In a move that can only be seen as prompted by fear of political retribution from retired teachers instead of concern for struggling new teachers, the Ontario Government has changed the number of days retired instructors can teach without having their pensions suspended. The current law allows for 95 days for three years, followed by 20 days a year thereafter.
The Liberal Government, in its wisdom, will now allow retirees 50 days per year until, well, until pensioners decide they don't want to do it anymore. However, the change will be reviewed in 2015, after the province has had time to collect pertinent data.
Read all about this shameful decision in today's Globe and Mail article, reproduced below:
Kate Hammer and Caroline Alphonso
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, May. 10, 2010 7:49PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, May. 11, 2010 6:27AM EDT
For the first time, Ontario will closely track the supply teaching work done by retirees, after a Globe and Mail investigation revealed a system rife with loopholes that cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
Under new rules announced Monday, many pensioners will see an increase in the number of supply days they are allowed to work while the government and its teachers union collect data and prepare to re-evaluate the limits again in 2015.
As of 2012, all retirees will be allowed to work 50 days a school year while collecting their pensions, compared to the current rule of 95 days for three years and 20 days thereafter.
The province and its teachers union promised to review the limits after The Globe’s nine-month investigation, published in April, found that the Ontario government is spending millions of dollars bringing pensioners back into the classroom. The 20-year-old limits, which were put in place to address a long-evaporated teacher shortage, meant that young grads were struggling to find work while retirees padded their pension incomes.
“The 50-day limit is going to open up more opportunities, I think, for the new graduates because 50 days is less than a term,” said Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky, who added that many long-term occasional supply contracts last a full term or semester and that under the new limits retirees will be prevented from working many of these jobs.
The biggest change is that the number of days that retirees work will now be monitored, as opposed to the old system that relied on self-reporting. The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan also will begin compiling and reporting data once the new limit is in full swing, in 2012. The data collection will continue over three school years, and a review will begin in 2015.
“I am happy that we are going to review it in 2015 and I’m happy that we will actually have some data … that will be very helpful and useful and instructive,” Ms. Dombroswky said. “I think for all the people that have been at the table that has been a struggle, in terms of understanding what is a fair number, what is reasonable.”
But those lobbying for changes to the policy expressed skepticism that the new limits would keep retirees out of long-term contracts, especially when the change will actually increase the amount most pensioners are allowed to work.
Through multiple access-to-information requests and appeals, The Globe found that retirees often earn twice as much as their newly certified colleagues, and the province’s 10 largest school boards alone could have saved $16.7-million last school year by offering long-term contracts to new teachers instead of pensioners.
When the new rules come into effect in 2012, loopholes will enable retirees to finish out the calendar month after they have worked their 50th day, padding their pensions with contribution-free income.
“It’s disgraceful. They’ve certainly sold out the interests of young teachers looking for work,” said Malcolm Buchanan, a retired teacher in Hamilton and former general-secretary of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. “The 50 days, which may well go to 70 days depending on what day of the month the 50th day comes up, it going to just make the problem even worse.”
For years retired teachers were limited to working 20 days while collecting their pensions. Then in 1990, in the face of a dire teacher shortage, the limits were raised to 95 days for three post-retirement working years.
Twenty years later, there are two newly certified teachers for every job in Ontario, but decreasing the limits or closing loopholes would be seen as “impinging on people’s livelihoods,” according to Reno Melatti, president of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.
Fifty, “it’s not a perfect number, but it’s between zero and 95,” he said. “Some may say it was an increase … but it’s a compromise to get some information and clear data and at the same time respond to some of the concerns.”
The current limits only apply to teachers returning to the classroom, but as of next school year, they will also apply to any retired teachers working for the ministry. Neither the union nor the ministry could provide the number of retirees on the government payroll.
RETIRED TEACHERS AND THEIR PENSIONS
• The 10 school boards spent $108.3-million on retired teachers returning to work as long-term and daily supply teachers in the 2008-09 school year.
• The boards would have saved $16.7-million if they gave long-term supply contracts to recently certified teachers instead of retirees.
• The average day rate for a retiree on a long-term supply contract with the York Catholic District School Board was $432.69, compared to $227.36 for the average teacher certified within the past three years.
• Retirees worked 2,861 supply assignments for the Toronto District School Board last year, while new graduates received 1,638 assignments.
• About 6,500 new jobs become available each year, according to the Ontario College of Teachers, but the college certified 12,774 new members in 2008.