The Manitoba School Boards Association has warned trustee candidates against answering questions from the Winnipeg Free Press and teachers' unions about collective bargaining and budgets.
The Free Press has given candidates in the city a list of 10 questions on election issues; trustees' responses will be posted on our website.
With the province leaning on school boards to limit spending and freeze property taxes, school boards and teachers face an extraordinary situation -- 36 of 37 divisions' contracts with their teachers expired June 30, and new deals have yet to be reached.
Teachers in recent past deals have been receiving base-salary increases of a minimum of three per cent, plus cash bonuses up to $550, plus incremental raises for teachers with less than a decade of experience. Such increases are hard to sustain in a tax freeze, if divisions are to employ the same number of teachers.
But MSBA executive director Carolyn Duhamel has warned candidates about answering bargaining and budget questions from the Free Press and teachers.
"Is it just me, or is someone trying to put a muzzle on school trustees?" said Winnipeg School Division incumbent candidate Mike Babinsky.
Here's what Duhamel and the MSBA have told candidates:
"The MSBA office has received calls of concern from member school boards about the nature of some of the questions being put to school trustee candidates by local teacher associations.
"Certain of these speak to collective bargaining issues and more specifically to candidates' commitment to achieving particular bargaining outcomes. Similarly, several of the Winnipeg Free Press questions to Winnipeg-area trustee candidates also ask candidates to take positions on bargaining and budget matters which will be before school boards in the coming year.
"Effective school board governance requires fairness and impartiality from elected members in addressing issues before the board and recognizes the confidential nature of certain issues and information in the realm of employer-employee relations.
"The Manitoba School Boards Association would advise all trustee candidates to be mindful of these governance imperatives in determining whether and/or how to respond to questions posed by citizens, employee groups and media outlets," wrote Duhamel.