New teachers will be able to apply for full-time positions without having to first put in years of supply teaching, under a proposal Education Minister Lisa Thompson said her government is working on.
Calling the current rules “outdated,” Thompson said consultations are ongoing and changes are coming to Regulation 274, which requires principals to hire from among the most senior supply teachers for long-term and permanent jobs.
“The previous government, sadly, instituted outdated hiring practices that rewarded teachers based on seniority and did not recognize teachers who were excelling at their jobs,” Thompson said Tuesday in the legislature.
“That needs to change, and we’re going to get that job done … We need to ensure that we have the right teacher in the right classroom. Our proposal to allow new teachers direct access to apply to permanent positions in any school board is a step towards accomplishing just that.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Premier Doug Ford said his government will be budgeting more for education for the 2019-20 school year compared to what’s currently being spent.
“Not by a little, by a lot. We’re putting a tremendous amount more into health care which is so important.”
Later asked by reporters for details, Thompson said “we’re investing in teachers who want to increase and improve their qualifications when it comes to math. So any teacher who wants to take the additional qualification course in math, certainly we’re going to invest in them because we know that our students need the best teachers and we want to ensure that our teachers who want to take a step forward are supported by our ministry and that’s a good example.”
The Ontario government currently spends about $29 billion annually on education.
As for Regulation 274 — which was brought in by the previous Liberal government in 2012 after complaints, mainly from smaller, Catholic boards about nepotism in hiring — Thompson said a revamp “isn’t about an outdated regulation; this is about doing the right thing for our students, and the right move for our teachers.”
She later said “we’re working through a consultation right now through to May 31 and we certainly want to be hearing from our education partners because Regulation 274 did a disservice to Ontario teachers across this province and we need to get it right.”
While the teacher unions have come to support Regulation 274, some teachers have complained about losing seniority when they switch boards.
Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said her union’s central collective agreement includes the hiring rules and “we consider all of this to be bargaining — and we don’t bargain through consultations and we don’t bargain through media and we wish that the minister would confine herself to making comments and having those conversations at the bargaining table.”
On Tuesday, the Ford government continued to face questions from the opposition about its education plans, including an increase to class sizes starting in Grade 4 that will lead to the loss of almost 3,500 teaching positions over the next four years.
Thompson has said the jobs will be trimmed through attrition, not layoffs, and that boards will be provided with transitional funding to ensure that happens, as well as extra monies to retain teachers in science and math.
But the plan to boost secondary school classes from an average of 22 to 28 students — though the actual size of many classes will be much larger — will impact northern and rural schools the most, warned New Democrat MPP John Vanthof, his party’s deputy leader.
It “could lead to something in rural schools, northern schools and small schools called ‘class stacking,’ ” said Vanthof.
“So, you don’t have enough students in Grade 9 apply, so you throw in academic, and then maybe you throw in Grade 10,” said Vanthof (Timiskaming-Cochrane.) “What’s ultimately going to happen is, parents and kids are going to notice that the teacher can’t keep up, and they’re going to look for another school — a bigger school.”
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy