The Alberta Teachers’ Association is calling for the Government of Alberta to stop all work on the piloting and implementation of the draft curriculum until an independent, open and full review and rewrite can occur.
The Association is publishing full-page ads in daily newspapers across Alberta tomorrow to issue the call for a moratorium and to show support for school boards and teachers that decide not to participate in piloting.
“Alberta’s students and teachers require an appropriate and workable curriculum. The government is being told loudly and clearly that this curriculum is unacceptable. We now need the government to announce a stop to their implementation plans and to spell out a new way forward.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
ATA president Jason Schilling says the Association supports school boards that have decided not to pilot this draft curriculum, and he calls on all school authorities to refrain from directing their teachers to participate in piloting.
“Teachers who believe this curriculum is unsound and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in voluntary piloting. The government and school boards must respect the decision of individual teachers to not participate in piloting.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
Although the teaching profession is frustrated by being left out of the curriculum development process, Schilling says teachers are more than willing to assist the government with a rewrite that reflects their extensive expertise and knowledge.
“We are committed to supporting the development of a high-quality curriculum, and the ATA is prepared to work constructively in partnership with the Government of Alberta toward that end. It is the only workable path forward. We just need to be invited.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
The call follows the release of preliminary survey results showing that 91 per cent of teachers and school administrators are unhappy with the draft curriculum, with three in four teachers stating that they are “very unhappy.” The survey also showed that 90 per cent of elementary school teachers feel uncomfortable about teaching the new K–6 curriculum, and 95 per cent of principals feel uncomfortable about supporting the curriculum in their school and community.
The ATA is directing parents and the public who are concerned about the draft curriculum to pledge support for the moratorium and review by visiting curriculum.thelearningteam.ca
COVID-19 and School Safety
Alberta’s third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is being driven by highly contagious variants of the coronavirus. Last November, secondary schools moved online with 1,700 cases in schools. Currently we have 2,400 cases in schools—many of them variants of concern—and nearly one in five schools have alerts or outbreaks.
School leaders and support staff are spending hours calling students and staff to instruct them to isolate after families report a positive test result for COVID-19. A concerning number of Alberta teachers and their students have tested positive for COVID-19, and thousands more have been required to isolate. An interactive map of COVID-19 school status can be accessed here.
Public health measures are in place to support the safe operation of schools, which includes mandatory masking, physical distancing when possible, enhanced cleaning and daily symptom screening. Further, President Schilling and the Alberta Teachers’ Association tirelessly advocate for school workers and for increased protective measures to help prevent spread in schools. However, because of various factors, working in schools may not be possible for all teachers, specifically those who have certain health concerns.
Some teachers may have a compromised immune system or other medical condition that necessitates special accommodations to ensure their health. In that case, the teacher must have medical documentation showing that they require the employer to make changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures or physical environments to ensure that school conditions do not have a negative effect on the teacher. This may mean extra PPE, barrier protection or, in more complex situations, a teacher not being able to work in a regular school setting. Medical documentation that supports substantive accommodations requires the teacher to work closely with their health care provider, Teacher Employment Services (TES) and their employer.
It is the duty of the employer to make accommodations for medical disability to the point of undue hardship. This will require working with the employer to establish the medical limitations of the teacher’s disability and ensure that the employer best accommodates the teacher’s disability. Teachers must bear in mind that employers have the ability to direct them to attend a medical examination under section 226 of the Education Act.
Further, teachers also have the obligation to enforce public health directives to ensure the safety of their school communities. If students refuse to comply with public health orders, teachers have the authority to address the noncompliant behaviour. Under section 36 of the Education Act. a teacher may suspend a student from one class period if “the student’s conduct, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day, is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school.” This would require that the teacher direct the noncomplying student to the school office. While out-of-school suspensions are often reluctantly considered, under the act, principals may suspend a student for up to five days, without a recommendation for expulsion, to ensure the safety of students and staff.
As workers in a school, teachers have an obligation to ensure the safety of their workplace. Teachers must report unsafe conditions to their site supervisor (usually their principal). Moreover, teachers can contact Alberta Health Services, Environmental Public Health or the medical officer of health with respect to COVID restrictions and enforcement of compliance with public health orders. Occupational Health and Safety and Alberta Health can coordinate efforts to ensure safely and compliance, dependent on the concern raised.
Teachers should have a work environment that is safe for themselves and for their students. Although working from home is not a right, if a medical accommodation to work in isolation is necessary, the employer must accommodate to the point of undue hardship. Teachers requiring accommodation should call the Association at 1-800-232-7208 and request the assistance of Teacher Employment Services. #WEAREATA
Planning your 2021 RRSP contributions
The RRSP deduction limit for the 2021 tax year is 18 per cent of pretax earned income or $27,830, whichever is less. For example, if you earned $90,000 in 2021, your RRSP deduction limit is 18% ´ $90,000 = $16,200. However, your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund pension contributions reduce the amount you can contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Those amounts are recorded in box 52 on your T4 from your employer. This amount is then reported on line 206 of the Income Tax T1 General.
