Three of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are taking steps toward potential strikes as they negotiate with the government for new contracts.
Discussions between the province and education unions started a few months ago amid the Ontario government’s move to increase class sizes. A recent wage cap bill has also angered teachers.
While teachers receive a salary for their role, there are many expenses and actions they do that are unaccounted for or are considered voluntary, according to education professionals.
What teachers are paid for
Teachers are paid to perform their duties under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, based on how they’re stipulated in a contract, according to Harvey Bischof, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).
“It’s sort of a combination of their duties under the Education Act and then how that’s exactly spelled out under the collective bargaining agreement,” he said.
It’s also expected that teachers communicate with parents — for example, in situations where students might be at risk, Bischoff said, adding that staff meetings are also covered.
Vidya Shah, an assistant education professor at York University, told Global News that teachers are also required to provide support for students with special needs.
“It involves ensuring that their accommodations and modifications are being met,” she said. “It involves providing opportunities in which … students with different learning styles can be enriched.”
What teachers aren’t paid for
According to Shah, many teachers pay expenses out of their own pockets to fill gaps that exist in the classroom budget.
“There’s a lot of children that might come to school not having had breakfast or not having money or food for lunch, and so a lot of teachers will spend money on breakfast items or snacks in the classroom,” Shah said.
“Some teachers will spend money on classroom supplies.”
Other expenses teachers will pay for out of pocket, she added, include art supplies, posters or murals for the classroom, extra photocopying if there’s a limit, classroom libraries, professional learning resources, technology and sometimes furniture.
“Depending on sort of the level of poverty in the area, teachers might be paying for hats or coats or gloves or socks for the students or bringing in their own,” Shah said.
“It’s sort of unaccounted expenses in education that get taken up by teachers.”
The OSSTF sent Global News an exhaustive list of duties that are considered “volunteer time” for teachers.
Some of what’s included in the list is as follows:
- Extra help and exam prep
- Coordinating announcements
- Student council and parliament
- Coaching sports
- School clubs (anything from chess to debate club)
- Graduation preparation
- Award ceremonies
- Athletic banquets
- Science fair
- Career day
- Reference letters for graduating students
- University and college visits with students
- School dances
- Open houses
- Foreign exchange
- Day field trips
- International field trips
- Bake sales
Co-curricular activities occur before, during and after school, with some happening on weekends, Shah said.
“Teachers are giving up their time to be able to do that,” she added.
According to Shah, there’s also an emotional toll that the job takes on teachers.
“So many teachers take home the woes and the worries and the struggles that their students face every day in school,” she said. “That is something that is unaccounted for as well.
Prior to the current Progressive Conservative government, teachers have paid out of pocket for many parts of the job, in terms of money, time and emotional wellness, Shah said.
“All the extra responsibilities of teaching that we don’t actually name, and teachers do it because they deeply care about their students,” she said.
Elementary teachers will be in a legal strike position on Nov. 25, and high school teachers will be in a legal strike position next week, although they haven’t yet submitted the required five-day strike notice.
Catholic teachers have voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike but aren’t yet in a legal strike position, while talks between the government and French teachers continue.
— With files from The Canadian Press