Education Minister Kelly Lamrock faces a great dilemma.
How can government make broad changes to what is taught and how, when its options are limited by collective agreements and a powerful political lobby group – one that can try to turn parents and children against any change?
The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has some advice the minister may find useful.
In a new report, AIMS argues that teachers’ unions have assumed a leadership role through government’s default. Union benefits such as pay based on seniority and the right to strike limit government’s ability to reward good teachers or to make rapid changes in the classroom.
AIMS would like parents to have the power to choose which schools their children attend. It’s also not a great fan of unions. Even when these philosophical biases are factored in, the conservative think-tank’s report offers valuable insights. The report recommends adopting standardized student testing, salary incentives based on merit, and the replacement of strike and lockout rights with a process of binding arbitration. These would restore government’s power to set education policy while respecting the teachers’ right to collective bargaining.
Minister Lamrock’s five-year education plan should achieve some of these objectives. The province is increasing standardized testing and has offered new rewards to teachers with creative approaches.
The minister should take the next logical step and replace teachers’ right to strike with binding arbitration.
Remove the fear of a teachers’ strike, and you remove the power of the union to trump elected policymakers.