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Alberta’s UCP government is proposing legislation that would strip the Alberta Teachers’ Association of its disciplinary function, replacing it with a commissioner to handle misconduct complaints.

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On Thursday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced Bill 15: Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline Amendment Act, saying the province needs to eliminate any potential conflict of interest for the association that also represents 46,000 teachers as a union.

If passed, the bill will create the office of a teaching profession commissioner, appointed by cabinet, and an overhauled complaint process that would come into force Jan. 1 next year, overseeing all teachers and teacher leaders like principals across the province.

“This is about doing what’s best for students, and the profession as a whole,” said LaGrange at a news conference.

The cost of setting up and running the arms-length commissioner’s office will be covered by the Education Ministry. LaGrange said the move will bring teaching in line with other professional disciplinary processes that are separate from associations or unions.

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The legislation will require the commissioner to notify parties of a complaint and start inquiries within 30 days, assess it within another 30 days, and if the complaint proceeds to an investigation, for that to begin within another 30 days.

However, there is no overall timeline for resolving a complaint entirely. Katherine Stavropoulos, LaGrange’s press secretary, said in a statement that’s to ensure procedural fairness “given that some cases may be more complex than others.”

ATA president Jason Schilling told reporters at the legislature the bill deprofessionalizes teachers by taking away their ability to hold colleagues to conduct and competence standards.

“The association does not defend teachers who have charges of professional misconduct against them — we prosecute them. We have structures that we put in place for over 85 years that keep that separate, so that conflict of interest just isn’t there,” said Schilling. He added that it would worry him if the commissioner position becomes a UCP political appointee.

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Association spokesman Jonathan Teghtmeyer said while the ATA needs to examine the bill in detail, the proposed process doesn’t appear to allow for the teaching profession to remain self-governing.

“The hallmark of professionalism is self-governance,” he said.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a statement Thursday the bill appeared to be an attempt to bully teachers and teaching staff.

“The UCP government has been attacking Alberta teachers for three years and this bill is just more political harassment from an education minister desperate to distract from the catalog of harm she has inflicted on our education system,” said Hoffman.

The proposed bill will see all findings of unprofessional conduct or professional incompetence disclosed publicly, expanding an online registry of teacher certifications that is scheduled to be rolled out in the fall.

While every adult has a duty to report child abuse or suspected child abuse to police under existing law, Bill 15 will extend that requirement to employers and the ATA.

The current dual role of the ATA contrasts models in British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan, where either professional colleges investigate teacher misconduct or there is an arms-length commissioner.

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