Pension adjustments (PA) reflect the value of contributions to your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. These earned amounts take up RRSP room.
The tax formula used to determine the benefit is (9 ´ yearly benefit) - $600.
Let’s look at an example of a teacher who earns $90,000. The yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) for 2021 is $61,600.
$61,600 ´ 1.4% = $862.40
$90,000 - $61,600 = $28,400 ´ 2.0% = $568.00
Yearly benefit is $1,430.40 (862.40 plus 568.00)
PA = (9 ´ $1,430.40) - $600 = $12,273.60
18% of $90,000 = $16,200
$16,200 – $12273.60 = $3,926.40
***If you have both a regular RRSP and a spousal RRSP, the deduction limit is the maximum amount you can contribute to all your RRSP accounts combined.
RRSP deduction limit vs contribution limit
The RRSP deduction limit differs from the contribution limit as it does not consider past unused RRSP contributions. The RRSP contribution limit reflects your current year maximum contribution, plus any unused contribution room from previous years. Your contribution limit is the total of this year’s deduction limit and any unused contribution room.
How to find your RRSP contribution limit
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tracks individual contribution limits and reports this on the individual’s Notice of Assessment each year under the heading “Available Contribution Limit.” If you set up an account with CRA, you can also check your RRSP contribution limit online. Additionally, you can also access the status of your refund, check for benefit amounts, see previous years’ tax information and notices of assessment and make payments to your tax account.
Where to report RRSP contributions
You are required to report all RRSP contributions on line 208 of your T1 General Income Tax Return. Contributions made from March to December in each year are reported in the calendar year they are made. Contributions for the first 60 days of the next year can be reported in either calendar year. Your financial institution will provide you with RRSP receipts.
Understanding how your ATRF pension contributions reduce the amount you can contribute to an RRSP can help you better plan your retirement savings. Pension adjustments (PA) reflect the value of contributions to your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. These earned amounts take up RRSP room. Contact your financial planner/tax accountant with specific questions concerning your own RRSPs and tax account. #WEAREATA
ATA Files Legal Challenge on Pensions
A ministerial order on teacher pension management is unreasonable and should be declared invalid by the courts, argues a legal application submitted for filing by the Alberta Teachers’ Association this week.
Documents submitted with the Court of Queen’s Bench on March 10 outline how the terms and conditions imposed in Finance Minister Travis Toews’s order are inconsistent with the Teachers’ Pension Plans Act and how a duty of procedural fairness owed to the Association was breached. That order imposed terms and conditions to govern the relationship between the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) after negotiations to try to reach an investment management agreement (IMA) were unsuccessful. ATRF has indicated that AIMco advised ATRF in mid-November 2020, that it was ceasing negotiations. The conclusion of an IMA was part of the transfer of investment management control imposed by 2019’s Bill 22.
An affidavit signed by ATA president Jason Schilling outlining the objections made by teachers and the lack of consultation around the entire transfer process was also submitted for filing with the courts.
“Teachers were very concerned that investment management for their pensions was required to be transferred from ATRF to AIMCo with no option by ATRF to select other investment managers,” reads the sworn affidavit from Schilling. “Teachers were also concerned that this decision was made without any consultation with the Association when teachers make more than half of the contributions to the fund. Pension benefits for services after 1991 are not guaranteed by the Government so teachers bear half the risk of any shortfalls or deficiencies.”
The application indicates that the government established a reasonable expectation for consultation before decisions were made about an IMA when it repeatedly made representations that the ATRF would retain control over the investment policy and pension funds. The ministerial order provided AIMCo with veto power over the ATRF’s investment policy.
In the application, the Association requests that the case be heard on an expedited timeline, as the transfer of pension asset management has already begun and must be completed by the end of 2021. The Association is also seeking an order from the courts prohibiting the transfer of additional assets until an IMA is negotiated between the ATRF and AIMCo or a valid ministerial order is enacted.
No date has been set yet for the matter to be heard.
The Educator Exchange Programs (EEP) is pleased to offer virtual short-term E-exchanges. It is an exciting way to collaborate and connect virtually with another professional internationally or more locally; to explore practices and systems in a new context, and also to a make lasting connection with another like-minded individual!
• Attached please find our E-Exchange flyer that details the nuts and bolts of a virtual exchange.
• Applications are now open for our Australia/Alberta E-Exchange.
