McGuinty attempting to cut teacher salaries
Published: Monday, March 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
On March 2, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, in an usual move, took to YouTube to publicly call for a two-year wage freeze for the Province's teachers, pitching it as a solution to the approximately $16 billion deficit in the Provincial budget.
Despite being promoted by party members, the video had, at the time of this writing, only gained about 20,000 views. As both ratings and comments were disabled, it was also impossible to determine how the viewers had responded. McGuinty begins the video by thanking the Province's teachers for their work before asking the teachers to accept the freeze.
"While education funding will still grow, we're going to have to focus on things that allow our children to achieve the best possible results," McGuinty said in the video. "Because salaries account for most of that education funding, we're going to be asking all those working in education to do their part to help us slow down spending."
The response has not been positive. Since the video's release, teachers in both the public and Catholic school boards have publicly decried the freeze, arguing that salaries and benefits are already too low. In addition to freezing salaries, which start at between $41,766 and $44,292, the plan would also prevent teachers from "banking" their unused sick-days for later – a highly popular benefit. While the starting salaries might seem high, they usually translate into very low pay per hour as teachers are expected to help with extracurricular activities on top of their classes and marking.
"We aren't exactly paid a lot as it is," said Ed Edmonds, a Concurrent Education student and president of the Brock University Creative Writers Club. "There is the impression that teachers have a very easy job, which makes them an easy target."
Edmonds disagreed with the implication that the money spent on salaries was misdirected, arguing that the freezes would make teachers' finances very difficult and put them under greater stress. According to Edmonds, these problems would make it harder for teachers to focus on their jobs, and reduce the quality of teaching in general.
"What we'll probably deal with is more disgruntlement in the teachers," said Edmonds. "Dissatisfied teachers will probably not be teaching their best."
Much of the trouble, Edmonds said, comes from The Drummond Report – a review of the Province's finances that was compiled by former TD Bank economist Don Drummond and released in February. The report argued that the Ontario economy was far worse off than it had been portrayed in the previous election, and that many deep cuts — including teacher wage freezes and increased class sizes — would need to be enacted in order to bring the budget into line.
"Our recommendations […] may seem overwhelming," said the Report, "even to the point that the government may fear that they exceed its political and bureaucratic capacity to carry them out.
"Ontarians have not yet grasped the extent to which the slow decline of this province's manufacturing base has undermined both its historic economic advantage relative to the rest of Canada and the provincial government's long-term ability to finance the public services they treasure."
Edmonds worried that the report might be a return to the deep cuts of the Mike Harris administration.
"[Harris] almost destroyed Ontario's education system with all his cuts," Edmonds said, "and we still haven't recovered."
Despite the problems Edmonds sees in the salary freeze, he said that he was still glad that the Province was only planning to affect part of the Report's recommendations, rather than all of it.
"The Drummond Report carries many things that are worse," Edmonds said. "I don't know if the person who wrote it is an educator, but I doubt it."