Parents and principals are banding together to fight a regulation that forces Ontario school boards to hire teachers based on seniority for long-term supply jobs, traditionally a steppingstone to permanent positions.
The government said it introduced the regulation to prevent nepotism and favouritism in hiring practices, but critics charge that seniority-based hiring will only exacerbate the unemployment crisis hurting new teachers. The provision requires principals to hire from within the first five teachers on the seniority list for long-term occasional contracts, and not necessarily the ones they believe are better suited for a position.
Partly in an effort to help new graduates looking for long-term or permanent jobs, the government announced last week that it will cut teachers-college space in half. But school boards say the province is hurting new teachers with the regulation. New teachers have to have at least 20 days of supply teaching to make it onto a long-term list. Once they do, they are now at the bottom of the seniority pile, and will be hard-pressed to find a contract position.
Principals who are now hiring for vacant contract positions and known leaves for the fall have to abide by these new provisions. Parent councils are encouraging parents to write letters to the province calling for the regulation to be scrapped. An online petition opposing Regulation 274 has ramped up in the last week and now has more than 1,800 signatures.
"My biggest concern is that by hiring based on seniority and not taking performance into account, you're creating the potential of not having the best teacher teaching your kid," said Toronto parent Greg Synowicki, who sits on the school council at two of his children's schools. "It's going to hurt our children."
Principal Marcia Diakun said the regulation hampers her ability to find the candidate with top credentials and who can also coach a sports team or contribute to a school club. "I want the best candidate who is qualified but who can also bring that added value to our school," said Ms. Diakun of Toronto's William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute.
Education Minister Liz Sandals acknowledged there are concerns, and said she will establish working groups to discuss potential improvements to the regulation.
"If the teachers' federations and the respective school board associations are able to agree to changes, we are receptive to adopting their recommendations, while still maintaining consistent and transparent hiring practices," Ms. Sandals said in a statement.
The regulation was established during contract talks with the province's Catholic teachers and came into effect in January at the same time as Bill 115, a controversial piece of legislation that imposed the terms of teacher contracts in the public school system.
School board officials are pessimistic about seeing any changes to the regulation. Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, said he has little faith in the discussions, and called the regulation "an an absolute tragedy."
"We have lost control of being able to select the right teacher for the right classroom for the right community. The government has taken away that ability to be able to ensure that we have local community control of hiring teachers into our community. That's a shame," Mr. Barrett said.
Kevin O'Dwyer, president of Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said the protests to the regulation are misguided. School boards may see it as a stripping of their hiring rights, but the regulation allows for predictability and transparency, he said.
"I think some school boards have definitely used favouritism as a process of selection and assignment of work," Mr. O'Dwyer said. "I believe parents and school communities want qualified and experienced teachers delivering programs. This [regulation] offers the identification of that."