Why is there always talk of class sizes by the teachers’ unions in Ontario?
Schools don’t exist to provide work opportunities for teachers. The focus of schools, the ultimate mandate, is student learning. Whether a class size is 20, 22 or 25, etc. does not determine how much student learning is taking place. There are many factors to consider and studies consistently show teacher knowledge and skill as the most important. Studies show only small advantages in lower grades for smaller class sizes.
Why is there always talk of class sizes? Because having more teachers helps the teacher unions get more dues. Each teacher is required to pay about 1.5% of his/her annual salary to their respective union (for the two biggest unions, OSSTF and ETFO it is 1.3% and 1.6% respectively). Given the number of their members, OSSTF and ETFO together gain an impressive $120M or more each year just from dues.
This money goes to pay the salaries of union bosses, expensive billboard and prime time radio and TV advertisement and other expenses that have little to do with student learning. The head of the ETFO is paid $186,505 a year and the head of OSSTF is paid $217,508. A main goal of these union heads is to get more union members.
In Ontario, every single government in the past three decades has fought through a teacher strike, including Bob Rae, Mike Harris, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. So, the politics of the government in power are not what causes the strikes.
Right now, among other demands, the unions are demanding to increase their compensation. The government is offering them a $750M increase, but they are asking for $1.5B increase. Even 1% of that is a lot of dues for the unions. The unions are opposed to even slight increases in class sizes, because that would mean fewer teachers to hire to pay union dues.
Students go to school each day eager and excited to see their friends, see their teacher, and learn new things. Striking takes that away from the students. Pretending that the unions are doing it for the students, is simple hypocrisy. And, on top of it all, the unions are very strict on their members to keep the teachers in line – basically bullying them into behaving as the union dictates.
For the students? Then the teachers’ unions need to treat their members like professionals and get them back into the classroom.
Watch our video on class sizes for further discussion.
The Ontario Sunshine List
The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF): “What do I get for my unions dues?”
Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT): “FAQ: The Union and You”
“Secondary School Class Sizes and Student Performance in Canada” by Derek J. Allison, The Fraser Institute, October 1, 2019
“Class Size Reduction: What the Literature Suggests About What Works”, Canadian Education Association, 2008
“Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy” by Matthew M. Chingos and Grover J. Whitehurst, Brown Centre on Education Policy at Brookings, May 11, 2011
“Van Pelt and Allison: Class size isn’t what makes the difference in Ontario schools” by Deani Van Pelt and Derek J Allison, Ottawa Citizen, March 26, 2019
“Key contract issues as tensions increase between Ontario public high school teachers’ union, government” by Ryan Rocca, Global News, November 29, 2019
“Ontario public high school teachers to hold one-day strike”, CTV News, November 28, 2019
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