As of midnight yesterday, there was no overall resolution to dozens of contracts between elementary and secondary teachers working in public school boards,
Personally, I'm left scratching my head as to how anyone gets to a resolution in this mess.
The unions are slowly painting themselves into a corner where their actions will only further alienate the public support they will need in order to minimize the impact of this battle on their members. If this province heads into an election in 2013 without some sort of resolution and job action continues, despite all their bravado the unions won't gain enough support to elect a government friendly to their demands.
Even if the contentious portions of Bill 115 are repealed, the government's fiscal goals haven't changed. It will still want to contain the massive liability of banked sick days and retirement gratuities for those school boards that offered them up to this point. It will still seek to eliminate the two-day-a-month sick day provisions and replace it with an amount closer to what people actually take, backed up by a short-term disability program.
It will still also seek to move towards provincial bargaining -- which, frankly, should have happened back in 1998 when the current district school boards were created and educational funding consolidated at the provincial level.
The government doesn't get off scot-free either.
By poisoning bargaining right from the start, it did make it quite clear it wasn't willing to budge on its goals. It joined the unions in the war of rhetoric, making it easy to get distracted. This wasn't about wages. It's about long-tail liabilities and controlling the sector. Yet, to this day, the government line remains about teachers not wanting to take a pay cut, which is beyond false.
Caught in the middle, as always, are students. Being used as pawns, being abused as those impacted by any job action.
Bargaining would be the defining matter in education for the past 12 months, but that's not to suggest there weren't others. Here are a few to provide some fodder for reflection and discussion:
- Accommodation: This one does not go away. In 2012, another high-profile attempt -- this time in Peterborough -- to derail the decision made by a local school board. Another failure to understand that ministry reviews and judicial reviews are not appeals and cannot reverse a decision made by a group of local trustees. The rebound in declining enrolment is just getting underway in many districts. Many will point to this rebound as justification for maintaining the status quo-- but to do so is ignorant of what any good demographer will tell you. This rebound (which will take another eight to 10 years to begin hitting secondary schools) will be longer and smaller than previous baby booms. Which means it won't make up for the existing vacancies in our schools that will need to be rationalized sooner than this increase will start hitting high schools. This won't go away in 2013 either-- keep an eye on brewing situations in Kingston, London and maybe even, finally, in Toronto.
- GSAs: Long forgotten by now due to the labour unrest, this was a defining issue for the first quarter of the year. One of the only bills that received Royal assent before the summer break, Bill 13 was supposed to fix all bullying in our schools. Or something like that, I now mutter facetiously. The government started the year battling some faith-based groups and parents who objected to having gay straight alliances become a mandatory part of schools. Lost in the bigger discussion over what these support groups should be called was whether the name alone makes any real differences in school cultures and how they deal with harassment.
- See ya later, education premier: In a move that surprised many at the time, Dalton announced in October he will step down as party leader and premier once the Ontario Liberal Party elects a new leader in late January. So comes to an end a nine-year stretch where, for the most part, the government was quite friendly to the sector-- increasing funding by billions as student enrolments dropped by about six per cent. The legacy's being defined by his last few months, but as I argued when the announcement was made, McGuinty's legacy is larger than that. I would think in time, his term will be compared to that of Bill Davis.
In the meantime, this tiny little blog approaches 100,000 page views as it enters its fourth year in March. Thanks to those who've stopped by and particularly to those who have been longtime readers.