Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Negotiations between the province and the teachers: a primer for parents

First day of school
OPSBA has walked away from the table, after bad-faith bargaining.
Our Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has gone to the media complaining that the agreement with OSSTF should be good enough for ETFO.
If that were so elementary teachers would be pleased. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. I used to like her forthright attitude. No more.

The media fails to grasp what it is that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and the province, Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA), are doing at the negotiation table. I'm sure most parents do not understand that working conditions are learning conditions.

In the past, local school boards negotiated with local teacher representatives. Legislation changed this, and now portions of the local collective agreements are now based on an overlay between OPSBA (AKA the province of Ontario) and ETFO in Toronto. Agreements set down from on high. Unfortunately, initiatives, such as full-day kindergarten, costing billions of dollars, did not receive adequate or sustainable funds.

OPSBA's mandate
Following the passing of Bill 122, School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, in April 2014, OPSBA is committed to ensuring the new collective bargaining process supports and strengthens our remarkable public school system. We believe that teachers and support staff deeply influence a positive and productive learning environment for students and are supported in this role through the peace and stability engendered by successfully negotiated collective agreements.

Field trips take time to plan
The idea was to hammer out important issues provincially, before locals bargained collectively, for local and regional differences. Theoretically, this gives Ontario a vision of Ontario students, and should raise standards across the province. Instead, they are lowering the common denominator.

The high school teachers union (OSSTF) and OPSBA have come to an agreement. There are crucial differences between the high school overlay and the elementary school overlay agreement.

The differences

  • Class size: maximum size is 22 students for high schools, no max for kindergartens, which run up to 34 students, and nothing for gr. 4 - 8. The province instituted a maximum of 20 for Primary grades (Gr. 1 - 3). They have line-up for bathrooms, and must visit their cubbies, to prepare for out door play, in staggered numbers.
  • Yard duty: Need I say more? Do you phone a parent with an issue, or go to the bathroom? No, you have to run outside to do yard duty.
  • Sick leave: High school teachers cover one another, although some occasional teachers are called, or students are sent to the resource centre. Elementary teachers, generalists, must be replaced. It is important for continuity, and delivering a quality program.
    Yard duty
    • Preparation Time: High school teachers create a lesson plan for gr. 9 geography and history, which they deliver many times. Elementary school teachers are generalists, and create curriculum for Language Art, Math, Music, Art, Dance Drama, Health and Physical Education, Social Studies, all the while differentiating program and creating Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) for special needs students.
    • Split grades: This doesn't exist in high schools. See lesson plan issue above. 
    • Professional Development: There is little money for this, since elementary teachers must be replaced in the classroom, or go to after-hours events.
    • Report cards: They take hours at the elementary level, including IEP reports. High school teachers plug in a mark and comment #9,
    • Salary: There is a disparity between the salary grid for high school and elementary teachers, including extra pay for being department heads (This is not done in the elementary panel, despite having teams leaders.)

     OPSBA is trying to strip class size from the current overlays for the younger kids. This means that a high school has a maximum of 22 students in grade 11 math, but elementary schools have junior kindergarten sizes of 33 children. My granddaughter was in one. It's crowd control, especially with young special needs students integrated into renovated regular classrooms.
      A wide-range of needs and backgrounds,
      life in a portable!

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