• The Australia/Alberta E-Exchange is intended to last approximately 4–6 weeks, beginning May 2021 and wrapping up in June 2021.
• Matches are made based on common educational areas of interest such as inclusion, student wellness, curriculum development, rural and remote schools, etc.
• There are other virtual E-exchange opportunities as well, with possible matches within the province, within Canada, and other international destinations.
Please refer to our website for more details and the application form:
Please share this information and attached flyer with your teachers, school leaders and district.
We are seeking a limited number of applicants for our Australia/Alberta E-Exchange for spring 2021.
Interested teachers and school leaders can contact myself for additional information at email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Carolyn Freed, Exchange Liaison
Educator Exchange Programs
The 2007 Pension Settlement Tackled a Massive Shortfall
In 2007, an historic agreement struck between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Government of Alberta resolved a $7 billion problem facing teachers and the government.
Known as an unfunded liability, the pension funding shortfall basically resulted from decades of underfunding of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. The significance of resolving the longstanding issue cannot be overstated. This problem began in 1956 and was mainly caused by the government stopping contributions in return for guaranteeing the payment of teacher pensions. While this may have made sense in the booming days of the 50s, it became apparent over time that The preferred model for pensions is to have advance contributions made that grow with investment and are sufficient to cover future pension payments.
Over the subsequent 35 years, numerous attempts to solve this problem and to negotiate a new agreement between government and the Association failed. By 1992, an agreement was finally struck that resulted in splitting the plan in two: for post-1992 service, the government starting contributing 50 per cent to the plan and the guarantee was removed; for pre-1992 service, the guarantee remained in place and teachers agreed to fund one-third of the pre-1992 liability. This liability was funded through higher contribution rates. The solution worked, but it was far from ideal, taking too long – almost 60 years - to fix the problem while costing both teachers and government higher contributions than necessary.
In 2007, a new agreement meant Alberta teachers no longer had to fund a liability that was created before many of them were teaching, and Alberta taxpayers stood to save an estimated $47 billion over the next 55 years. As a result of this historic agreement, teachers’ contributions were reduced by 3.1 per cent due to the fact that they no longer made contributions to the pre-1992 unfunded liability.
The Big Questions
What is an unfunded liability?
An unfunded liability, or deficiency of a pension plan, is the amount by which the plan’s liabilities exceed its assets on a given date. The total liability of the plan is the amount of money that, according to the plan’s actuary, the plan will eventually need to pay all the benefits (including pension, death and termination benefits) that participants have earned to date based on their years of pensionable service and their salaries.
In 1956, the Government of Alberta moved to a pay-as-you-go funding model for their portion of the total pension contribution, thereby not having those funds building the plan assets overall. This also significantly impacted the ability of the fund to realize investment gains—growth that covers up to 80 per cent of the cost of a teacher’s pension.
As of August 31, 2006, the Teachers’ Pension Plan (the plan) had a pre-1992 deficiency of $6.3 billion and a post-1992 deficiency of $742 million.
As a result of the pre-1992 unfunded liability, teachers contributed 3.1 per cent more of salary than would otherwise have been necessary to support a pension plan having the same benefits. If the plan did not have an unfunded liability, teachers’ contributions in 2005 would have been 8.73 per cent of salary.
The New Agreement
November 2007 Funding Agreement Between the Association and the Alberta Government
Post- 1992 service funding
Unfunded liability for pre- 1992 service
Effective September 2009, unfunded liability contributions ceased, and the Alberta government moved to pay-as-you-go funding by advancing sufficient funds to the plan to pay for all benefits as they come due. This solution saved taxpayers over $47 billion over the next 55 years.
More information about the plan and the evolution of the 1992 and 2007 agreements can be found here.
The pre-1992 unfunded liability was a direct result of the government failing to contribute to the Teachers’ Pension Plan. #WEAREATA
The 2007 pension agreement provided a better solution that saved taxpayers $47 billion. #WEAREATA
Alberta teachers’ pensions are deferred compensation. #WEAREATA
The Alberta government does not guarantee teacher pensions. The fund is there to provide pension payments. Liabilities are shared by teachers and government. #WEAREATA
Budget day is this Thursday and there is great uncertainty and anxiety about what this budget will hold for public education.
In advance of the budget being released, the Alberta Teachers' Association is reminding Albertans of some important facts about public education funding. Please share the enclosed "Did You Know?" graphics using social media to help us draw attention to current funding issues in education before the budget is introduced.
Your Pension, Your Money, Your Future
Defined benefit pension plans, like the one paid into by Alberta teachers, are increasingly rare. The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) has provided the finest quality in both service to plan members and investment portfolios for the past 80 years. While the investment work of ATRF may be changing as a result of Bill 22, ATRF is still the pension administrator and trustee of the plan. This means that they will continue to collect pension contributions, calculate service and administer pension payments.
