Four organizations representing teachers and professors from pre-kindergarten to post-secondary education participated in a press conference Monday morning, calling on the provincial government to make commitments to fund education at all levels. The organizations, the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA), the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association (USFA), the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Faculty Association (SPFA), and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), were all represented by their respective president.  

The three post-secondary faculty associations all called on the province to provide the supports for the public education system, stating education is key to the success of the province overall.  

“Teachers in the K to 12 system tell us they are continually asked to do more with less, and we see the same thing in post-secondary as public funding falls farther behind each year,” said Britt Hall, the president of the URFA. “Years of cuts to post-secondary institutions have resulted in such issues as increased student tuition, leading to negative impacts on student mental health, decreased retention, and upon graduation, massive debts.” 

The sentiments were echoed by the president of SPFA, Bill Grosskleg. 

"It is with the minds, bodies and spirits of teachers that today’s generation of elementary and secondary students are being crafted into tomorrow’s post-secondary students,” Grosskleg said. “In order for these students to succeed, they need the proper supports in place, which includes adequate funding and resources. Education needs to be properly funded at every level in Saskatchewan in order to have a workforce that is prepared for our ever-changing world.” 

Geraldine Balzer, the president of USFA, said the chronic lack of priority for education in Saskatchewan puts kids from the province at a disadvantage in the workforce, both at home and on the world stage.  

“Complexities that are not addressed in the K to 12 system become complexities in the post-secondary system, preventing students from reaching their potential,” Balzer noted. “Increasing numbers of students require accommodations when they arrive at university, often because of learning needs that were not met earlier.” 

The president of the STF, Samantha Becotte, said they want to return to the negotiating table but have to have issues like classroom complexity included in the new agreement, similar to how it has been done in five other provinces in Canada.  

“While the premier has announced part of the provincial budget early, and the Ministry of Education has made a backroom deal with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, both of these acts are an attempt to sidestep our collective bargaining process, and both of these actions do not provide the assurances that students learning conditions and teachers working conditions will improve,” Becotte said in her opening statement.  

Most of the questions fielded by the panel were for the STF, including one about whether the STF plans to escalate the job action to a general province-wide work-to-rule campaign, or a general strike. Becotte didn’t answer the question directly but emphasized they wanted to resolve the dispute, and the easiest way would be to have agreements reached outside of bargaining included in the collective agreement. That, however, is something the provincial government has stated they will not do, with Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill stating the STF is not part of the budget process.  

When asked if there was any job action planned in solidarity for the three post-secondary faculty associations, they all stated their hands were tied by their current contracts. That doesn’t prevent support for the STF, however.  

“We are encouraging our members, and we hear from our members, that they want to support the STF job action in whatever way they can, so we have had members go and visit picket lines when they’ve been happening and we’ve been expressing our solidarity in other ways,” Hall said. “At this point, however, we are not contractually able to have any sort of job action.” 

Just before the press conference, the STF announced further job action that will take place on March 14th, with the withdrawal of lunch supervision services in all schools in the Conseil des écoles fransaskoise, the Chinook School Division, the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division, the North East School Division, the Prairie Spirit School Division, all schools in Regina and all schools in Saskatoon.  

The STF is currently undertaking a withdrawal of all support for extracurricular activities province-wide, which lasts until Wednesday.