Younger teachers are finding it difficult to get work in Metro Vancouver districts
There has been a lot of (trash) talk in Vancouver lately regarding the pending “cuts” to education funding which will apparently wreak havoc on our children's future. The Vision and COPE school trustees have been firing missiles toward Victoria, while the Minister of Education recently appointed a special adviser to review the books. At the end of the day, all this needless politicking will be felt most by the parents and kids who will lose out in this war of words.
According to Patti Bacchus, Chair of the Vancouver School Board, there is simply no money left to cut out of the system. The VSB has trimmed out all unnecessary expenditures right out of their budget. Under Bacchus’ leadership, the VSB is now a lean and mean machine that’s searched under every rock for savings. I guess we will find out whether this is true or not once the special adviser submits her final report to the Minister.
As the adviser does her work, I hope she picked up a copy of today’s Globe and Mail. There is a great story about how some school boards in Ontario could have saved millions of dollars if they simply stopped hiring so many retired teachers to work on call. These are the same teachers that are collecting one of the best public service pensions found in Canada. This practice has resulted in many younger (and cheaper) teachers being forced to go without work and leave the country to develop their career path. It’s also resulted in a hefty bill for taxpayers who are on the hook for paying millions of dollars worth of inflated costs.
The article reminded me of a conversation I had about a week ago with a friend of mine whose wife is a teacher and looking for work in the Vancouver school district. He said “my wife is a teacher on call and would love to be able to work in Vancouver. The problem is she barely gets any work because the district is hiring too many senior teachers who receive their full pension. I’m upset that these folks are padding their pension while my wife and I are struggling to make ends meet. She’s tried to get a job in both Burnaby and New Westminster but that ain’t happening either.”
Admittedly, I haven’t sifted through all the details of the cost-cutting measures proposed by the Vancouver School District, however, it does disturb me that young teachers appear to be playing second fiddle to pensionable retirees. If school boards truly want to save money, and develop the next generation of teachers, they should immediately end the more costly practice of hiring substitutes on call who are collecting a full pension. That is, unless it can be clearly demonstrated there is no-one else they can hire to do the job at a lower cost.
If the Ontario example is any indication, reducing the amount paid to retired teachers could save the system a bundle. A recent audit found that over $108 million was paid out in 2009/09 to Ontario teachers who were also collecting a pension. According to the Globe:
Ontario’s largest cash-strapped school boards squandered $16.7-million in the last academic year by enabling retirees to pad their pensions with supply-teaching work rather than hiring new teachers, a Globe and Mail investigation has found.
Retired teachers working in 10 school boards, representing half the student population, collected $108.3-million in the 2008-09 school year from taxpayers on top of their government-subsidized pensions, taking advantage of a system rife with loopholes that leaves new teachers scrambling for crumbs.
It is also reported that one teacher in the Ottawa-Carleton district was able to collect $47,000 in salary over and above their pension. Meanwhile, the Globe profiles a young teacher who, not unlike my friend’s wife, is struggling to find work and is contemplating leaving the country.
Apparently this issue is not unique to Vancouver as the the Sun's Janet Steffenhagen found out when she looked into the situation in Burnaby. You may want to check out her post and the 1200 hundred comments she received on this subject. The Burnaby Now also wrote a great story on this as well.
If this type of activity is in fact costing the Vancouver School District (and others) money that could otherwise be invested in keeping programs operational, then it should stop immediately. Although I can fully understand the allure of hiring more experienced teachers over younger ones, I think both the short and long-term costs are too high. At a minimum, I think the auditor should make public the costs associated with hiring retired teachers versus a newer and younger cohort. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment.
- Post by Daniel