EdVo-Post: What Does ETFO want – raises or no-strings-attached prep-time?

Recent news reports have been giving contradictory information on what the leaders of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario want before they allow teachers to provide students all the supports that students and families expect.  Some reports are that ETFO leaders are demanding a 3% raise per year plus a cost of living (COLA) increase.  Other reports are that they are refusing to accept giving Principals control over even a few minutes of the 4 hours “prep time” that each teacher is given.

In my opinion both these demands are bad for students.  Here’s why.


3%/year plus COLA means $1 Billion / year reduction of supports for students

The total wages of the 70,000 ETFO members is more than $5 billion per year.  A 3% raise will cost about $1 Billion in raises over the life of a 3 year contract.  Cost of living increases could add another $500 Million. That certainly is out of step with the Province’s “no net new funding” condition.

But wait, (as they say on every infomercial) there’s more.

The leaders of both the public secondary teachers union (OSSTF) and the catholic teachers union (OECTA) have been given a deal with “me too” clauses.  This means that OSSTF or OECTA get to piggy-back on anything that ETFO gets, so the actual cost of the reported ETFO demand doubles to more than $3 Billion.


Accepting ETFO’s “prep-time” demand needs to fragmented teaching in a school

ETFO leaders see the classroom as the place where learning takes place, and believe schools should be a loose collection of teachers each using their own “professional” judgement to decide what to do.

My experience is that most parents believe that learning takes place in the school as a whole, with their children having more than a dozen teachers between kindergarten and grade 8.  As a parent and former Trustee I side 100% with other parents.  Being stuck with a bad teacher for one year is tolerable if every teacher in the other 9 years is great.  A school-yard filled with uncaring students is a good reason to switch schools.  Having different classes in the same grade learning completely different things is a recipe for disaster in later grades.

Pro athletes practice together so that the individual players become a team – winning games depends on coordination.  Astronauts train together so that each member of a crew knows what the other members will do in every situation – staying alive depends on coordination.  An athlete who skips practices is cut.  An astronaut who decides that she doesn’t need even one small part of required training isn’t an astronaut for long.

No-one would argue that astronauts and major league athletes aren’t respected high-performing professionals.  It is no insult to their skill or motivation when they take part in mandatory coordination activities.  Yet the ETFO leaders say that it is “demeaning” to have teachers follow the lead of their school Principal for training or working with their colleagues.

Guiding our children to learn and grow is much much more important than winning games or going to space.  It matters to the children, their families, and our whole society.  A school of teachers each doing her/his “own thing” is a school that isn’t serving the needs of students.

Accepting ETFO’s vision of a school without coordination will reduce the quality of our schools, and the life prospects of our children.  Ensuring that the school Principal can use 40 minutes a week for structured coordination between teachers will make a big difference to our students.

(I recently heard an interview on CBC radio during which an ETFO representative stated his reason for leaving all prep-time in the hands of individual teachers – he was concerned that a Principal would assign a teacher to use prep-time to clean out a cupboard!  It is very sad to see the leaders of our teachers unions resort to putting out ridiculously misleading and outrageous “information” to show their members that they are tough negotiators.)