Calgary

Thousands of teachers attend 2-day conference while spring budget looms

Legions of Calgary teachers gathered at the downtown Telus Convention Centre on Thursday for a two-day conference that will include talks from speakers like Arlene Dickinson, Jann Arden and Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

Alberta Teachers' Association increasingly concerned about what the future holds

More than 11,000 delegates attended the Telus Convention Centre on Thursday to kick off the annual teachers' convention, where more than 650 workshops will be held over a two-day period. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Legions of Calgary teachers gathered at the downtown Telus Convention Centre on Thursday for a two-day conference that will include talks from a variety of speakers and more than 650 workshops.

Much has changed since last year's convention, held in the same space. According to the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA), provincial school boards will receive $136-million less funding for the 2019-20 school year compared with 2018-19.

Thousands of teachers may have congregated at the convention centre to learn, but ATA vice-president Jenny Regal says other subjects may be top of mind.

"Teachers in Alberta are frustrated," Regal said. "And more and more teachers are saying, 'yes, we need to stand up for kids.'"

Potentially complicating the matter is the provincial spring budget, which Finance Minister Travis Toews said would be tabled on Feb. 27

There's a potential for more cuts in that budget, Regal said. Contract talks are due to begin next month.

"We're increasingly concerned about what the future could hold here," Regal said. 

Regal said the ATA is closely watching what is happening in Ontario. That province's four biggest unions are involved in job action and are planning a one-day strike across Ontario if there's no breakthrough in contract negotiations.

Talks in Ontario have largely stalled over issues such as class sizes, funding for students with special education needs and mandatory e-learning — but Regal said she hopes things can be resolved before they escalate in Alberta.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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