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Elementary teachers will receive $600,000 in funding for professional development, raises and vigilance on class sizes.

Ontario's elementary teachers will receive $600,000 in additional professional development funding, raises and more vigilance from the province to make sure school boards are adhering to class size caps, The Globe and Mail has learned.

These are among the terms of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's tentative agreement. The last teachers' union to reach a deal, ETFO opened ratification voting Sunday with results expected by the end of the week.

The agreement has not been made public, but The Globe obtained a 52-page confidential document spelling out its terms.

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ETFO is the only one of the province's teachers' unions not to receive direct government compensation for bargaining costs, after vowing last month on principle not to accept such a payment.

The union did, however, win some other victories at the bargaining table.

One provision will see the province spend $600,000 to provide more professional development for supply teachers.

"The Crown shall create a one-time Education Programs – Other (EPO) grant in the sum of $600,000 to be used solely for the purpose of providing further professional development to ETFO Occasional Teacher members in the areas of health and safety, workplace violence, serious student incidents, and safe intervention," the deal reads. "The distribution model for this EPO grant will be determined in consultation with OPSBA [the Ontario Public School Boards' Association] and ETFO."

Elementary teachers will receive the same pay bump as high school and Catholic teachers: a 1 per cent lump sum payment this year, a 1 per cent raise next year and a 0.5 per cent raise partway through the next school year. The pay hikes are to be paid for by redirecting funding from "elementary professional learning," a program that provides courses for teachers to upgrade their skills; by adding another professional activity day and cutting one day of class time; and by allowing teachers to cash in banked sick days early for a lower rate.

The Liberal government has insisted all labour deals be "net zero," meaning money for raises must be found by cutting something else in the contract.

The agreement also appears to provide for stricter enforcement of class-size caps. One section commits the government to "monitor FDK [full-day kindergarten] class size for compliance" with government regulations, and another commits school boards to "make every effort to limit FDK/Grade 1 split grades where feasible." A third section says the government, union and school boards will set up a nine-member committee to review class sizes in Grades 4 to 8 and develop "options to address any non-compliance" with caps.

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Class-size caps are popular with teachers and parents, but can be financially tricky as they effectively lock school boards into a guaranteed level of staffing.

Other sections of the deal include:

  • A guarantee ETFO can continue its court challenge of Bill 115, the 2012 legislation that imposed terms on teachers in that year’s round of collective bargaining. ETFO argues the Bill violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “ETFO, [school boards] and the Crown agree that the contends of the Memorandum of Settlement … cannot be relied up by the Crown in respect of any argument that the Charter challenge to Bill 115 is moot,” the deal says.
  • A provision to roll all benefit trusts, many of which are currently managed by individual school boards, into a single Employee Life and Health Trust under ETFO’s control. The province is to pay ETFO $7-million to cover the trust’s start-up costs. Each school board, meanwhile, must pay in $5,100 per full-time teaching position, as well as the costs for retirees, plus 4 per cent increases in each of the next two years. The deals with high school and Catholic teachers provided for similar trusts.
  • A compromise on report cards and parent/teacher interviews. Teachers will be required to provide report cards with full comments by Dec. 11, but they will not be obliged to conduct parent/teacher interviews. Teachers may do the interviews at their discretion. ETFO had been refusing to write report card comments or conduct parent meetings as part of work-to-rule action.

Education Minister Liz Sandals' office said the deal was "similar to other ratified agreements we have reached."

Ms. Sandals' spokeswoman, Lauren Tedesco, said teachers "need opportunities to sharpen their teaching skills and update their knowledge," when asked about the $600,000 in new professional development funding.

"Our government has and will continue to partner with teacher federations to provide professional development opportunities for Ontario's teachers," she wrote in an email

Ms. Tedesco said the government is also "committed to maintaining current class sizes" and that Ms. Sandals had promised last year to review kindergarten class size.

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The new union-controlled benefit trusts, she said, will cut costs "due to an increase in benefits purchasing power, establishing larger risk pools and sharing administrative services among the trusts."

Ms. Tedesco also seemed to suggest that, despite the language in the contract that exempts teachers from meeting with parents this semester, the government still believes they will.

"Teachers are professionals and it is our expectation that if parents reach out to discuss the progress of their child, teachers will ensure parents have the necessary information about their child's progress," she said.

ETFO officials did not respond to requests for comment on the deal Sunday.

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