Friday, March 15, 2019

Ford's Cuts to Education

As reported in a CBC article, Ford's cuts to education, so far, aren't nearly as bad as anticipated. Could it mean he actually listened to citizens? Or maybe they've been hinting at cuts so horrible that now we're all just relieved and drained of the fight to stop the cuts he did make.

Average class sizes will be bigger in high schools (from 22 to 28). If you just picture a classroom of typical students, you might thing that 28 isn't a big deal, but it doesn't work like that. Right now we typically have 28-32 in an academic class, which is averaged in with classes that might have as few as 3 students in them who are extremely high needs to get that 22 figure. So changing the average to 28 doesn't mean classes will each have 28 kids. It means some will have 3 and others will have 38. OR, worse, some will have 6 and others will have 35. He promises no job cuts as he implements this over a few years, so that means fewer new hires.

Something else the general public doesn't always understand is that more kids we have in each class, the fewer classes that run. So, yes, definitely there will be fewer teachers in each school. But this also affects electives. If there are fewer classes running, there will be fewer courses on offer for students. This means all the fun courses, that are sometimes the only courses a student connects with, will be gone. Those will be affected by the class size hike. But they're keeping a cap on kindergarten and primary grades, which is really important. As a parent, I'd like to see those lower, but that's just a fantasy.

The sex ed scandal seems to have been resolved with gender identity and consent in the new curriculum, but parents will be able to opt out, just like has always been the case. But we'll have to see what their new curriculum actually looks like when it's released in May.

The math curriculum will focus more on fundamentals than the current discovery math model, which I can get behind, maybe. It sounds good, but the devil's in the details. And then they tossed in the requite line about curriculum on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit studies, which is in the curriculum here and there, but still not enough for students to make it to grade 12 with a basic understanding of our history.

They're also planning to ban phones in the classroom, to be implemented by teachers, which is not even minutely different from what we do now. Ford and his "low cost solution" (aka "nothing") is just going to take credit for teachers already saying, "phones away, please" ten times a day: "It would prohibit cellphone use during instructional time. Enforcement of the ban would be up to individual boards and schools. . . . exceptions would be made for when teachers want to use cellphones as part of their lesson."

But, overall, it could be a whole lot worse.

Except for ASD funding. That couldn't be much worse. Robyn Urback says,
"Thompson's announcement was really a reiteration of existing funds that apply to all students — presented as a significant funding boost for children with ASD. A shiny trinket to mislead and distract angry parents."
That seems to be the style of this government.

And then I read the comments.

I'm at the very top of the pay grid, in my last few years, and this year I took home a weekly average of $1,192.01. It's nothing to sneeze at, and almost double the after tax median in Ontario, which is $654 (which needs to change), but it's not the $59/hour suggested by commenters on that CBC article. Well, unless you calculate hourly wage by the number of hours in front of a class, so 4 hours/day x 180 instructional days (actively teaching in front of a class, not PD days or exam days), which ends up being about $86/hour! And that's net!

I've worked a lot of jobs before becoming a teacher: waitressing, bookkeeping, secretarial (I was a "Kelly's Girl" so I got around!), doing everything in a small hardware store, and then making the big bucks working in a huge insurance company where there was plenty of work to do, plenty of people who didn't want to do it, and they paid time and a half after 37.5 hours a week! And lunches were subsidized, so I could eat my fill on about a toonie a day (except they didn't exist back then). I once worked my regular day then worked all night and the entire next day, and still didn't get on top of all the pending files and piles of correspondence. But I made enough on the massive overtime to buy my first house. And then I went back to school and became a teacher. But, as much as I hated most of those jobs enough to give them up to suddenly have to live on OSAP for five years (which was plentiful, and I finished almost debt-free), none of those jobs required me to work after working hours.

Suggesting that teachers only work the hours they're in front of a class is like saying employees of a grocery store should only be paid when they're actually dealing with a customer. It's ridiculous. The shelves need to be stocked just as the lessons need to be planned and assignments marked. Instead of working 50 weeks a year at 40 hours a week, I work 40 weeks a year at, at the very least, 50 hours a week. I'd estimate my average working week is closer to 60 hours of work. And, I've been resting on my laurels for a while now and doing almost zero extracurriculars. 60 hours is just teaching, prepping lessons, and marking. Most teachers are coaching or running clubs on top of that. This week is March Break, and I've marked assignments and worked with students over email each day so far, including last weekend. If I punched a clock, I'd be making about $25/hour.

We're hardly raking it in, but, absolutely, we are paid well, but that's what you want for teachers if you want to attract the strongest applicants to make for the most educated citizens. Instead of fighting to reduce wages in a race to the bottom, fight to raise the median wage, like by increasing minimum wage.


Owen Gray said...

The point you make about electives is extremely important, Marie. By raising class size and cutting teaching staff, Ford's schools will offer fewer curriculum choices. This is all about bringing poverty to the public school system.

Lorne said...

Well-said, Marie. Your analysis is an incisive assessment of the times. As the saying goes, Tory times are tough times, something the education system is about to see once more.