Revoking teacher seniority only a cost-cutting measure says reader

To the Editor:

My Mom was the first Special Ed teacher hired by the Peel Board of Education. Just about every summer she spent in Toronto taking classes to upgrade her qualifications. By the time she retired, the trail she blazed in education was well-recognized and appreciated.

She would not appreciate (as MPP Bill Walker implied in a recent tweet) that the Ontario Government of today would not consider her the best person to teach her classes.

The Ford Government is axing Regulation 274 of the Education Act. That Reg was part of a negotiated collective agreement between teachers and the government. It recognized the value of experience and training by obliging principals to hire from a roster of Occasional Teachers who have taught in their schools. And when a permanent teaching position opened up, that was the list the school board turned to.

The rationale for axing the Reg is that, partly because of COVID, school boards need to act swiftly to hire the best qualified teachers to fill vacant temporary or permanent spots on their staffs. This implies (as Bill Walker’s tweet does) that teachers with seniority – and experience and extra training – are not the best qualified.

But a look at the regulation itself reveals a process that is fair, efficient and a good way to keep on hand a list of qualified teachers with experience in local schools.

Before Reg 274 was negotiated and put in place, principals could hire anyone they wanted – and they did. Favourite nephews, best friends, supply teachers from another board, sometimes people without teaching certificates all found their way into the classroom. Not exactly the best way to ensure quality education.

What incentives would newly minted teachers have to stay in the area if they didn’t have some assurance they would be tapped to fill in on contract or as a supply teacher? The roster system of Reg 274 ensured they would be called upon for temporary work and for interviews if a permanent position opened up.

So let’s be honest. Revoking seniority for occasional teachers and the roster system is not designed to be a response to COVID. It will not make hiring new teachers more efficient and it will not produce better quality education for our kids.

No, axing Reg 274 is, at best, a cost-cutting measure since school boards can pay less for less experienced teachers. It is also another conservative shot at unions since it cancels something that was the product of negotiations toward a collective agreement.

David McLaren