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'We're not surprised': STF disappointed with funding deal between Sask. school boards and province

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The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) are sharing their concerns over the province’s new agreement with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) meant to address classroom supports.

In a news conference held on Friday afternoon, STF president Samantha Becotte said the government’s announcement is “definitely disappointing but not new to teachers,” since they were not part of the decision making process.

Earlier on Friday, the province announced that they signed a multi-year funding agreement with SSBA that it says is meant to address classroom supports including class size and complexity.

This announcement comes as the province and the STF remain at odds over bargaining. The STF has said that it would not return to bargaining until the province’s most recent funding promises were included in a new collective agreement.

In a news release, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said the agreement with the SSBA provides a written guarantee for long-term funding,

"Now that our government has made this unprecedented commitment in a signed agreement, it's time for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation to end their job action and return to the bargaining table, so that students and teachers can return to the classroom."

According to the release, the multi-year funding agreement guarantees a base amount of long-term funding to school divisions and “signifies a shared commitment to enhancing educational outcomes and providing additional classroom supports across the province.”

The agreement will provide a minimum of $356.6 million each year for four years for classroom supports and an investment into youth mental health resources, the province said.

In a tweet, Becotte shared a message from a school board trustee, who called the agreement a “back room deal” which undermines the bargaining process and is disrespectful to teachers.

Becotte says she spoke to school board trustees who told her local school boards were offered the deal by the province and given 24 hours to sign the agreement.

"It seems the government and SSBA leadership painted a picture to local trustees that gave them no other option but to accept this backdoor agreement," she said.

Becotte said this move to avoid working the agreement into a contract with teachers is part of a longstanding pattern of pressuring schools boards under Sask. Party leadership.

As of Friday, the STF’s next job action is still set for March 11, 12, and 13 and will include a province-wide stoppage of extracurricular activities and rotating pauses of noon-hour supervision on Monday, March 11.

Becotte said the STF would return to the bargaining table if the province were able to provide four assurances in this agreement . She would like to see the money become restricted so boards can't use this money to pay down debt and are forced to use it for class supports. She also wants a reporting mechanism, have funding increases tied to enrollment and inflation and an assurance that money can't be pulled in future years

"Bring an amended version of this [agreement] to the table where bargaining can happen and we can put it into the contract," Becotte said.

Regardless if the province provides this direction to its bargaining committee or not, she feels an increase of $45.6 million next year isn't enough.

"Unfortunately, we're talking about a $400 million gap within education. So this would be a start, but we never expected to address all of the issues at the beginning. So this would be a path forward," she said.

"I think that's part of their strategy with the ad hoc funding is that they get to re-announce funds that they had once allocated, and we have raised that concern as well."

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