The following proposal was submitted by Ian to the Ontario Government as part of their #BudgetTalks Initiative. We encourage our readers to submit proposals of their own (and repost them here if they like).
Here is a simple proposal to increase teacher earnings, reduce the effects of economic inequality on student outcomes, and improve overall educational outcomes while saving the government money: a win-win for Ontario if there ever was one. Proposal: Implement a mandatory minimum two years of work experience (in any profession) before someone can be admitted to a teaching certificate program in Ontario (e.g. OISE), just as is the standard for most MBA programs. I call this “The MBA Rule”.
1. How does it increase teacher earnings? Right now, the market for K-12 teachers in Ontario has more qualified candidates than there is a demand for new teachers. Generally speaking, a job market corrects for this kind of oversupply by either reducing wages or increasing the required qualifications until supply reaches demand. Ontario’s wait-your-turn model effectively corrects for this oversupply by reducing teacher pay. After now two full years of teacher’s ed, teachers wait through many years of precarious supply teaching, where they are paid very little. Although salaries for full-time teachers are fairly generous compared to Ontario’s overall median wage, teachers struggle to make up for the many early years of lost earnings. Furthermore, this wait period serves to discourage many highly qualified people, those with lots of other opportunities, from going into teaching. In contrast, The MBA-Rule would reduce the supply of teachers by increasing the required qualifications, and would require qualifications (work experience) that prospective teachers would earn money getting.
2. How does it reduce the effects of inequality? Access to social capital (networks, connections) is one of the most important contributors to the career-achievement gap between children that grew up rich and those that were poor. In a typical lower-to-middle-class public high school like the one I went to, many highly motivated teachers could help us to do better in school, but very few could provide us with useful insight on what to do afterward (unless we wanted to become teachers). As a result, we turned to our parents and friends for career advice and connections. Unsurprisingly, the lucky few of us with highly educated parents, and access to high-earning professional networks got the career advice, introductions, and internships at family/friends’ companies that gave us a leg up later on. Social capital is the biggest differentiator of student outcomes between public and private schools in Ontario today. With our subsidized and comparatively affordable universities, social capital may be the single most important addressable driver of unequal outcomes in the province. The MBA Rule would ensure that every teacher in Ontario brings job-market experience and connections to their students. The rule would guarantee that a diverse range of professional backgrounds and professional networks would be represented at all public schools, narrowing the social-capital gap with private schools. In contrast, the current wait-list system does exactly the opposite: effectively deterring those with the most social capital (and most opportunity to earn elsewhere) from wanting to become teachers.
3. How does it improve overall educational outcomes? Being a productive citizen requires more than the ability to pass standardized tests. Children need more than just educators to help them succeed in the job market, they need mentors. A career mentor tells you more than what abstract skills you need to succeed in an industry. They tell you where to start, what to look out for, and often who to call to learn more about the industry or get that first internship. With the majority of our teachers having never left academia, the average student has no-one at school who can tell them what it is like to be a plumber, an accountant, a construction worker, or a lawyer. As a result, students will turn to their more limited networks at home for these queries, a situation that especially disadvantages those from poor upbringings. I did not meet a real mentor outside of my parents’ profession until well after graduating from university, a story that is the norm amongst my peers as well. Imagine the benefits to student career development if every high school had a diverse range of real-world experience and professional networks amongst its teachers.
4. How does it save the government money? Every year a teacher that has been trained using public funds languishes on the supply teacher list is a waste of the government’s investment. Implementing The MBA Rule for all teacher training programs in the province would result in fewer teachers being trained on the government dime, and directly exchanges time teachers spend languishing on supply teaching lists with time earning money in the workforce (and paying taxes). In summary, better outcomes with lower costs.
Given that we have more aspiring teachers than teaching jobs, we have to reduce the supply somehow. Of all the ways to reduce supply, we should prioritize those which stand to improve the quality of education the most, at the least added cost to Ontario. The current wait-list system both reduces quality of teacher education and increases costs to Ontario. While The MBA Rule is no silver bullet, it offers several significant improvements over the current system at no extra cost to Ontario, and seems like a win-win for students and aspiring teachers alike.