You may be at a point in your career where retirement seems so far off it hardly feels real. However, it is important to learn about your pension no matter how distant you are from “Freedom 55.” For most Alberta teachers, the largest source of income in their retirement is the pension they receive from the ATRF. This pension is an important and valuable piece of your compensation, which is why Alberta teachers are fighting so hard to protect it. By taking some of their compensation as pension contributions, teachers have agreed to defer part of their earnings until retirement.
Teachers and the Government of Alberta pay for the plan together, govern it together and share the risk. If you retire with 30 years of service, you could receive approximately 50 per cent of your preretirement income. In addition, every January, a cost-of-living adjustment equal to 70 per cent of the annual increase in the Alberta Consumer Price Index is applied to your pension.
Defined benefit pension plans are under attack because they provide a benefit based on salary and service and are mandated by the plan document or legislation even in the case of losses to the assets of the plan. Those losses must be funded by the plan sponsors (in the case of the teachers’ plan, by teachers and the government), who bear the risk that the assets will not cover the pensions promised to retirees. Teachers pay more than half the contributions needed to fund their current service. In short, teachers are paying for their pension.
Teachers also pay for past service deficiencies—all plan deficiencies must be made up within 15 years of their discovery. Teachers and the government share the burden of those payments equally. Teachers pay a percentage of their salaries into the pension plan to make up for deficiencies in the plan. The benefit teachers receive from their pensions every year they earn service is deducted from their RRSP room. Teachers and other taxpayers in defined benefit plans have no advantage over other taxpayers in saving for retirement.
The 11.34 per cent average contribution rate is broken up for teachers at 9.76 per cent of salary up to the YMPE ($61,600*) and 13.94 per cent on salary earned over the YMPE.
* For 2021.This amount changes each January 1.
The defined benefit pension provided by the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund is an important and valuable piece of our compensation, which is why Alberta teachers are fighting so hard to protect it. It is our pension, our money and our future. #WEAREATA
Important Dates and Deadlines
Monday, March 08, 2021--Voting opens at 8:00 AM.
Thursday, March 11, 2021--Voting closes at 5:00 PM.
Friday, March 12, 2021--Results of the 2021 PEC election are announced.
Everyone Needs an Online ATA Account to Vote
Members without an online ATA account can go to www.teachers.ab.ca to request one. This one-time transaction requires teachers to provide their teaching certificate numbers. Please see the back of this memo for information on how members can get their teaching certificate numbers and set up an online ATA account.
Please see the MEMO
Employment Insurance Maternity Benefits
Important changes to Employment Insurance maternity benefits: Service Canada introduces a temporary waiver program for the one-week waiting period
When you make a claim for Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits, there is normally a one-week period for which you are not paid. This is called the waiting period. It is like the deductible for other types of insurance.
Temporarily waiving the waiting period is intended to enable individuals to be paid for the first week of unemployment and enhance income support to Canadians during the pandemic.
School divisions, however, provide full pay to teachers during the one-week period so that new mothers who select a standard maternity and parental EI benefit would receive a full week of pay from the employer during the one-week waiting period; they would then receive 15 weeks of maternity benefit and 35 weeks of parental benefit.
With the introduction of this temporary waiver program, every teacher who establishes an initial claim for EI maternity benefits between January 31 and September 25, 2021, will have their one-week waiting period waived automatically when their claim is processed.
While waiving the waiting period will not affect the maximum number of weeks of EI benefits that you may receive, this could affect your employer-provided supplemental benefit plan. School divisions provide a top-up during periods of maternity leave in accordance with your individual collective agreements. Service Canada is supposed to ensure that this is taken into consideration when determining whether you should serve the waiting period.
This automatic consideration will only occur if the Record of Employment (ROE) submitted by the employer records that you are receiving full pay for the week after you start your maternity leave.
If Service Canada does not automatically account for the one week of pay from the employer and waives the waiting period, then you must call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 and explain that the waiver does not benefit you. You must ask that Service Canada apply consideration to determine that you should serve the waiting period and not be subject to the waiver. Remember that this only applies if you establish an initial claim for EI maternity benefits between January 31 and September 25, 2021.
Why is this change being implemented now? In recent weeks, Canada has experienced an increase in COVID-19 infections. The resulting imposition of public health measures is increasing financial pressure on workers. Waiving the waiting period will enable individuals to be paid for the first week of unemployment.
Service Canada has introduced changes to the waiting period of Employment Insurance benefits. If teachers are not exempted from the waiver, they could lose one week of income support as the number of weeks of EI benefits will not change as a result of the temporary waiver program. To speak about your individual claim, call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218.