Do Ontario teachers deserve a better deal, or do they have one already?

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Pradip Rodrigues

If you get your news mostly from outlets like the CBC or other mainstream liberal and left-leaning media outlets, you could be excused for thinking that Ontario school teachers are grossly underpaid and overworked to the point of exhaustion. It is almost impossible to find any report critical about teachers. You may even believe that teachers don’t want more than 22 kids in each class because that could make it hard for them to provide the individualized attention they are known to shower on every student. You may also end up hoping they get a boost in their basic salaries not including the 2 percent increase they are demanding.

It may come as news to consider the less or never reported facts. Ontario teachers are the second-highest paid in Canada and one of the best paid educators in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development survey of industrialized countries.

That fact and more was actually echoed by a letter to the editor that appeared in a left-leaning, Toronto-based media outlet.

The letter-writer was a teacher at a private high school earning $25 an hour.

What he makes in a year was meagre in comparison to the average TDSB teacher salary of $93,000.  The letter-writer pointed out that these teachers did not work over the summer, during March Break or on public holidays. Besides, they got several hours during the week for preparation time and one paid day off per month.

He did the math and concluded that if one was to average this out to an hourly rate, teachers made much more than the average Bay Street attorney who put in up to 12 hours per day, five days a week for the entire year.

The letter writer ended with this: “For $93,000, I don’t think it is unreasonable to take on a bit more work. I pray to have such a job.”

The average Ontarian earns $55,000 and would love to trade places with even the lowest-paid teacher.

While most Ontarians working in the real world, or should I say, the private sector cannot ever take their jobs for granted, most have to achieve certain targets and keep up with the competition. Even keeping a poorly paying job these days is not easy and the gig economy means there is no guaranteed employment or income. This should really make most Ontarians in the private sector get sick with worry, but it turns out that Ontario teachers are falling sick more often than any other class of workers, including those working in hospitals!

A 2017 study found that teachers have been taking more and more sick days over the past five years. On average, sick days have increased by over 30 percent. In 2020, another report revealed even starker results with teachers taking 70 percent more sick days than over a decade ago.

No teacher fears losing their job for calling in sick or going on short-term disability due to on the job stress. And let us not get into a discussion about their wonderful pension plans. FYI, just 40 percent of Canadian workers have pension plans and that percentage is shrinking rapidly.

Furthermore, it is a fact that it is very difficult if not impossible to terminate the services of very bad teachers. The only ones we hear about losing their teaching jobs are those who’ve violated their students sexually. I’d be happy to know just how many teachers have lost their jobs for poor teaching skills that resulted in their students getting poor or failing grades.

Whenever students get poor grades, seldom does it reflect on the teacher, at the most, the school will be called bad, but no one would lose their jobs because test scores were bad. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that teachers set weak tests designed to ensure that the weakest students can get passing grades. And if that is not the case, they push the so-called ‘open book’ exam which in some countries like India is called cheating. Students can simply copy and paste the answer or copy the answer verbatim.

So, this is why I find it perplexing that few parents are protesting this travesty and are not putting pressure or voicing their outrage. The silence of most Ontarians on this issue is deafening. The problem is that everyone seems to have a family member or close friend who happens to be a government employee protected by powerful unions. These people are either unable or unwilling to call out teachers on this issue for obvious reasons.

Under normal circumstances, lower paid Ontarians in the private sector should have strong union representation while those high to well-paid government employees should be made to work hard in order to keep their jobs and other entitlements.

Meanwhile government employees will continue to brandish strikes as their weapons of choice to ensure they get their way. And they will get it all as long as powerful unions have their media surrogates to count on and not to mention public apathy, silence and indifference. -CINEWS

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