Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Retired Administrator Sets The Record Straight

As he tries to appear tough for the upcoming byelections, Ontario's self-proclaimed Education Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has been indulging in the kind of demagoguery that is an affront to critical thinkers everywhere. I was therefore pleased to read this article by Tom Roden, a retired vice-principal, attempting to puncture some of the myths about teaching:

Just don’t tell me teachers are overpaid

Don’t make savings on our backs: End Catholic school funding This opinion article is in response to Ontario’s Liberal government as it attacks public school teachers in an attempt to alleviate some fiscal problems and increase their chances in two byelections. It is also in response to those praising Catholic teachers for accepting unreasonable demands from the provincial government.

It comes from the perspective of a retired teacher who has a reasonable pension because I paid for it my entire career. I believe my teaching career was relatively routine and will use examples from it to illustrate.

Teachers are not well paid given the academic requirements, responsibilities, and stress of the job. They are required, as a bare minimum, to have at least five years of university. Most have more. In addition, any of the considerable numbers of teachers that I know work far more than the standard 2,000 hours per year. Any of their male friends in industry, with comparable responsibilities and academic qualifications, have far greater salaries. This income disparity is not as obvious with women because teaching is one of the few areas in which salaries are not gender-dependent.

I knew salaries in teaching were not great when I entered the profession, so I am not whining about it. Just do not tell me that I was well paid.

After graduating from McMaster University, I worked in the hourly personnel department at Ford Motor Company for nine and a half months. It was not until my fifth year of teaching that my salary equalled my earnings at Ford. This income disparity is the reason that it is very difficult to attract technical teachers. Most tradesmen/women are not willing to accept a decrease in their salary of approximately 50 per cent.

Just as I was retiring, I was kidded by a pick-up hockey teammate, who works in management in industry, with the often-used “overpaid, underworked school teacher” line.

I replied: “I just retired as a vice-principal of a school of 1,600 people (including students, teachers, secretaries, caretakers, cafeteria staff). My salary was $75,000. If I were assistant plant manager of some factory that has 1,600 employees, would I have made $75,000?” He replied that I would have been paid at least double that.

Again, I am not whining because I knew what I was getting into when I started teaching.

Retirement gratuities are common in industry, as are sick leave plans. My golfing buddies who retired from industry have their benefits paid, most until death. The minute I retired, I had to pay for all benefits. Because of cost, I did not pick up a dental plan. Again, I am not whining. However, if teaching is to be compared to industry, make a fair comparison.

It should be noted that teaching is considered more stressful than almost any other job in society.

Also, much of the media mislead the public because, I believe, they are afraid to raise the issue of public funding for separate schools.

It is just plain wrong to fund Roman Catholic schools but deny that funding to all others. The United Nations has twice condemned the Province of Ontario for this discriminatory practice.

As well, the duplication of services squanders billions of dollars annually. William J. Phillips of the Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario ( presented a study estimating the duplication of services costs Ontario taxpayers between 1.27 and 1.59 billion extra dollars annually.

In addition, separate school students cost more. Using Ministry of Education figures for 2009-10, Catholic students use 38 per cent of education funding, but comprise only 32 per cent of the total of students in Ontario. Each separate school student costs $12,4440.42 while each public school student costs $9,468.46, a difference of $2,971.96. For the 659,392 separate school students in Ontario, that is an annual $2 billion ($1,959,686,648) more than would be spent if they were public school students.

Combining those two facets, and because some of the extra per pupil cost for separate schools is included in the figures in Phillips’ study, we could save approximately $2.5 billion to $3 billion annually by having one publicly funded, secular school system while maintaining the same quality of education. That saving would negate the need to attack teacher contracts.

Anyone who feels the need to have their child attend a religious school can do it on their own dime, as is done with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim schools, among others.

Is it possible that Catholic teachers are willing to give up so much in order to retain their privileged position?

Tom Roden lives in Grimsby.

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