By Ryan Kelly
The popular (over)reaction to Regulation 274, which intended to establish seniority-based teacher hiring in Ontario, is largely negative, and greatly misplaced. Since Reg. 274 came into effect, its intended anti-nepotism, job protecting spirit has not been realized. Instead school boards have faced ballooning costs and procedural nightmares in what Premier Wynne has characterized as an “overcorrection.” Recently, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party MPP Lisa McLeod introduced a private member’s bill to repeal Reg. 274. It was summarily defeated in the legislature. The passing of this Private Members bill would have been the true “overcorrection,” one that would have negatively affected the hatchings of what may become a positive and sustainable seniority-based hiring process.
On 11 September 2012, the Ontario government enacted the “Putting Students First Act.” In the little more than a year since this passed, Premier Wynne has readily admitted that this bill, which reneged collective bargaining rights from education workers and imposed unprecedented concessions to our collective agreements, was little more than a tool used to win a by-election. As incentive for the OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association) to accept these concessions prior to their imposition, the government included the fiscally neutral Reg. 274.
Firstly, let it be noted that Reg. 274 has not created a system for which seniority is anything significant in the hiring process. In most cases, boards that decided to comply with the regulation created a three-tiered hiring process. The first tier is comprised of an existing pool of supply teachers, and other non-permanent hires. Teachers in the first tier with 20 days teaching in a ten-month consecutive period over the past five years were given exclusive opportunity to interview. If successful, these teachers would be added to a second list from which all permanent and long-term occasional positions would be hired. Notwithstanding this qualification, candidates must first have completed a four-month long-term occasional assignment, and have received a positive evaluation from an administrator to be eligible to apply for a permanent position. When a position then becomes available, the five most senior teachers on the LTO list with suitable qualifications for the posting are guaranteed an interview, and one of the five will be offered the job. What exists as the result of this process is very little semblance of seniority consideration.
Indeed, there is no obligation to hire to either the supply list, or the LTO list, with any consideration of seniority. What has resulted from this new process is many educators with hundreds of hours of practical classroom experience, who have been hired by several board principals throughout their careers, were not hired by the selection panel to the newly created second hiring tier. How suddenly are these veteran teachers no longer the ideal candidates they were when they were the top selection for jobs past? Evidently, nepotism trumped seniority throughout this process, all but nullifying the intended effects of this regulation. Interviewing for, debriefing, releasing and re-releasing these lists jumbled while costs and time were mounting; boards were refusing to implement it, and details were being modified on what seemed like a weekly basis. Needless to say, everything about Reg. 274’s intent was perverted through this process. That does not warrant a needlessly self-destructive overreaction to a problem.
Mostly, opponents of Reg. 274 (see prolific commentator Christina Blizzard’s take) seem to have it wrong: they blame unions for Reg. 274, and decry the quality of teacher that is now hired under the imposed process. They suggest seniority-based hiring is perhaps the least desirable process for determining greater employment and job security. Furthermore it is suggested that hiring should remain entirely at the discretion of the school’s principal; who better to decide what is best for the school? This is an idea that deserves much consideration. The suggestion that seniority hiring is flawed as it favours less-capable teachers over more capable teachers is as faulty as a one-legged stool. It assumes that the person(s) performing the interview and making the hiring decisions are the best person to do so. Many administrators have no formal training in hiring. Many are destined to make lateral moves throughout their board, with little professional growth or prospect of advancement in their careers. The Mike Harris government removed administrators from the Federation, so neither ineffective administrators nor boards have the option to transition inadequate principals back to the classroom. Moreover, there are countless examples of hiring practices that favour extracurricular involvement or fiduciary decisions over what would make a candidate the best classroom teacher. The product of this mindset is an illusion that this system creates a more comprehensive context for hiring. In reality, what makes for the most suitable candidate is entirely exclusive of these financial and extra-curricular considerations. As a result, it is quite reasonable that seniority-based hiring and employment security has remained a valuable goal of unions.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, unions sought to prevent employers from replacing older, higher paid workers with younger, lower-paid ones. Seniority provisions are thus a hallmark of union collective bargaining agreements. Since teachers were granted the right to strike through the passage of The School Boards and Teachers’ Collective Negotiations Act in 1975, protecting teachers from the fickle hiring practices of school staffing processes has been a bargaining foci. While imperfect in many ways, education worker contracts have made great strides since the mass teacher resignations of the early ‘70’s. The nature of education creates a precarious balance between self-preservation and the inherent desire to engage and assist learners. Historically, this paradigm is a pressure point in the minds of education workers, and the agent controlling the purse strings. In the case of seniority-based hiring in the education sector, this perception is being manipulated to grant greater power to those that seek positions of greater authority.
It is reasonable to assume that teachers with a wealth of seniority have at least once in their careers been hired by a principal. In Ontario, teachers are well-educated professionals with a minimum of two degrees. We participate in professional development on an ongoing and frequent basis. What then makes someone with the same qualifications but less teaching experience more qualified for the job? In reality, in Ontario’s education system, nothing. The Ontario Provincial Conservative party’s push to kill Reg. 274 is one based entirely on finance and ideology. The losers in this system are the mature professionals that seek balance between their personal and professional lives, and of course, the future generations of educators interested in preserving their rights.
