A Challenging Issue
The Education Minister has not yet advised the College of her intention to fund the Professional Learning Program.

By Larry M. Capstick

Without a doubt, the most challenging issue that the College Council has had to deal with is the Professional Learning Program (PLP).

More than a year ago, the majority of the members of the Council approved the PLP, the program designed by the College after the provincial government named the College as the implementing agency for the mandatory professional learning initiative.

The Council approved a business plan that clearly underlined the PLP's short- and long-term impact on College resources. The business plan identified start-up costs of approximately $8 million, as well as significant ongoing costs once the program was up and running.

Council traditionally discusses and approves the next year's budget at its June meeting. That discussion was delayed this year in an attempt to explore the most obvious alternative to a fee increase-that the government would fund the ongoing costs of this program, as it has the start-up costs.

The Finance Committee of Council recommended a budget that included reductions in spending in several areas. However, in spite of their best efforts, it was very clear that the ongoing costs of administering the PLP would create a serious deficit unless the annual membership fee was substantially increased.

During the debate on the budget at Council, there emerged a clear division between those members who were prepared to support an increase in the fee and those who were not. The Committee pointed out that keeping the annual fee at $104 would reduce College reserves to unacceptable levels. In the end a majority of Council supported a fee increase of $35 to bring the annual fee to $139.

The College has proposed some significant changes to the PLP. As the new Minister assumed office, the College re-stated recommendations for changes to the PLP, asking that recertification not be linked to professional learning, that members of the College be granted two additional professional development days specifically for the PLP, and that additional funding for the PLP be directed through district school boards.

In August, Registrar Joe Atkinson and I wrote to Education Minister Elizabeth Witmer to request 2003 operating funds for the PLP. We clearly told her that we would, if a fee increase became necessary, be frank with our membership about the reason.

The Minister has not yet advised the College of her intention to fund the Professional Learning Program.

The Council is very aware of the unresolved issues and members' concerns connected to the Professional Learning Program. So far, for example, there are insufficient credits available to members in order to meet the requirements of the legislation and francophone members are particularly concerned about the shortage of available credits.

These are issues that the Council and College staff are trying to address: building a wide provider base, facilitating the submission of courses for approval, providing up-to-date information about the program for our members on the web site, encouraging the development of distance education and French-language professional learning opportunities. We have specifically developed individual learning options to ensure that members can be credited with professional learning unique to their experience.

These initiatives are in keeping with the original plan of the College in its Professional Learning Framework for the Teaching Profession. Good teachers value lifelong learning opportunities. The College will continue to seek out ways in which these commitments can be recognized.

In the meantime, the College will continue to try to implement a professional learning program that best meets the needs of the members within the limitations of the legislation. The College may find that this or a future government introduces other legislation that has an impact on our membership with significant related costs. It will be up to Council members in the future to balance the needs of the membership with those legislative requirements and the public interest.

Elections are fast approaching. Members of the College will have an opportunity to vote online through the College web site to choose their representatives to the next Council in elections slated for April 2003.

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