Nova Scotia

Get rid of N.S. education minister, says union

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is calling on Premier Darrell Dexter to replace his education minister, in the latest spat about the education funding dispute.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is calling on Premier Darrell Dexter to replace his education minister, in the latest spat about the education funding dispute.

Alexis Allen, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said Education Minister Ramona Jennex has failed to advocate for the education system at the cabinet table and should be removed from her portfolio.

"I know Ramona and I think her heart's in the right place but I'm worried that she's just not strong enough with that cabinet to say why, why we have to properly fund public education in this province," Allen told reporters on Thursday.

"She's not strong enough or there's some flaw here because we're not seeing any results from having a teacher in there and that is disappointing."

The dispute over the education cuts came to a head when the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board announced last week it would be laying off all 41 of its librarians to deal with a $6.5-million shortfall.

Alexis Allen, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, is calling for the education minister to be removed from her portfolio. (CBC)

Dexter said the school board was playing games and appointed a budget officer from the Education Department to examine the board's books and report back with recommendations.

Jennex also ordered the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board to stop its planned layoffs pending the provincial review.

On Thursday, Allen accused Jennex of interfering in the budget deliberations and said the union was also unhappy that 52 teaching positions at the board were on the chopping block, even though the bulk of the cuts would likely be realized through attrition.

"What we are seeing for the last two years is nothing but cuts and draconian measures," she said.

"We are fed up, in all honesty."

'Families have disagreements'

Jennex — who was a teacher and union activist for 30 years before becoming a cabinet minister — brushed aside the criticism and said she wasn't going to resign.

"Sometimes families have disagreements and you can still work together. There's always something that happens in a family that you'll have an issue but you can get over that," she told reporters.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex was a teacher and union activist for 30 years before becoming a cabinet minister. (CBC)

"We have a common goal and the common goal is to make sure that we are going to be providing an appropriate and solid, sustainable education for our students."

Dexter said the union's resignation call was "really not worthy of comment."

He said the union has shown that it is not interested in helping with changes that are needed because of the province's decline in student enrolment.

"They're only going to defend the status quo and that's not acceptable. Certainly not acceptable to us and it's not acceptable to the people of Nova Scotia," said Dexter.

"The system has to undergo change."

Allen said that charge was unfair.

"That is so false. Our members are so used to change. We change every year," she said.

"With every new government we get new changes to education. New things to try, new things to do."

Nova Scotia's eight school boards are dealing with a combined funding cut of $13.4 million or 1.3 per cent, which the provincial government has said is necessary because of a continuing decline in student enrolment.

With files from The Canadian Press

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