Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Case for Investing in Occasional Teachers

I recently read an interesting article that delineated the number of jobs created with a $1 Billion investment in various areas.  Here's the quote:
"If you put a billion dollars into tax cuts, it will result in 5,600 jobs. If you put the money into physical infrastracture, you will create 15,800 jobs for every one billion invested. If you put the money into public services like health care, you create 18,100 jobs for every one billion invested," said Rout.
I'd like to propose a much, much, less expensive way to create jobs and bolster the economy. It involves an investment in public education; not in full-time teachers who already make a great deal of money, but by investing in occasional (substitute) teachers, most of whom earn less than the poverty line each year.

Here's how it works... occasional teachers are currently paid less than the lowest-paid teacher on the salary grid on a daily basis. Their credentials and experience are not recognized. Nor do they receive benefits. It would cost about $35 million to give public school boards enough funding to provide benefits to all occasional teachers in the province. For a cost of approximately $65 million, you could give public school boards enough funding to pay all occasional teachers a daily rate that recognized their credentials and experience (the $65 million is based on an estimate of an average A3 rating with 3 years experience).

What would this $100 million investment yield you? Well, ETFO alone has approximately 19,000 occasional teacher members (about 26% of all teachers). Making this investment would lift those occasional teachers out of poverty. So, right off the bat, you'll have transformed 19,000 precarious jobs into good jobs, with the ensuing economic benefits.

But the benefits go beyond that, because most of those 19,000 occasional teachers currently work second jobs to make ends meet.
So your $100 million investment will also make thousands more jobs become available to be filled by other people, as occasional teachers will no longer be in such dire straits that they require a second job. Occasional teachers will then also have the opportunity to focus on being teachers, which ultimately benefits the children in their care.

Clearly, investing in occasional teachers is a simple and cost-effective way to make an enormous impact on both the education offered to children, and to the overall economy of Ontario.  But an investment like this isn't going to happen unless awareness of this solution is brought to the attention of decision-makers.

What will it take to make such an investment in occasional teachers happen?  First, the message needs to be sent to the ETFO Provincial Executive.  The teachers' union, which pretty much ignores the needs of occasional teachers, needs to be made aware of the impact redirecting some of its focus could have on Ontario's economy.  The Ontario government and its Premier also need to be lobbied and made aware of the golden opportunity they're missing.

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