The Teachers’ Utopia of Ontario

It’s kind of ironic, in light of all the recent anti-bullying awareness days being held at schools around Ontario, that the teachers themselves engage in a bit of bullying when it comes to their upcoming contract negotiations.

Ontario is in poor shape in terms of government fiscal soundness, that’s pretty widely accepted as the truth now.  So let’s review some facts before we discuss too much further about the teachers;

  • Under Dalton McGuinty, teachers’ salaries have increased approximately 34%.  No private sector job can brag about such an increase in pay over the past eight years.  In fact, in the manufacturing sector there has been a widespread roll back of compensation… we wonder how some of the private sector union members feel about this disparity in fates;
  • The average elementary/high school teacher in Ontario is paid approximately $84,000 per year.  That puts teachers in the top 5% of income earners in the province.  Yes, that seems remarkable when you contrast it with the corporate fat-cat caricatures of the “rich” but it’s true – teachers are the “rich”.  Not the 1% yet, but getting close.  Which makes the Ontario Teachers union financial and moral support of the Occupods a couple of months ago so specious;
  • The average education spending in Ontario is approximately $8,000 per student for elementary and high school level.  This places Ontario near the top of the country in terms of per capita spending.  However, Ontario school boards needed to raise over $100 million dollars last year outside of school, through fundraisers, to ostensibly pay for items such as school texts, gym equipment and other items;
  • Enrollment in schools is stagnant, barring a few school boards in and around the GTA, and some French school boards.  There are, to put it simply, fewer and fewer school age kids, owing to reduced birth rates (less than 1.8 kids per family in Canada – less than replacement rate).  And yet, universities keep pumping out more and more young teachers every year, despite obviously diminishing demand for them;
  • McGuinty’s push for smaller classrooms however partially filled the demand void, by artificially dividing the student population into smaller groups, thereby requiring that there be more teachers (and more infrastructures to house them).  This despite the fact that there are no studies demonstrating conclusively that smaller classrooms are more conducive to learning or produce better results than the classroom sizes of ten, twenty years ago;
  • McGuinty’s push for all-day junior kindergarten is another of his demand void fillers.  Create another need for more teachers, despite no studies conclusively demonstrating that junior kindergarten carries any of the benefits developmentally that its proponents claim

So all of these points, taken in their totality should say this to almost anyone who reads them – the teachers in Ontario have had no greater friend than Dalton McGuinty over the past 8 years.  He has created artificial demand for more teachers and given them very healthy pay raises despite market economics not supporting the need for him to have done so.

A lot of money is spent these days on private schooling, tutoring outside of school, and then we get stories where schools are talking about co-parenting and calling the police over the drawings of a four-year old.  It’d be hard to argue that there is increasing faith in the ability or quality of our educational system, and yet all the financial markers point to the educational system having been the beneficiary of more and more public spending.

We have two huge expenditure points in this province; education and health care.  When it comes to our health care system there are some honest brokers out there are willing to debate the benefits of privatizing aspects and changing our delivery model for the sake of reducing our costs, making the system more sustainable financially and getting value for money.  Funny how we hear hardly a peep questioning whether the way we are delivering education in this province in the best manner possible, whether we get value for money, and whether this is a sustainable model to move forward in the future.

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