Ryan Kelly is a postsecondary teacher and Political Action Chair of OSSTF District 13.
The supply lists have continued to grow more and more over the years. It is actually quite discouraging for newer teachers. However, I think these set backs should translate to the amount of students that can be admitted into these B.Ed. programs so that these backups simply do not occur. Especially disciples like the arts – some teachers can supply for years and years before getting a full time placement.
Transparency in hiring is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately since the only way into the teaching profession is now occasional teaching, applications have increased exponentially and there are still the same number of spots open and unions want to decrease the size of the list to ensure consistent work for their occasional teachers. There are plenty of excellent teachers who simply are not getting interviews due to the high volume of applications and you typically only have a couple of rounds of hiring per year which is absurdly discouraging.
In short, there are a lot of us out there who just can’t get started. I have three AQ’s and I’m coming off of a previous career which had significant teaching experience working with young people of various cultural backgrounds, and yet I can’t get a interview. Surely there is a problem here and I know I’m not the only one in this situation.
I am all for 274 as I am a teacher on supply list for last 10 years. I was only interviewed 7 times for LTO but did not get one. I was told by one principal that I should go to Toronto and apply there implying that because I am a person of colour we don’t need you.
Only because of 274 I was asked for an interview multiple times in one month and got an LTO in my second interview. Hooray for 274 that gives some place to coloured teachers in white boards.
No one seems to take into consideration an experienced teacher that is looking at moving and therefore change school boards. A teacher with 10 or more years of full time teaching experience is dropped to the bottom and must start all over again. Tough to do.
Doug, I am in that exact position. I have over ten years of experience and moved to a new area. I was a full time English teacher and am now an education officer with eqao travelling 4 hours per day for a job. I agree with the idea of senority, but why can’t we take our senority with us across Ontario? This is completely unfair for teachers like me.
And what about teachers with experience in private or international schools (top ones) who for personal reasons (aging parents) find it necessary to move to small towns that only have public schools? That is my situation. I am a teacher who is headhunted to teach in Zurich and other places around the world, but the best I can do in Ontario is to get on a supply list (and I managed that just before 274 was put in place). As I can’t stay poor forever, this spring I accepted an offer to go work in Abu Dhabi.
Doug, that is my situation as well. I am a veteran, specialist teacher with 15 years teaching experiences, 2 honour specialist AQs (in addition to other AQs), ‘exemplary’ teachers appraisals on file who stayed home in 2011 to raise a child in until kindergarten. The boards in my region have so many supply teachers that after a full of trying to apply there is still not one pool hiring for list 1. I have no way to get onto daily supply lists while nullifies the LTO list opportunities and makes non-existent permanent gigs. So we’re looking at another 2 years before a chance at a full-time job if I got on a list tomorrow (which is unlikely). There is no way to access the seniority I built up in my 15 years with the same board to count as seniority or any equivalency in this 3 tier list hiring practice. I didn’t even try to change boards!
I was a supply teacher for almost an entire decade and applied to hundreds of LTO and contract positions within my school board and I would be jackpot lucky to receive an interview. Throughout that time, I saw first hand a lot of “nepotism” as many sons, daughters and friends jumped into permanent positions before the next hardworking teacher with little or no connections. After Reg 274 came out, my seniority was so high that my phone was ringing off the hook, the interviews were not easy and the questions were very comprehensive. After close to 20 interviews, I was finally able to secure a contract teaching position! Without this new hiring regulation, I would still be working as a supply teacher and applying for EI in the summer and scraping from pay cheque to pay cheque hoping to make it through the year. I just wish this regulation was here a long time ago. Thanks Liberals!!
For anyone who wants to read about the positive side of Regulation 274, here is a link to an article that you might find worth reading 🙂
The crucial flaw in your argument is your reference to “experience”. While those reading your piece may be inclined to believe that the term “experience” refers to the number of days spent in a classroom actually, you know, “teaching”, the reality is that this is not the case when it comes to reg 274. All seniority lists across the province have been organized according to the language set out in bill 115, which stipulates that teachers be ranked based on date of hire, with experience only being weighed in as a tie-breaker between two candidates hired on the same day.
So let me ask you, who has more teaching “experience”? A candidate who has spent the last 5 years teaching in a variety of full-time LTO positions, garnering just over 1000 days of teaching, or candidate B who has been on the supply list for 10+ years having never landed an LTO position and supply taught a total of 100 days (an average if less than 9 supply days per year)? In case you were wondering, regulation 274 ensures employment for candidate B at the expense of the first.
Readers have to understand that the defendants of reg 274 know this and argue that this is “fair hiring practice”. To quote Peter R, “thanks Liberals!!”
Click on the link above and read the article. It has everything you need to know about understanding the effects of Regulation 274. Good luck!
You bet Jaimen!
I give all the appreciation and “thanks” to the Liberal government of Ontario for bringing this new hiring practice into effect.
I guess I forgot to mention in my original post that I did successfully complete over a dozen of LTO positions during my time on a supply list and have also accomplished more than what you consider “gathering just over 1000 days of teaching …” but even with all that under my belt, I was still unsuccessful in finding a permanent position for almost 10 straight years.
Regulation 274 allowed me to get the interviews and job opportunities that I needed in order to have the permanent job that I have today. Thanks Liberals!!