Saskatchewan teachers are being encouraged to lend their voices to the upcoming leadership races for the two main political parties.
"We've examined the political landscape," explained Patrick Maze, President of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, "and realized that there are two leadership races going on currently with the two main political parties in the province and decided that our voice isn't being heard through our traditional advocacy methods and so we decided to take a bit of a different approach and get involved in both of the leadership races.
"We're encouraging our members to take out memberships in each party and hold the candidates accountable and ask them what their views are on education. We've got a list of questions that we're going to ask the candidates and post those on our website for our teachers to look at. Between our teachers and our substitute teachers and super attenuated teachers, we hope to make a bit of a difference and force leaders to pay attention to educational issues so that our students have the supports they need in the classroom."
“The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation represents 28,000 teachers, retirees and substitute teachers across our province – all of them well-informed and passionate about the needs of students.”
“We won’t be forcing anyone to buy a membership if they don’t want to. We won’t be forcing anyone to buy a membership in a party they can’t support. And we certainly won’t be telling anyone which specific candidate to vote for.”
"We want all of the seven candidates, there's five in the Sask Party and two in the NDP currently. We want all of them to have well researched, thorough platforms on education and we will put those up on our website. And then our members will select by themselves, and as professionals, they'll sort through it and get a pretty good understanding of which candidate is most supportive of education."
He added that they have already received some responses from candidates.
"We've had three of the Sask Party candidates and both of the NDP candidates are willing to participate and we got a response back from a fourth Sask Party candidate that they will participate in writing only, we're hoping that she'll change her mind. And then we've got a fifth candidate that just hasn't responded yet, but we're hoping for a response soon."
"I think ultimately, there's potentially a lot of votes here. If every teacher and substitute and super attenuated or retired teacher took up membership, that could be up to 28,000 votes. So in a leadership campaign, we feel like we can influence that vote substantially."
"This is an interesting time, kind of a once in a generation opportunity. When it's a leadership race, you have to belong to the Sask Party and you have to belong to the New Democratic Party in order to have a vote. There might be only 20,000 or 30,000 people that select our next premier and we want to hold that premier accountable to education and to our classrooms."
He mentioned that many teachers around the province have already joined both parties.
"I have myself and there's lots who currently now have memberships in both political parties and we're encouraging teachers to do that and vote in both parties and exercise their democratic right and stand up and be voice for students."
"In the last budget, there was a $22 million overall cut to education. We feel like we need to be the students' voice through getting involved in the political process."
"Budgets are so tight that I just heard of a school adjusting, in Estevan, as little as a few days ago, that they're deeming a teacher redundant or losing a teacher position in a school because enrollment figures don't quite match. It's really unfortunate because we look at our students as an investment in the future and when we start considering them simply as an expense then that's a different conversation and it's kind of a sad way to look at education."
He added that an investment in education, often leads to dividends in other areas.
"The economy, healthcare, the judicial system with growing up and staying out of trouble and not at odds with the law, there's so many spin offs and it just makes for a healthier society. The problem is, you don't see those results in a four year political cycle and so traditionally education seems to be a place to cut. So we're trying to put it there on the front burner and we're trying to make sure politicians pay attention to our students."
"It's an exciting time and we're looking forward to the campaign beginning and getting the videos up of the candidates so that teachers can start making their decisions."