Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teachers are not the enemy, unless you treat them as such.

On October 23, the Barrie Advance carried an editorial about the current stalemate between Ontario's government and teachers. You can read it at this link, and I've copied the text below. I responded the next day with this Letter to the Editor, which was finally printed in the November 13th edition of the Advance.

In your editorial "Teachers must stay dedicated" of October 23rd you state "the Catholic ... systems complied and reached settlements that their teachers understood and accepted."
In fact, Catholic teachers did not accept. The Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) signed with the Ministry of Education without consulting their members before or after. It was even specified that they could NOT take it to their membership for a vote. Instead, the OECTA presidents were told this was the deal and they would have to support it. In response, three OECTA locals have filed unfair bargaining practices against their own union; some locals are looking at switching from OECTA to the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
So whether or not the new deal was fair or warranted, Catholic teachers were never given the opportunity to agree or object. The only understanding was that they would shut up and comply. And that's what's wrong with the entire process: the refusal of our government to even try and deal in good faith with our teachers. Instead, they cast them as the enemy by denying them the opportunity to be a willing part of the process of helping balance Ontario's budget, even though they were open and ready to do so. Teachers could have been part of the solution, but instead the province declared that they were the problem.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Barrie, ON

Here is the text of the original editorial. 
Teachers who put time, effort and their very hearts into their jobs, and who give children every opportunity to succeed, are treasured.
Yes, there are some teachers who leave parents (and probably their peers) mystified as to their motivations and priorities, but it’s fair to say that most teachers do care about the welfare of the children in their classrooms.
We hope those teachers will continue to show their dedication in the face of mounting union pressure to diminish the quality of their work, commitment and professionalism.
On the heels of suggestions that teachers in the public system should scale back extracurricular activities comes a directive to minimize comments on elementary report cards.
This from a union leadership that contaminated radio airwaves a few weeks ago with promises that students’ interests would not be compromised, despite their ongoing beef with the provincial government.
That beef has been well documented. Last spring, in a bid to address a massive debt, the provincial government urged teachers’ unions to negotiate changes to their contract.
The Catholic and French systems complied and reached settlements that their teachers understood and accepted. Wages were frozen and limits placed on the benefit that previously allowed teachers to stockpile sick days for a sweet payoff at retirement.
The public teachers’ unions, however, took the summer off, in essence daring the province to make good on its threat to impose a deal.
And now, having abdicated their responsibility to ensure public teachers got the best possible arrangement with Queen’s Park, union leaders are screeching at Premier Dalton McGuinty’s supposed duplicity and, worse, encouraging teachers to use kids as leverage.
Teachers may have a right to be angry with the government, but they should also be angry with a union leadership that dropped the ball this summer and now wants to put them in the position of having to compromise their commitment and face upset children and angry parents.
We hope teachers resist the union’s pressure to do the wrong thing. They can still keep the promise made in those radio ads, despite union bosses whose motivations and priorities leave us mystified.

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