HALIFAX (CP) — A think-tank in Halifax is arguing it’s time for governments and school boards to take a more aggressive stance with teachers unions.
In a report released Thursday, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies argues that governments should remove principals from bargaining units, end the right to strike, and bring in or enhance standardized testing.
The public policy research group, known for its close ties to corporate Canada, says that teachers’ unions in Canada are opposed to these changes even though they’re in the best interest of students.
The study argues merit pay should be introduced for teachers and that seniority provisions should be dropped or altered when there are layoffs.
It also points to a two-year-old survey that suggested many teachers are quietly disagreeing with their unions on certain issues, such as the parents’ right to choose their child’s school.
Michael Zwaagstra, a high school teacher in Manitoba; Rodney Clifton, a professor of education at the University of Manitoba, and John Lang, a professor of educational administration at the University of Manitoba, wrote the study for the institute.
The authors cite existing academic literature on education to back their arguments, and to counter the union view that their suggested changes – such as standardized testing – don’t help students to learn.
The three educators say in the study that “unions have opposed many attempts to increase transparency and accountability in Canada’s school system,” pointing specifically to efforts by Manitoba teachers’ unions to oppose standardized testing.
Rod Clifton, co-owner of the report, said in an interview that the document was released at this time because young people are heading back to school and there’s heightened interest in the topic of education.
“I hope there’s more of a debate about some of the things teachers’ unions support,” he said.
“They’re against standardized testing. … They’re in support of large, monopolistic public schools and in Ontario now there’s an election brewing in which there’s going to be a debate about funding alternative schools.”
He said he also hopes there’s a debate about how teachers are paid.
Clifton argues that teachers’ pay should be based on some form of merit system, such as how well their students perform, rather than their education levels and length of service.
Removing the strike provisions from collective agreements makes sense in “a monopolistic industry,” he added.
Francine Filion, director of communications for the Canadian Teachers Federation, notes that the document provides no fresh research or surveys and is essentially a one-sided argument.
“It’s just one report. There are no fresh statistics. We’re going to just let this one go by,” she said. “It’s a non-story. There’s other things that need our attention and this is definitely not one of them.
“They put out this report and that’s their business.”