A regulation that forces boards to hire the most experienced supply teacher for full-time jobs — rather than the best fit — hinders efforts to bring in educators from more diverse backgrounds in schools, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said after hearing from parents in Peel who are concerned about racism in the board.
“What is really the challenge that impedes the ability of boards to make decisions based on merit or equity is Regulation 274, which creates some impediments to hiring talented educators based on their qualifications,” Lecce told the Star in an interview Monday.
He said the rule “eliminates the ability of boards to find, to choose, merited candidates that happen to be (diverse) or of specific backgrounds to better reflect the communities they represent. Their advice to me was to very seriously look at removing those impediments and I committed to them to doing so.”
Lecce has sent in two troubleshooters to probe complaints of anti-Black racism at the Peel District School Board, and last week personally met with families.
The issue, however, is one provincial negotiators will raise during the current round of talks with teacher unions, who support Regulation 274. It was originally implemented to curb nepotism, a huge concern for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, OECTA.
OECTA declined to comment on the regulation, saying it is a matter for the bargaining table.
The hiring rule was brought in by the former Liberal government during contract negotiations in 2012 with OECTA, requiring principals to hire from among the five most qualified senior candidates in the supply pool for long-term and permanent jobs.
The regulation was later extended to cover all other school boards in Ontario over the objections of the boards themselves, as well as directors of education and deans of Ontario’s faculties of education.
Teachers have also complained that they lose seniority if they move to another board.
By 2013, even then-premier Kathleen Wynne admitted the regulation was an “overcorrection” and said her government would work to “get it right” during the next round of contract talks, though no changes were made.
Then, last April, Lecce’s predecessor Lisa Thompson called the regulation was “outdated” and that the government would address it because it “rewarded teachers based on seniority and did not recognize teachers who were excelling at their jobs.”
Lecce said changing the regulation “will have implications at the bargaining table, but I made commitments to understand the problem and work in good faith with all the parties, given this is about student success,” he said.
“ … The point really is taken that if you are not able to have a mechanism to draw upon talented people from various visible minority communities and racialized communities then we don’t do justice to our kids from those communities,” Lecce also said.
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Earlier this year, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said a 2014 provincial report allayed concerns about the regulation and found that boards were not hiring unqualified candidates, nor was it preventing more diverse candidates from getting jobs, though boards and principals disagree.
Unions have, however, said they are willing to look at the lack of mobility to switch boards that Regulation 274 has created.