Unexpected “Cuts” on the Negotiation. Table between Teachers and Government

di Joe Volpe del January 10, 2020

TORONTO - If you are confused about the meanderings of the Ontario teachers’ strikes (they are rotating them from Board to School Board) and the negotiating tactics of the Government that’s ok. The Government of Ontario is no better off. Its focus seems to be on “getting a Deal”. This term, rendered shop-worn by Donald Trump and his admirers, is the mantra of the government of the day.

But there are subtle negotiating differences between “inking a deal” and “getting a Deal”. The latter implies, among other things, financial efficiencies that produce more and better outcomes: more for less.

They are accompanied by measurable standards and achievements acceptable to both parties and the public they serve. “Achievements” in the public education system have been decreasing dramatically.

Since well before the Christmas break (begging special dispensation from the secularists who prefer “the Holiday Season”), Minister Stephen Lecce’s communication plan has been to paint the big Union Bosses as being focused exclusively on money …money …and more money. Surprised? Shouldn’t be.

It takes money to develop a curriculum and to implement it. That needs to consider the development of expert personnel for its delivery. For better or for worse, teachers’ unions are a competing institution for determining what monies to generate and how those funds should be dispersed for greater “effectiveness” in securing desired educational outcomes.

Take the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and St. Mike’s College School (SMC) for illustrative purposes only. SMC is a private school delivering an Ontario Ministry of Education mandated core curriculum to about 1,000 students. As per its annual report, it has a revenue stream in the realm of $25,000,000, including the tuition fees.

Among the many schools in the GTA’s lucrative private school business, SMC in is not anywhere near the most expensive. Apparently, notwithstanding its notorious recent troubles, people are breaking down the doors to get in. This could suggest that people might pay more for “perceived quality”. Unions have taken note.

Teachers’ unions point to the fact that the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), gets by on an operational budget of just under $1.1 billion while it struggles to educate 91,000 children. Were it to operate on a similar income stream, the TCDSB might reasonably expect some $2.275 billion for the much more di£cult task of preparing a more diverse array of future citizens to the Province.

Neither the TCDSB nor any other Board, for that matter, is at the negotiating table. Boards/Trustees are neither involved in Provincial curriculum development nor in setting rates of taxation for instructional delivery. They are having increasingly greater challenges in justifying their existence.

Teachers Unions, which do not have authority to tax the public, demand a determining role in apportioning the allocated resources for education. That means they need to get “more” for their members in absolute dollars or in conditions of labour.

For instance, cut the number of students in classes and lessen the number of classes teachers need to teach for their salary.

Minister Lecce is discovering that the Unions don’t want to be “taken in on any deal”. It won’t be long before he turns to seeking the “desired e£ciencies” by eliminating the proverbial “fifth wheel” – redundant school boards and their bloated senior staffs.

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