there are continuous interruptions to teaching. There are many students incapable of meeting the curriculum outcomes because of mental/emotional issues ( drug-alcohol fetal syndrome, poor training in basic behaviour skills, respect, manners etc.) hardly the fault of the teacher. These students often require a great deal of assistance. In today's classroom the teacher has to deal with all these issues and try to teach the prescribed program. Many students work at below grade programming ( Adapted or Individual Education Programs because they can't do the work and often have little to no support from home. Add to this often providing breakfast and lunch, and quite often clothing all takes away from instructional time and energy needed for the job. Another great concern should be the high rate of students absent from classes, strolling in at all hours, going on family holidays, sporting events and just being allowed to stay home. Another issue people should be concerned with is the multi -age classes that are being proposed, particularly K-1 split. who will teach these children? Will it be an ECE/One year B.ed Program or will it be a graduate of the 6 year B.ed program. My bet it will be the person that costs less. Folks stop bashing teachers and ask yourself what you're doing to make your child's school experience the best it can be. Teachers, in today's society are basically doing the best they can do.

  • Bobby Mackendorff
    June 08, 2014 - 19:08

    Peter, why the real hatred of teachers? Did a teacher scold you once too often when you did not do your homework? Or maybe you were putting a little girl's pigtails into the inkwell and the teacher saw you. Or maybe you couldn't quite understand the lesson of the day and had to stay in after school. Or maybe you are just plain dumb and don't like teachers because they are so much smarter than you. I would say all of the above.

  • Bill Oakley
    June 08, 2014 - 18:54

    Don, we need more teachers to make sure they have better language and writing skills than you. Did you read your comment on this story? Come on Don, it seems like you have no skills at writing and spelling.

  • Alan Callaghan
    June 08, 2014 - 17:51

    In response to peter's comment of teachers doing next to nothing,I know one teacher who is at his school today working on exams. Who,Peter,takes your kids on field trips?wipes their noses at recess,comforts them when tjhey are hurt? Do you rush home from work to do these things?Naw!

  • Peter
    June 08, 2014 - 16:24

    IMO, teachers must be proud of themselves for using kids to try and make sure they keep getting paid for doing next to nothing. I think the end result of 12 years in school, and, for some, a few years of university or college, and they still can't count change back from a dollar or spell, or use proper grammar, pretty much proves it. Then again, I wonder how manyof these teachers even know what the words two, to and too mean. Or there, their and they're.

    • Unknown
      June 08, 2014 - 17:56

      I can't believe that someone has the gall to write something like this. Using kids... Wow! I can't believe it! I'm sure if you spent a day in a classroom, you would understand better the dedication that all PEI teachers have toward THEIR students. I am FRENCH first language and I even know that! Lol

    • Paul Moxley
      June 08, 2014 - 23:15

      Peter, you sound like another guy named Peter who lives in Georgetown and owns a sea glass shop who hates teachers so much that he drives by the school when it is closed due to snowstorms and dangerous weather conditions just to see if there are any teacher's cars in the parking lot. He hates teachers so much he thinks they should be in school no matter how dangerous the driving conditions. How weird is that?

    • Peter Llewellyn
      June 09, 2014 - 07:45

      Hello Paul Moxely This is Peter Llewellyn from Georgetown, drop in and discuss your points any time.

  • A former teacher!
    June 08, 2014 - 16:02

    As a retired teacher; I could not believe it, when the PEITF president- Gilles Arsenault in a letter to Island teachers not to criticize the government for the cuts! I also wondered why he was so silent during the changes to the retired teacher pensions! The answer came during lastw week's Compass; when he said that he was considering running for the Liberals Federally in the next Federal election against Gail Shea! He does not want to turn off Ghiz and his gang!!!

    • don
      June 08, 2014 - 17:34

      he was no good to start with. he is what they call a puppet. and tell me when we have less kids on PEI why do we need more teacher? maybe the teachers would like it better if they only had to kids in each classroom? better still how could these want to be teacher make it if the had a one room school with say 4 grades to teach? and running for the liberals hell he would be worse then ghiz can ever be. just think teachers how he is back stabbing you now what will he do in ottawa?

    • Amy
      June 08, 2014 - 22:23

      This comment is for Don. I don't think in the one room schools they had students throwing chairs, desks, etc., telling teachers off, trying to hit teachers, etc. as early as kindergarten. This is a daily occurrence in many Island schools today. The schools are told that all children have a right to an education. So that same student is back the next day doing the same things. It makes it pretty hard to teach when you have to concentrate on one or two students so that the rest of your students don't get hurt. You really should go into an elementary school in Charlottetown to see how children have changed. Most people would be shocked.

    • Amy
      June 08, 2014 - 22:24

      This comment is for Don. I don't think in the one room schools they had students throwing chairs, desks, etc., telling teachers off, trying to hit teachers, etc. as early as kindergarten. This is a daily occurrence in many Island schools today. The schools are told that all children have a right to an education. So that same student is back the next day doing the same things. It makes it pretty hard to teach when you have to concentrate on one or two students so that the rest of your students don't get hurt. You really should go into an elementary school in Charlottetown to see how children have changed. Most people would be shocked.

  • voter
    June 08, 2014 - 15:45

    --"Don't say anything or the bully will fire more teachers " the federation seems to be saying !!! TEACHERS ARE TOO AFRAID TO UNIONIZE--they do not belong to any union---the PEITF is BROW BEATING its MEMBERSHIP as usual -i see ---the federation does not trust government to take any criticism -obviously the federation is scared of government and is brainwashing teachers to be quiet and docile !!! --" yes" - says the federation -" teachers should sit in the corner and shut their mouths !!!!" and,sadly, they probably will