Well done OECTA! However, entitlement of public teachers’ unions insulting…

Update July 11, 2012:

Christina Blizzard has a column in the Toronto Sun today on the OECTA settlement issue. However, she and others seem to misunderstand how a teacher’s salary grid works.  Blizzard seems to think that when young teachers move up the grid, they are getting a raise. They are not. A raise is an across-the-board percentage increase over so many years which is given to everyone, including those who have reached the top of the grid for both education and years of service (which usually stops at around eleven years).  

Rather, a teacher only moves up the grid for two reasons: (1) they have worked for one more year, which is usually a very small increase, and/or (2) their qualifications have changed.

For example, there are usually four levels on a grid. The first level is to have both an undergraduate and education degree, the second level includes an Honours Degree (fourth year with a minimum of a B average), the third level an Honours Degree and a Additional Qualification Specialist Certificate (e.g., special education or computers in the classroom). The fourth and final level usually include a Master of Education degree over and above the other degrees and certificates.

So, if someone should move from Level One or Two to Four because they finish an M.Ed., that would account for the $7000.00. Otherwise, grid movement is much slower. There is also the issue that in the first year of such a raise, the extra money simply reimburses the many thousands paid in tuition costs — for no other reason than to improve their teaching.

In other words, the OECTA freeze really is a freeze and to suggest it isn’t is not fair to all those teachers who are simply following the rules to upgrade their expertise and qualifications. I mean, it takes several years to complete a Master’s part-time. So, if school boards are going to change grid movement criteria, they should at least grandfather those who have begun the process.

Yes, I will criticize teachers and their entitlement assumptions when I think criticism is due but I will defend when the information provided in the media or blogosphere is incorrect or misleading.


As everyone who has anything to do with education in Ontario knows by now, the Catholic teacher’s union has come to an agreement with the Province.  What we also know is that the other public school unions, OSSTF and ETFO, and their members, are outraged! In fact, I have been getting into some interesting Twitter debates with fellow educators, over the matter. For example, check out the hashtag #oecta and @SandysEdInfo.

Well, I must commend OECTA for making the decision to compromise in their bargaining with the Province for the sake of the younger teachers, who will now be able to move ahead on the salary grid.

However, on Twitter, the provincial OECTA are being called Judases because they have supposedly betrayed their colleagues in OSSTF and ETFO by agreeing to a two-year wage freeze. Two years and you would think the sky is falling. Since younger teachers are still going to get raises per their year’s of service, I assume it is teachers in the mid or later ranks that are upset. However, even suppose you are in your last five years before retiring, how much difference will a freeze make? I mean, teacher’s pensions are indexed, so they would catch up very quickly.  

Certainly, you can expect this kind of thing. I recall when the 1997 strike ended, it was ETFO who buckled first and OECTA was as outraged then as OSSTF and ETFO are now. But, perhaps what bothers me the most is the over-reaction and grandstanding.

  • Collective bargaining is dead!
  • You can never get back what you lose!
  • Asking for concessions is insulting!

Insulting? To whom? What absolute nonsense!

I started teaching in September 1972, exactly 40 years ago. During that four decade period, concessions were made many times. Sometimes it was to help the younger teachers. Sometimes it was to ignore them. For example, in the Board I taught with, sick leave gratuity was frozen years ago but in a way that benefitted those who would retire over the next ten years. Sometimes prep time was bargained away for a salary increase. Other times the other way around.

A year before my husband and I retired, major medical insurance in retirement was cancelled. So, today you have some teachers who have coverage and the rest of us who pay several hundred dollars a month for it. Why? So teachers still in the system could have more prep time.  So, compromise and concessions are nothing new. But, to listen to the whining now, you would think that teachers’ entitlements should never be touched, even when times are tough.

Look, I am not going to be a hypocrite about this. I am retired and very appreciative of my publicly funded pension. (It is reduced because I withdrew some credits when my children were born and I left half way through my career to teach in two university settings). Yet, I am embarrassed at the depth of the entitlement attitude displayed by so many on Twitter.

For heavens sake people, get over yourselves. You are public servants and all that means.  You are no more special than Ontario’s doctors who are taking some major hits.  A bit of humility would go a long way towards some public respect and sympathy.

Whatever, please realize that to the general public, it is your entitled attitude that is insulting.

Update from Yahoo News.

Teacher, Faculty of Ed & union bashing will not improve public education!

