“What is in the agreement, it’s not a solution to classroom complexity, but you can’t run a marathon without first running a mile,” said STF president Samantha Becotte.

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Details of a tentative agreement offered to Saskatchewan teachers last week reveal slight concessions on several important items, but still no firm mandates on class size or complexity.

Information obtained by the Leader-Post from a trusted source, some of which was made public by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) on Thursday, shows bullet points from the three-year contract offer currently in front of membership.

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STF president Samantha Becotte says the offer addresses “a majority of proposals,” including classroom complexity, and outlines a “mutually acceptable” agreement for both parties.

“What is in the agreement, it’s not a solution to classroom complexity,” acknowledged Becotte on Thursday, “but you can’t run a marathon without first running a mile.

Though the federation’s leadership has endorsed the offer, the general temperature among teachers who have taken their thoughts to social media appears to be much colder.

“I haven’t talked to anybody who is happy with it,” said Devon Floyd, a teacher with Regina Public Schools, in an interview Thursday.

Floyd said the biggest hang-up for him and many colleagues with whom he’s spoken is still on whether the offer addresses issues of classroom complexity to a satisfactory level.

“My concern is that there will be no tangible changes to classroom conditions for students with this deal,” Floyd said. “I think that (leadership) honestly believes this is the best that we can get from this government, but I also feel like we have not yet exhausted all our options.”

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It appears the STF has settled for the salary offer put forth by the government-trustee bargaining committee (GTBC) in its last proposed contract, but made headway on several other points.

The tentative agreement includes an eight-per-cent salary increase over three years, plus a one-time market adjustment of one per cent to the overall salary grid, retroactive to 2023. It also includes a compression of the first two steps of the grid into one, effective September 2024.

The agreement still mentions a four-year memorandum-of-understanding (MOU) signed in early March by the Ministry of Education and Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) for $53.1 million in funding per year, plus a line in the contract committing to an accountability framework.

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New items appear to be a promise for an additional $18 million annually up to 2028, to “address classroom supports.” The pledge bolsters government promises for more multi-year funding to a total of $360.2 million over the term of the MOU.

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Also new is a promise to convene a task force on classroom complexity that brings together the ministry, SSBA and STF voices. A similar committee just concluded the exact same work in 2023, a spinoff result of an off-the-table promise from government during negotiations in 2019.

At the time, then-STF president Patrick Maze refused to participate, saying it was “an attempt to subvert the collective bargaining process.” STF representatives did eventually take part, according to an action plan report produced in June.

This new task force would include “current teachers, current students, current parents” to provide perspectives “connected to the classroom,” said Becotte.

“We will definitely be advocating to ensure that this task force provides tangible solutions,” she said. “We’re hoping the minister (of education) takes this seriously.”

Becotte said the MOU, task force and additional annual funding represent compromise between the GTBC and teachers frustrated with “hitting roadblocks.”

“There’s lots of ways the issues of class complexity can be addressed. With bargaining negotiations … that’s not the only avenue,” she said. “We are going to continue to advance those issues, if teachers choose to accept what is in the tentative agreement.”

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STF president Samantha Becotte is shown at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation office in Saskatoon on Feb. 29, 2024. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Other items for which the STF initially asked have been addressed within the current offer, including a policy table on violence-free classrooms, enhancements to benefits and allowances for principals and vice-principals.

Pending a judicial review on a conciliation board’s recommendation from 2020, government may also concede on adding substitute teachers fully under STF membership.

Teachers across the province attended town hall sessions outlining the offer on May 22 and 23, and will vote on ratification May 29 and 30. The last offer was overwhelmingly rejected with 90 per cent voting no, followed by a similarly well-supported approval to extend the STF’s sanctions mandate.

Should teachers also reject this offer, Becotte said the executive would “do some work within our membership to fully understand why” and bargaining attempts would resume.

Though he appreciates the headway made on several items, Floyd said he intends to vote no to the latest offer: “It’s a principle to say no.”

Even STF leadership acknowledged the amount of funding promised in this deal will still “likely keep us (in Saskatchewan) as the lowest per-student funding in the country,” he noted.

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Floyd also pointed to Nova Scotia teachers who just ratified an agreement locking in an 11-per cent salary raise over three years, full-time counsellors for every school and classroom caps.

Relying on another task force simply adds more work for teachers rather than solve issues related to classroom complexity, he argued.

“What that does is just ask teachers to contribute more (and), I think at this point, both teachers and the public understand that class conditions are unmanageable,” Floyd said.

“We’ve come this far with our fight for classroom complexity to be addressed and, if it’s not going to be addressed in the contract, then I don’t know.”

— with files from Alec Salloum, Angela Amato, and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix


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