Vancouver school district can save money through change in hiring practices

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


teaching in classroom
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


There are some retirement plans which require both the employer and the employee to contribute money to a fund during their employment in order to receive defined benefits upon retirement.

There may be some truth to your claims about retired teachers taking a lot of substitute work in Vancouver; however, the VSB now uses fewer subs. As a ESL, LAC and special needs teacher, I am not replaced until I have been away sick for three days. It used to be the first day. Less training is being offered to save on sub days. Also fewer classroom teachers mean a decreased need for subs too. Do you really want the institution that is educating your kids to be described as "lean and mean"? I have not seen one private school described that way. Let's continue to give Vancouver kids a quality education not a bare bones one.

This is pretty anecdotal. How about some stats from Vancouver?

Ahhhh fair minded progressives who believe in sharing and equality.

Ya right.

Sounds like some of the teachers need to read Animal Farm again.

Retired people coming back to work? That certainly never happens at City Hall.


This is definitely a problem that should be highlighted more in the media. Good job City Caucus!

I have a friend who has been struggling with exactly the same problem for over 3 years now. Another strange practice can be found in Coquitlam. Apparently, if a substitute teacher works 10 months within a 3 year period, he/she will be paid the equivalent of 85% of a full-time salary for perpetuity, even if there is no work for him/her to do. This hardly seems efficient, and as a result, the district is reluctant to give any young teachers enough "hours" to hit that magic 10 month number. It's time to review all these contracts so that they allow for children to benefit from getting a quality education.

I have worked for the VSB for close to 30 years. When I retire I promise to spread the news as seen with my own eyes. Take a way closer look at "Management" and all the hiring at HR and for what....I know exactly what most of you "CONSULTANTS" are doing. Wasting money that should go to support workers who are the lowest paying and have the most knowledge working with Special Needs then the Teachers that call themselves Special Needs Teacher. Start triming the fat and use less excuses why you have to make up jobs for some Teachers who SHOULD not be in the classroom but you cant get rid of them cause all hell will break loose with the Teachers Union lol. It sucks but thats what goes on behind close doors and the day approaches soon where I will start telling it like it is.

Hmmmm.... so you are a 55 year old teacher, you retire with full pension.

If you are in with the principal, hell let you work part time next year for $400/day...even though he could give that work to a new teacher or TOC at $250 a day.

My point is, perhaps the knowledge transfer within the teachers' ranks is corrupted. Older teachers are probably reluctant to pass on course material or help newer teacher take over their classes. Why would they when they can make themselves 'unreplaceable' and then step up to the public sector trough.

Teachers know this is happening but unfortunately they take on a teenage gang mentality when called out on it. No one wants to be a rat.

There's no rats. Only foxes in the henhouse.

Pension reform is the answer. Teachers act as if their pension is some sort of third rail.

But when a teacher (or anyone at the public sector pension trough) decides it's his or her right to retire, collect their generous pension, and then work 1/2 time to effectively collect the same income, it's gone too far.

If you retire, collect your pension and move on. If you want to work, then work and don't double dip.

Public sector types seem to think this is their right, even as the system goes bankrupt around them. And then they have the nerve to try and blame the government for the problems in their pen.

You've got it exactly right. It' incredibly frustrating to see teachers call in their friends to work when we're not able to make 3 days a week of solid work. And because we're on call, we can't book any other kinds of work b/c then we won't be able to get bigger shifts if we're offered them.

Fantastic Article.

This should be front page on the Sun.

I was a new TOC. I wasted 2 years of my life collecting $12000 per year.

$30K plus student debt.

There was no future for me in teaching.

This profession is quicksand for young teachers.

I now have a stable job, great benefits, and make over 5x my wage as a TOC to start.

I will never teach again. And only due to the system created by my fellow teachers.

It's shameful.

In private industry, a person can continue to work even though they are semi-retired and they are collecting investment income from their "government subsidized" RRSP or their "government subsidized" real estate investments. However if a public school teacher starts to collect from their little pension plan investments and continues to work to make ends meet, then it is derogatorily called "double dipping."

Discriminating against someone because of a source of their family income is as offensive now as it was when it was used to discriminate against women who were paid less money because their husbands were supposedly the "bread winners" in the family. As they said not so long ago, "Women don't need to earn as much as men. They should just stay at home and raise a family." According to the Human Rights Act, source of income is not a bona fide occupational requirement.

People who discriminate unjustly and violate the Human Rights Act, always have a some sort of reason for their actions, but the discrimination is still just as offensive. In Canada, we should not discriminate against people based on their race, gender, or age.

Heres a question for all the TOC's out there: After spending six years in school and earning two degrees I will be starting my teaching degree at UBC in one week......should I even bother?? Is this just a waste of $12000?? What chances do I have to get a contract or full time job, or to even get on the TOC list? How long do most people spend on the TOC list before they get their own classroom?? I would greatly appreciate any answers...I dont think my instructors would be upfront with me, Uni students are afterall just cash cows

Get an MBA or something else. Really. I graduated in Dec. 2009, have a specialty in the arts, had 1 interview, learned my district interviewed 80 of us and hired 6 FI or Special needs. I was interviewed as a courtesy given my practicum was there. During convocation learned that no one was hired on a toc list. No one. That was 6 months after finishing.
If I had to do it again, would have gone for an MBA.

teaching has been my life's dream, i am hoping for a brighter future for teachers, if you feel like being a teacher, writes professional resumes for aspiring educators

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