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High school teacher deal in jeopardy

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The Education Accountability Act 2000 tabled by the Ministry of Education last Wednesday could see a deal struck between the Rainy River District School Board and the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation earlier this month go “out the window.”

While the act hasn’t been passed yet, local OSSTF president Andrew Hallikas is very concerned about having to break the agreement made May 3 (one of just five similar ones inked in the province), which guaranteed district high school teachers could continue to give extra help to students while maintaining their six-course workload.

But under the new rules in the proposed legislation, teachers would have to instruct 6.67 credit courses per year—not only cutting away teachers’ time to help students but likely leading to staffing cuts, too.

“The way we had it, teachers could spend more time with the same students,” said Hallikas. “But with this act, there will be fewer teachers teaching more courses and spending less time with more students.”

What’s more, if the act is passed, another deal would have to be inked between the board and OSSTF, Hallikas remarked.

“Certainly the legislation would have an impact on the agreement,” agreed Education Director Warren Hoshizaki. “We would have to have discussion with the OSSTF as to what to change to come up with a new deal.”

“I don’t know if it’s going to be that simple,” Hallikas countered. “The act dictates certain restrictions on collective bargaining, and undermines the basic legal principle of the right to create a contract.”

Hallikas noted it’s vital to keep things as they are. “Our job is to make stakeholders, such as parents, aware what this is really all about before it’s too late,” he stressed.

He also warned the effects of the government “micromanaging” at the level of school boards could be disastrous for the future of education in Ontario.

“There is the threat of a teacher shortage,” he said. “This will drive young teachers right out of the province, and teachers elsewhere will want to go anywhere but Ontario.

“And older teachers who really love teaching will be retiring as soon as possible under a system like this,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hoshizaki said the board is carefully considering how changes for secondary school teachers, such as the increased workload and possible cuts, could possibly be made if the legislation is passed before the 2000/20001 school year.

But he added the board is committed to its announcement that no teachers will be declared redundant this year—a point based on enrolment projections, education grants, teacher retirements, and leave.

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