Maze underscores resolve in campaign to garner increased funding for public education
As he contemplated having just been elected for a fifth time as President of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (this most recent re-election will be a two-year term), Patrick Maze was adamant that not only is there a looming crisis in terms of public education, but the issue is much larger.
He insisted it is more of a general societal issue that is enveloping an ever-larger segment of the Saskatchewan population. In his view, this is directly attributable to the policies of the current Saskatchewan Party and its constituents.
Maze, who finished comfortably ahead of Vice-President Brent Keen in a repeat of the previous year’s election, freely admitted that it is frustrating to hear promises from government which he said, are not being followed by the sort of action he would like to see in terms of funding increases.
Interestingly, Maze said on his recent barnstorming tour of the province talking to teachers that “not one teacher said anything about their salary or benefits; they only wished they could do more for their students and that their needs were not being met.
“There is a general concern that student needs are not being met and the situation is similar across the province even if the reasons might differ depending on the location. Government has to come to the realization that it is their responsibility to fund a basic service like public education–especially if they want to have improved student achievement results.”
According to Maze, his travels confirmed to him there are entire communities that are not healthy and that this reflects directly on
Maze is of the view that the single, biggest, and arguably most difficult, problem to solve is rooted in what he sees as misguided priorities in the government’s overall plan.
“They [government] are more interested in having a balanced budget than properly funding those who they serve. The teachers on the front line are facing some really difficult situations and the level of frustration is at the breaking point. The bottom line is public education is expensive, and to have the kind of high-quality public education that we want, the supports have to be in place. Clearly this government is not willing to do that. Balancing the books on the backs of students is not acceptable,” he insisted.
Maze cited the long-standing philosophy of striving for the lowest taxation rates among the western provinces does not serve public education or society well.
“It amounts to the fact they have to change their attitude. We should not be celebrating that we have cut agricultural tax by 80 percent. It is ridiculous, and I believe if people were asked and assured that their tax dollars would be going to the public education system and reaching the classroom then they would be all right with paying more in tax.”
Pondering how to change the narrative when dealing with the provincial government, Maze is succinct in stating that it is paramount to get the public on board.
“It’s unfortunately true that governments only listen when it becomes an election issue. So it is key to the public to understand the situation teachers and public education are facing. As a Federation, we need to be very public about the challenges students and teachers are facing. I wish there were a few more education champions among our MLAs.”
Asked if he thought some might change their viewpoint if they were to embark on a bus tour similar to what Maze and colleagues did recently, the President was not convinced. Nevertheless, he maintained that it might be helpful “because they would see firsthand that there are so many areas where teachers are just holding things together but they are at the breaking point. I would certainly encourage MLAs to get out and talk to teachers and students.
“I know they [government] have heard the stories but ultimately I guess it will take the public to become more involved. It’s our responsibility to wake people up maybe because I don’t think they realize how bad the situation is if you’re not directly affected–yourself or your child.”
Maze acknowledged that while it sometimes seems like fighting a losing battle, and that it keeps him up at night, he insisted that “it inspires me to do more and to keep up the campaign to provide a voice for those who are being marginalized. I think we have seen some little victories along the way but we have to keep our focus. We have a great team and I think we are more proactive and responsive than we have ever been. The resolve among councillors is strong and we’re on the right track. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.
“We’re going to win. It is frustrating at times for sure, but we will get there. We’re not going anywhere,” he summed up.