Maze sees 2019 as pivotal year for teachers in relationship with government

January 16, 2019

Maze sees 2019 as pivotal year for teachers in relationship with government

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Patrick Maze (left) and
Executive Director Randy Schmaltz have much to contemplate when it comes
to dealing with what 2019 is likely to bring. Bulletin file photo

According to Maze, the state of relative unease within the education sector is still very much in the forefront as he remains largely unconvinced of the provincial government’s pledge to listen to teachers more in the future.

“I think teachers will be watching very closely when it comes to the upcoming round of provincial collective bargaining and the spring budget. We’ve had a lot of examples of the Ministry [of Education] saying all the right things, but we need to see action if there is to be real belief. Right now it seems like the government thinks they can just put teachers off until we get closer to the 2020 election,” Maze offered.

In view of developments such as the severe funding cutback in the 2017 budget (with just over half of the original $54 million deficit addressed in this year’s budget), it is Maze’s contention that it is all part of a larger plan.

“I think it is part of the government’s strategy to undermine the public’s confidence in public education, but they are finding it very difficult because of the good job that teachers are doing in their classrooms.

“I think that has been a major contributing factor in terms of the pushback from both teachers and the communities who are committed to having a voice in public education in the province. That is a testament to the conviction of our members and the strength of the Federation.”

Otherwise, Maze reckons, education could already have experienced the same steps taken with the provincial health-care system in terms of creating one provincewide board of authority.

Bearing in mind what he has seen in his time as President of the STF, Maze is convinced that the ruling Saskatchewan Party views public education as a cost.

“This is unfortunate because history shows that it is the vulnerable members of society who are left behind when the system isn’t properly resourced. You wind up paying one way or another down the road.”

Maze thinks back to his days as a social studies teacher in analyzing the current government’s approach, which he says mirrors others in the course of history who operate on the mantra that governments will do anything to retain power.

Given their long-standing electoral success, Maze maintains the status quo will remain and that “there’s little chance they are going to change their approach.”

As much as he has been encouraged by some of the comments made by Education Minister Gord Wyant in terms of wanting to reset the relationship between the government and the province’s teachers, Maze finds himself wondering if he is actually committed to deliver on what he espouses.

“We continue to see very different realities from what we are hearing. If they really wanted what was best for Saskatchewan students, they would go in a different direction overall,” he added.

Describing himself as persistent and somewhat stubborn, Maze vows to push back, and he is of the belief that from his conversations with teachers throughout the province, they have a similar determination.

“I think you are seeing that with what the government has been doing in terms of their approach to teachers – they are frustrated and not feeling valued. I think teachers are starting to understand that they can have more impact than they give themselves credit for.”

Maze insisted preserving relationships is important, but added, “there has to be work from both partners, and right now it’s not working for teachers in their classrooms. I think that is making teachers a bit edgier and that has been created by government. It results in teachers being less tolerant. I’m hearing about teachers who go home at the end of the day and know that tomorrow will be the same in terms of not having the supports they need and the challenges they face.”

If this frustration leads to a more assertive approach from the Federation, Maze is nonetheless convinced that the STF can still also be a strong professional voice for teachers and their students, while at the same time remaining a strong voice for the working conditions of our members.

Maze, who will be seeking a fifth term as President at the STF 2019 Annual Meeting of Council, suggested that “absolutely this will be a pretty interesting year ahead, and there will be lots of reasons to pay attention.”