Contrary to the opinions of many parents and Canadian taxpayers today, teachers, the teachers’ unions and faculties of education staff are NOT to blame for everything that is wrong in schools today. Yet, if you read the 300+ comments on a thread at EduChatter, it is obvious that there is an intense public anger and disdain against anyone and everyone within the public education system. And, that includes all those dozens of groups that are part of the Education Blob (Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies). Of course, that kind of discussion was not Paul Bennett’s intention given his post was just about how the various teachers’ unions resist reform. [Sentence added after posting.]

Perhaps, the anger and disdain are caused by looking through rose coloured glasses to a time when kids sat in rows and were taught the same traditional curriculum from itemized government documents. In fact, I still have a copy of the Ontario Department of Education’s “Grey Book” from the 1940’s through to the 1960’s where lists of content and skills could be quantified. Now, with the advent of the personal computer, the Internet, E-Books and Smart Phones, that is simply no longer possible!

Yes, I acknowledge that there are an awful lot of things needing improvement within our public education systems today. I also acknowledge that this post is fairly long because I didn’t want to take anything out.

To start with, there are the social promotion and no-fail policies that only seem to encourage and reinforce mediocrity.There is the all-pervasive “teacher/parent wall” when teachers communicate with parents with a “we know what’s best for your child better than you do” attitude rather than working with them as school partners.

Plus, there is the extremely divisive and controversial issue of quality teaching and teacher evaluation. In the United States, for example, they are turning to the results of standardized tests to evaluate and, even, to fire teachers. Here is a link to the Washington Post that claims 200 teachers were recently fired for just that reason — a decision that is just going to lead to a teacher shortage.

The reality is that many kids will admit that they don’t try to do very well on standardized tests. Moreover, teaching is not a passive activity. True, teachers are taught to motivate children but the reality is, politically correctness aside, that children have differing academic abilities. I mean, both my husband and I have taught in different school contexts and our standardized tests results varied from year to year and location to location — depending on the children.

All that said, there obviously needs to be some type of generalized teacher accountability criteria developed. However, it is not going to be the teachers themselves, the teachers’ unions, faculty of education staff or others in the blob – unless they get direction and orders from the politicians who are the governing party.

In other words, classroom teachers do not develop or set generalized board of education policy. Nor do principals or members of the Education Blob. Rather, teachers will implement board of education procedures which are based on government policy. They will do that, for example, a week before school starts at the end of this month. Specifically, they will decorate their bulletin boards, organize desks and tables and learning centres. Plus, they will develop and revise unit plans and day plans, depending on whether their grade level or subject specialty has changed, as well as whether or not there are any new board or government directives.  

In other words, at the end of this month and all through the school year, teachers will not be thinking about reforming anything. Rather, to not put too fine a point on it, they will be doing what they are told!

Faculty of Education staff will also not be setting school board or government policy either. Rather, they will be preparing teachers who will want to be hired by school boards to teach. Yes, there is a teacher surplus but that is not what pre-service students and their instructors think about. They think positively because they have no way of knowing who will be hired and who won’t.

So, at the end of each academic year (usually in late May or early June), faculty meetings are held to determine what curricula and modules will be included for the next group of pre-service students. Do the education faculty themselves decide what they should teach without examining government policies or curriculum guidelines? No, they don’t. 

In fact, having developed and implemented pre-service courses myself, I can confirm that education faculty are very careful to teach the knowledge and skills school boards want new teachers to know and do — because preparing teachers is what a faculty of education does. It does not try to reform the system.  

Put another way, faculties of education do not chose, willy nilly, what studies are going to guide their courses and practicum counselling. Rather, they follow the direction of the provincial government department/ministry involved — which usually sends memoranda to the Deans of such faculties.

So, as with classroom teachers, anyone who blames the faculties of education for all that is wrong with our education system today, is simply involved in scapegoating.

It’s actually similar with teachers’ unions in that they still have to convince the government of the day to make the changes they want. 

A case in point: Dalton McGuinty campaigned in 2003 and again in 2007 as the “Education Premier.” He promised that, if his Liberal Party was given a mandate to govern Ontario, he would implement smaller class sizes, have fewer drop outs and an increase in the number of high school students who would graduate with an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

Well, Ontario now has more split grades to accommodate the smaller class sizes policy and fewer students dropping out and graduating from high school because of “no-fail” and “social promotion” policies. As this “Letter to the Editor” states: “Ontario is one of the ten best education system’s in the world.” Says who? On what basis does the writer make that claim?

