School principals should be able to exercise their own judgment in hiring teachers, looking for excellence in teaching. But in September, 2012, the Liberal government of Ontario enacted Regulation 274/12, which enacted a particularly cumbersome seniority system for “long-term occasional” teachers.
Such supply teachers, once hired, are in a good position to move into permanent positions; it is an important source of new hiring.
Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative education critic, and the MPP for Nepean-Carleton, is right to have introduced on Wednesday a quite short private member’s bill to simply repeal the regulation.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, to her credit, has at least volunteered that Regulation 274 was “an overcorrection.” That suggests that its days are numbered. But it was hardly an overcorrection, because it did not correct anything in the first place.
Some union members had alleged that there was cronyism or nepotism in some school boards – possibly so, but in fact it is good for principals to know teachers and their abilities and histories when they make hiring decisions.
The apparent motive, however, was an attempt to find some way of accommodating – or appeasing – the teachers unions, in a period when the Liberal McGuinty government was in a severe conflict with those same unions.
The Premier acknowledges “that there are concerns” with the regulation. According to Ms. Wynne, Liz Sandals, the Minister of Education, has formed “working groups to study the issue” and has asked experts to study the regulation’s impact. But these delays are needless.
Ms. MacLeod’s bill may not be perfect – it is not clear why it needs to define the word “nepotism,” for example – but her approach is efficient and straightforward.
There have recently been some promising hopes of co-operation between the Liberals and Conservatives in the Ontario Legislature. Whether the cabinet simply repeals Regulation 274 by an order-in-council or the legislature passes Ms. MacLeod’s bill does not greatly matter. It is clear that teachers should not be selected by Byzantine seniority systems.