Hot! Ontario schools crack down on retirees who ‘double-dip’ with supply jobs

TheGlobeandMail.com – Ontario – Globe investigation revealed having pensioners return to teach has cost the education system millions of dollars
From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Sunday, Apr. 25, 2010.  Last updated on Monday, Apr. 26, 2010.   Caroline Alphonso and Kate Hammer

While the Ontario government works to address the disproportionate amount of supply work that goes to retired teachers, some school boards are taking the matter into their own hands.

After realizing it was losing millions of dollars by replacing teachers in the $60,000 pay-range with retired teachers who earned more than $80,000, the Windsor-Essex Catholic district school board has stopped adding retirees to its supply list.

“You can spin it any way you want to, but it’s wrong – allowing retirees to double-dip is wrong,” said Paul Picard, superintendent of human resources for the board.

The government last week vowed to crack down on the rules around pensioners returning to supply-teach after a Globe and Mail investigation revealed that a system rife with loopholes is costing Ontario taxpayers millions of dollars. A 20-year-old policy meant to deal with teacher shortage that has since evaporated allows retirees to teach as much as half the school year, or 95 days, in the first three post-retirement working years and 20 days in following years.

Mr. Picard said that he was always under the impression that the loosened work limits were temporary, and that the rule would return to the 20-day maximum that was in place before 1990. That never happened, and retirees take a big slice of the supply-work pie in some school districts.

In British Columbia, a province that, like Ontario, has grappled with tensions around retirees taking supply-teaching jobs from new teachers, one superintendent said retired teachers should only return to the classroom when there’s no one else with the expertise to do the work.

Keven Elder, superintendent of the school district in Saanich, B.C., said his schools only hire retired teachers to cover subject areas where there’s a shortage, and they regularly monitor the amount of work retirees receive.

“I would advise that the reasons for re-engagement of a retired teacher be clear and limited,” Mr. Elder said. “To me it isn’t about limiting the number of days, it’s about limiting the conditions upon which that person is reemployed as a teacher, and then adhering to those requirements.”

Sources say that one of the options being discussed in Ontario involves permitting retirees to work 50 days in the first three years, and 20 days indefinitely. The government and the teachers’ federation have not indicated whether changes are coming to the self-policing system and loopholes that allow teachers to work beyond any allotted days without their pensions being affected.

The Saanich school district isn’t alone in giving preference to working teachers over retirees on its supply list. Some school divisions in Saskatchewan will only hire retirees if no other substitutes are available. And in Prince Edward Island, retirees who take on long-term supply-teaching contracts have their pension payments stopped during the time of their employment.

The concerns raised in Ontario over retirees padding their pensions and pushing other supply teachers out of the classroom have also been voiced in B.C. A task force formed by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation last year found the concerns were misplaced and that denying retirees work was ageist. The heart of any struggles supply teachers face getting work, the task force concluded, was that some districts placed too many of them on supply lists.

At his board, Mr. Elder said that retirees are generally denied a chance to teach if working teachers have similar qualifications. Teachers call in their own replacements, but if the district discovers that a retiree is getting much of the work, teachers are asked to look at other candidates.

“If there are a large number of people out there with your qualifications ready to fill in as you retire, you should expect that when you retire, you won’t be working any more. To me that’s just what a dynamic work force is all about,” Mr. Elder said.

A nine-month Globe and Mail investigation found supply assignments in Ontario were not divvied up evenly among the work force. Through multiple access-to-information requests and appeals to 10 of Ontario’s largest boards, The Globe revealed last week that retirees worked just as many days in daily supply positions as newly certified teachers, all while picking up their government-subsidized pension cheques averaging $40,000 a year. The biggest school boards alone spent $108.3-million in 2008-09 on hiring retired teachers.

Although both groups earn the same in daily supply roles, retirees earned double the new teachers’ rate for long-term assignments. The 10 boards would have saved $16.7-million in the past academic year had they placed new teachers in the classroom.

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6 Comments

  1. As a retired teacher , I have supply taught for a number of years. I support the concept that young teachers should get any long term jobs that will give them experience and job entry. The problem is not all subject areas offer enough qualified teachers ( such as P.E. , math , computer science , physics, business and others ). My first job was a maternity leave that led to full-time employment , so I can relate to and sympathize with the young teacher. However the students need and deserve a qualified teacher (often in trying and difficult circumstances).
    Work on a day by day basis is often determined by the absent teacher. Generally the teachers have a lot of confidence in the retired teachers and tend to recruit them when they are away. They are reasonably sure that the assignment will be done and the students will continue to make progress in the teacher’s absence. I don’t see this practise changing unless the school boards decide to distribute supply teachers centrally. It is hard to buck the wealth of knowledge and experience that the retired teacher brings to the classroom.

  2. I have to disagree with you on this bill. As a full time teacher, it amazes me as to the number of retired teachers who are still double dipping the system. In your response you are claiming that retired teachers have better expertise. This argument is flawed in so many ways. lets compare the difference between a fresh young blood vs a retired teacher and you can be the judge.

    New teacher:
    trained with the latest approaches to teaching.
    more in tune with the current generation of students and technology
    more eager to try new things
    they put more effort in student’s success because they are doing it
    for the long term.
    Cheaper for the school board which means there are more money to keep
    programs open.
    New teachers are faster learners and can adapt more quickly than retired
    ones.

    Retired Teachers
    They dont care what happens to the success of students in the long run because its a day to day job.
    Cost twice as much to hire a retired teacher
    retired teachers are still stuck with the old method of teaching and are not upto date with the current generation
    Students relate less to retired teachers than new teachers.
    Harder to teach a retired person something than a new person

  3. I am extremely happy at this, as a new teacher who is qualified to teach but has been struggling to even get supply days I am excieted to be able to have a greater chance to start my career as a teacher.

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  5. I am so glad to hear that they are cracking down on this for only the sake of the cost to the taxpayer alone…as a government employee myself, who works front line and hears the public concerns over the tax dollar spending, I find that many do not realize how much teaching in Ontario costs the individual taxpayer. This is a potentially $80, 000 per year job with three months vacation. Able to leave the work place at 3:30 and still to do two hours of work at home would still only take the average teacher to a 5:30 (7 hour work day); and with the time off to compensate over 9 weeks summer, Xmas closure and March Break; this job is already a sweet deal! Not easy but has it’s benefits…There is a reason retirees enjoy going back to the chalkboard; not many professions wish to revisit the office after years of employment and finally retired…!

  6. I would certainly like to see the government of Ontario ” crack-down ” on the double- dipping that is currently occuring at my school board. Our retired teachers are still allowed to be on the supply list and apply for long term occasional positions. I don’t understand why this is happening when there are qualified teachers that are quite capable of taking these supply days. I find that there is an injustice in the current system that is favoring the retired teachers.

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