Iqaluit teachers buy text-books with own money

Baffin MLAs Ed Picco and Tommy Enuaraq said in the legislative assembly last week that the region’s teachers don’t have enough money to do their jobs. Some teachers are even buying text books with their own money.


IQALUIT ­ The Baffin’s school system may be slowly asphyxiating ­ due to a shortage of money to buy text books and pay teachers.

Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco and Baffin Central MLA Tommy Enuaraq raised that issue in the legislative assembly last week in a series of members’ statements and questions.

But they didn’t get much sympathy from Education Minister Charles Dent, who repeatedly told them that school board budgets are fixed and that there’s nothing much he can do.

Picco told Dent that in recent weeks he’s met with the Iqaluit Education Council, along with various teachers and parents.

“Some of the areas that need to be addressed include: lack of funding at the board level to hire extra staff to help alleviate the increased student enrolments and larger class size, the state of the curricula used and the lack of financial resources for the boards of education to implement new programs or to continue the programs now in place,” Picco said.

Lack of text books

Picco said that some Iqaluit teachers are dipping into their own pockets to buy text books.

“In one case a teacher has been teaching for a long time without a curriculum or textbooks, where we have teachers buying the materials themselves out of their own pockets… That is not acceptable, Mr. Speaker, in 1998, to have teachers in the classroom having to go out and buy sets of textbooks,” Picco said.

And he said Baffin teachers are having big problems implementing a new mathematics curriculum this year ­ because many have no access to the curriculum and the text books they’re supposed to use to teach it.

“There has been problems with the math curriculum, but, my God, Mr. Speaker, it cannot be possible to be in the classroom without a textbook, without the proper resources available,” Picco said.

Dent responded by saying that the GNWT’s education department is actually helping regional school boards carry out the new mathematics curriculum ­ to a degree.

“The department certainly does not pretend that it contributes 100 percent of the cost of instituting the new curriculum,” Dent said. “We assist the education councils to do that. One of the reasons for introducing a new curriculum is that it helps the education councils and partners to deliver a better program at the school level.”

Dent: school boards must decide

Dent admitted that there have been problems with “in-servicing” and by suggesting that the introduction of new curricula may be delayed in some schools.

He also said that it’s up to regional school boards to decide for themselves how best to spend the money they get from Yellowknife.

“It is then up to the divisional education councils to determine where it is appropriate to provide the supports, whether that is in the teacher-pupil ratio, whether that is in providing extra support to special needs students or whether that is in providing curricula support to a teacher,” Dent said.

But Picco said that, contrary to what the GNWT says, it’s not possible for educators to do more with less.

“If you are asking people to do more with less, you are going to get less done,” Picco said.

Plummeting morale among Pang teachers

Baffin Central MLA didn’t get any further with Dent when he complained that moral among teachers in Pangnirtung has hit an all-time low.

“There has been an increase in enrolment, but not an increase in funding to school programs,” Enuaraq said. “For the last three years, there has been a drop in funding for education programs in Pangnirtung. This puts pressure on teachers to make do with very limited resources, students are not able to use programs that they were entitled to in the past.”

Enuaraq also said that some teachers have lost so much income in years due to rent increases and wage cuts, they’re thinking of going on welfare.

“Rent that used to be $370 is now $1,500 or even $1,600,” Enuaraq said. “It is hard to maintain good staff when their salaries are not going up, but their living costs are. Local staff has been the hardest hit. Some of the local staff told me, it is better to go on welfare than teach for a living.”

But Dent coldly replied that there will be no extra money to pay teachers this year.

[T]his year the average pupil-teacher ratio across the territories is 18.2 to one,” Dent said. “The budget that the finance minister tabled yesterday does not envision any change in that ratio for the next fiscal year. The ratio should stay the same.”

Enuaraq then asked if teachers’ income could be supplemented by income support payments

“Mr. Speaker I find it difficult to think of a situation where a teacher might qualify for income support,” Dent replied.

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