This morning Laurel Broten, Ontario's Minister of Education, moved to assist younger teachers in Ontario find jobs through a range of strategies and regulatory changes. She stated at a news conference that "Young teachers are the fuel that keeps the engines of the education system running. Their energy, enthusiasm, and fresh perspectives are exactly what our schools need. Every time a retired teacher steps into the class to supply teach it means a young teacher in need of experience and exposure is denied that opportunity." This blog post is going to delve into the background, the government's reasoning, and why young teachers face a perfect storm of negative labour market conditions.
Before we delve into an analysis of Broten's reasoning it's important to place this move in the context of Dalton McGuinty curious foray into hardball labour relations against Ontario's teachers. This has seen him attempting to dictate the terms of the new collective agreements between Ontario's teachers' unions and school boards.
Essentially, McGuinty is stealing a page from public sector labour relations strategy of British Columbia and Saskatchewan which have used legislative fiat to usurp the collective bargaining process and impose terms on unions and employers in the public sector. McGuinty's reasoning is that given Ontario debt and fiscal pressures teachers have to make certain sacrifices to assist the Ontario government in paying down the debt. For some analysis on this issue, see: here, here, and here.
What's Behind Broten's Move?
At first blush Broten's move to help young teachers seems to be simply another move in trying to soften up the membership of teachers' unions by pitting young teachers against older teachers, but that being said young teachers do face a reality where it's extremely difficult to establish themselves in the profession. If one looks at the press release and backgrounder put out by the Ministry of Education it lists some of the motivations as being: to establish a transparent hiring process; pushing more teachers to retire; and, reducing the number of days retired teachers can work in schools per year from ninety-five to fifty.
While I would be the first to argue that there's a sore need for vastly increased intergenerational equity within the labour markets of the Ontario Public Service and the broader public sector in Ontario it shouldn't come at the cost of abrogating the collective bargaining process or amid threats to force a standardized contract onto schools boards and teachers. Sadly, it seems that young teachers have become the latest pawn of the Ontario government in an increasingly high stakes game to achieve fiscal stability via broader attacks on the working class.
The foregoing being said, I'm not opposed to any of the specific regulatory changes that Broten is proposing that target young teachers. Young teachers face an extremely competitive and depressed labour market. Most young teachers have zero chance of finding a job in Ontario. Many young teachers I personally know have decamped far-flung rural locations or overseas to obtain a teaching position.
Young teachers face this depressing situation due to a confluence of factors: the end of mandatory retirement; the financial crisis which forced many teachers to remain in the classroom to bolster their savings; the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and University and university administrators which allowed teachers' colleges to admit an excessive number of students far in excess of the what the labour market required; shrinking budget amid fiscal austerity; declining enrollment across the province as the number of school age children fall as the birthrate drops and immigration slows; a Ministry of Education and teachers' unions that have historically refused to implement ameliorative programs to increase intergenerational equity; and, nepotism within school boards which sees the children of teachers and those with connections hired long before those with an "in".
While Broten push to assist young teachers is long overdue, it's reeks of divisive partisanship that leaves one questioning the motivations behind the move. While I'm certain that young teachers will be happy with today's announcement, it remains to be seen whether the Ministry of Education can actually operationalize changes that will result in increased intergenerational equity amid systemic resistance from teacher's unions and school boards . If you're a teacher, be it young or old, I'd love to hear your perspective on this matter - leave a comment below or drop me an email.