I am an elementary school teacher, and my colleagues and I are under the
impression that as members of a collective bargaining unit (ETFO), we have the right to - get this - collectively bargain! My understanding is that the collective
Our federation served notice to bargain with our employer, the Board, on
June 1, according to legal due process and has been our custom for many,
many years. As always, our union will keep us updated as to how these
All of this uninvited, government-driven "provincial discussion table" is extra-curricular to the above-mentioned legally established process which we already have in place. And to claim that teachers have "walked away from the table" misleads the public into thinking that we are not interested in negotiating fairly, which is of course not true at all. (Hmmm... I wonder if my federation could sue the province for slander... ?)
In terms of what the government is actually proposing, with all its cuts, I would hope that any critically minded citizen could see that such massive cuts to education impact far more than teacher salaries and sick days.
But let's imagine for a moment that salaries and benefits are "all" we are talking about... may I remind readers that the teachers of our province's children have a minimum of two university degrees (some have more, and several also have specialist certification in areas like Reading or Special Education).
Surely a profession requiring so much training should be compensated with a decent salary?
Anyone who knows a teacher personally knows that no public educator in his or her first several years of teaching makes the $80K gross pay that the media so loves to report on. And the glorious pension of which so many speak with envy is entirely self-funded: My take home pay reflects the bi-weekly deductions that contribute to the TPP (in addition to CPP, taxes, federation contributions, mandatory OCT fees, etc., etc.)
So then, teachers make a decent - but not outrageously high--salary, after they have been teaching for several years. What we have had going for us is a relatively nice benefits package, and yes, the sick days are healthy, no pun intended. That being said, most of the teachers I know, myself included, tend to drag themselves into school rather than put together a supply plan detailed enough for a substitute teacher, who may not not know the learners in question -- to follow effectively. Only when we are basically too sick to function do we go
home for the day.
Those who do sometimes use their sick days for purposes other than lying in bed ill, use them to do schoolwork, in my experience: Completing marking, lesson and unit planning, never-ending-report cards, paperwork for special education students, etc., etc., etc. These are the "crimes" we commit when we take an
occasional sick day, because sometimes these jobs just don't get done after the students have gone home for the day or once our own kids are in bed!
Oh yes, and those of us who have children at home get to also use some of these days as "family responsibility", meaning, I can take a day off - if I can arrange a supply teacher in timely fashion - so that I can look after my own babies who get sick periodically and have to stay home.
This government has done considerable good in the past for public education. Full Day Kindergarten and Professional Resources and training for teachers are two such examples. But their current claim that they are continuing to put students first is farcical. The research shows again and again that the one critical factor in student success is an effective, highly skilled teacher. If this government wants to show its support of students, it would do well to heed that research and treat its teachers with the respect they deserve.
There has been much talk about how we all have to tighten our belts, because times are tough.
During strong economic cycles, several people I know who work in the private sector can make "Christmas bonuses" that far exceed the annual take-home pay of my first five years as a public educator.
I know I am never going to make millions, no matter how much "overtime" I work. But I also have been secure in the knowledge - up until now - that economic tides, while they may not positively benefit my income, also do not adversely affect me in ways they may others.
Quite apart from the mental, physical and emotional stimulation my profession offers me, two practical benefits of being an elementary school teacher in Ontario is that - after more than a decade in this profession - I make a decent salary, and I have a nice number of sick days that allow me to take a day when I need it, without the financial stress of losing a day's pay, and that enable me to "babysit" my sick students whose parents I know work jobs that don't allow them to come and pick up their sniffling child without major repercussions, rather than sending those kids home.
Take those things away from me, and I will need to rethink - with my now very well developed skill set - if this high stress, often thankless and increasingly complex job is something I really want to do for the rest of my career.