Unions can be a wonderful thing. They can also be a terrible thing.
Somebody recently asked me what I thought of the whole teachers’ strike ordeal, and quite frankly, I haven’t been paying as much attention to it as I probably should. I don’t believe in strikes, so I tend to ignore anything related to them… But we’re talking about education here, and my kids are part of that education system, so I decided to dig into it.
So what is this fight really about?
1. Money. Of course, it’s always about money. There is a part of this fight that has to do with teachers’ salaries, of course. But teachers make an average of $87,000 in Ontario so why do they want more? Well, for one, inflation is a real thing, ya know. Prices go up on everything. What teachers are asking is a raise equal to the increase in the cost of living. OK, so far, so good. That’s a reasonable demand in my books. However, they already make way more than what is required to make ends meet, and high salaries, protected by unions, sometimes result in comfortable individuals who are not really passionate about what they do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen wonderful teachers in my years of dealing with schools, but I’ve also seen mean teachers who hate their jobs and shouldn’t be teaching. Still, I believe a well-paid teacher is a happy teacher who probably will do a better job.
2. Education Funding. We all know the government has said they want to cut funding to education to help balance the budget. Still, they will spend more this year than ever before, but the bulk of the increase is not for schools, but rather for a child care tax credit being implemented. The total amount being put towards education may have increased; however, the per-pupil funding has gone down. I can support this one.
3. Class sizes. The government wants to increase class sizes. Teachers want to decrease them. No-brainer here. To succeed, kids need more attention, not less.
4. Migrating some classes online. The government has moved to implement the mandatory completion of 2 high school courses online. I have mixed feelings about this one. Being proficient in technology is essential, but it’s not innate in everyone. I feel this would work well with students who are autonomous and resourceful but not so much with those who require close monitoring. Teachers want this to be optional, not mandatory. I can agree.
5-Special Education Funding. The union wants to renew a clause that expired with the last contract. This funding goes to helping high-needs students. This potentially could mean restoring over 1200 jobs that were cut, mainly educational assistants. It’s a sad reality, but there is such a wide amount of kids who have a variety of ailments that requires special education. As a society, we absolutely need to get behind this.
Ultimately, I have to trust teachers have students’ best interests at heart and I have to believe unions are not serving their own hidden agenda and truly have teachers’ best interests at heart. I hope they find common ground. One thing our kids definitely don’t need is less school time.