Teachers’ unions hold too much sway over what happens in the Canadian public education system, says a new report released Thursday by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) in Halifax.

The study, “Getting the fox out of the schoolhouse: How the public can take back public education,” recommends more standardized testing, pay incentives for teachers if their students score good grades, and reduced power for the teachers’ union.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of AIMS, said the current system is failing students.

He said he’s not optimistic governments or teachers’ unions will adopt the ideas in the study. But he’s hopeful they will at least consider them.

“In our current environment, it’s a wonderful situation where the provincial department gets to point fingers at the union for being obstreperous, the union gets to point fingers at the provincial government for not spending enough money. They both get to point fingers at the school boards or individual school administrators,” he told CBC News.

“What this piece says is that it is time for everybody to stop pointing the finger at somebody else, and for everybody to step up to the plate and say, ‘This is my role, this is what I am going to do and this is how we’re going to go forward.’ “

Cirtwill said it’s time for people to wrest away management of the education system from teachers’ unions.

“I think that the teachers’ unions are going to try to paint this as union bashing or anti-teacher and, in fact, it has neither one of those objectives,” he said.

“In fact, what it talks about is how the unions can play a valuable role in an ongoing discussion about evidence-based educational reform.”

The report also recommends:

· provincial governments give parents a greater choice of schools for their children;

· school principals be removed from the bargaining unit for teachers;

· strikes and lockouts no longer be permitted as ways of resolving disputes.

The Nova Scotia Education Department isn’t impressed with the report.

“I think it’s fair to say that we disagree with AIMS’s suggestion that the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union has undue influence,” department spokesman Peter McLaughlin said.

“Really, public education in this province is a partnership. It always has been, it always will be. Teachers are a valued partner in that, just as school boards, parents and every other Nova Scotian is.”

McLaughlin said teachers are paid based on their experience, and the province has no plans to pay them based on the performance of their students.

But, he said the department does agree with one of the AIMS recommendations, the continued use of standardized testing in Nova Scotia schools.

No one from the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union was available to comment.