Well, to begin with, the letter is written by a McGuinty Liberal MPP by the name of Dave Levac, which only reinforces my opinion that it is politicians who are primarily responsible for education reform. 

Levac claims, for instance that: “It’s clear that we have achieved a great deal since 2003 – taking our public education system from a declining state to one of the best in the world.” Declining state? Again I ask: Says who?     

My opinion is, therefore, that no matter which political party is in government or which province or territory is involved, when Canadians are dissatisfied with public education policy and practices, they should lobby and blame those who really are in a position to bring about change and reform — the elected politicians that represent the governing party, no matter which party that is!

And given the number of provincial elections this fall, that time is NOW — MAN on Oct, 4th, NFLD/Labrador on Oct. 11th, the NWT on Oct. 3rd, Ontario on Oct. 6th, PEI on Oct,. 3rd, SASK on Nov. 7th and the YUKON sometime in 2011.

Ontario teachers’ unions to spend $3 million to save McGuinty gov’t

When a public sector union in Canada, like the Ontario Catholic Teachers’ Federation, decides to spend $3 million of their members’ dues, to save a boondoggle-prone and inefficient provincial government, like the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government, you can assume that something is fishy. Why?  Because, as all taxpayers know, he who pays the piper calls the tune

During the last week, it has become very clear that Canada is in the midst of a paradigm shift. In fact, I now believe that the federal election of 2011 will go down in history as a shift either, back to the debt and deficits and entitlements of the 1970s or forward to smaller government and both government and taxpayers living within their means.  

And, symptomatic of that paradigm shift is the latest news that the Ontario Catholic Teachers Association are ramping up their battle with the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party and its leader Tim Hudak in the lead-up to the Ontario election in early October. Remember, this is a group that represents “Catholic” teachers, Christians, who say they believe that they are their brother’s keeper. That being the case, how much good could $3 million do towards breakfast and lunch programs in inner city schools?  

Instead, that $60 levy against each and every member is apparently going to be used to help the McGuinty government get re-elected to a third majority government. And, according to the Toronto Star, that is in addition to whatever is being spent by the Working Families Coalition — which is also funded by the teachers’ unions, as well as other public sector unions.

Why? Because teachers’ collective agreements expire in 2012. Meaning, the teachers’ unions would have to face bargaining with the Tim Hudak PCs and they obviously don’t like that prospect one bit. On the extra levy, Christina Blizzard writes today in the Toronto Sun:

“It’s a protectionist racket — a shakedown to ensure teachers continue to get their lavish pay hikes and benefits. Since Premier Dalton McGuinty came to power in 2003, teachers have seen their pay hiked around 25% — an average of about 3% a year… [So] don’t look to the McGuinty Liberals to freeze teachers’ salaries, as they promised. They’ve failed miserably to hold the line on any public sector salary. Why start now?”

I heard Tim Hudak on the radio this week. He said he comes from a family of teachers and has nothing but respect for the profession. I feel pretty much the same way. I am a teacher. I am a retired teacher, as is my husband. I’m therefore, not going to be a hypocrite.  We both have a teachers’ pension (albeit mine is reduced). Do I appreciate what we have? You bet I do! Do I realize that it was collective bargaining that made our pensions possible? Yes, of course I do. But, I do not recall such partisanship and the complete lack of social conscience and willingness to compromise that I am seeing now.  

Well, Ontarians need to remember then that he who pays the piper calls the tune. In other words, if the McGuinty Liberals get re-elected, we can expect our taxes to go up to pay for public sector union demands — because they will owe them big time. So, three million to save the McGuinty government may not seem like much money in the grand scheme of things, but it is symptomatic of all that is wrong with our society today and its “we are entitled to our entitlements” attitude.   


Endnote: I am puzzled every time I see the Working Coalition ad on TV, you know the one where the men in suits are sitting at a board table insinuating that good old “Tim” (meaning Hudak), should give capitalist Bay Streeters everything they want and forget everyone else. Well, hello?  Ridiculing capitalists? Look at the type of investments made by the Teachers’ Pension Plan and OMERS. In fact, the plans for teachers and municipal workers are two of the largest investment groups in the province.  It’s common sense. Capitalism creates a climate for investment. Investors create wealth. Wealth creates jobs. People work in jobs. People pay taxes which pay for public services. So, why bite the very hand that feeds them? Oh, silly me, it’s give the public sector unions everything they want and forget everyone else!