December 1997

Prompt Action Wins Changes to Bill 160

Quality education means parents and students have the right to expect that teachers who are licensed to teach have the knowledge and qualifications to do so.

From the Chair


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By Donna Marie Kennedy

The College of Teachers successfully made the case to the government that Ontario students have the right to be taught by College members who have demonstrated their commitment to quality education by becoming qualified, certified professionals.

When Minister of Education and Training Dave Johnson withdrew four clauses of Bill 160 – just days after the College Council had recommended all four be withdrawn – it was a clear recognition of the teaching profession’s new mandate to set standards of practice and discipline in the public interest.

In the last issue of Professionally Speaking, I reported that Minister of Education and Training John Snobelen had agreed to meet College officials early in September, after the Education Improvement Commission (EIC) reported, to discuss the issue of teacher qualifications.

As we expected, the EIC recommended the addition of uncertified instructors to the staffs of the province’s schools. Unfortunately, the meetings we expected were not held.

The College issued a public statement when the EIC report came out, clearly spelling out the profession’s concern that the EIC’s recommendations would undermine public accountability for the standards of practice and professional conduct in the classroom.

Two Classes of Teachers

But when Bill 160 was tabled, it was obvious that the College’s concerns had not been taken into account. The College’s legal counsel advised us that the bill clearly empowered the government to establish two classes of teachers – members of the College and others – and that the other, non-certified instructors could be placed in sole charge of classrooms.

Registrar Margaret Wilson and I consulted widely with members of Council and the College and continued our lobbying efforts. But as the bill moved swiftly through the legislature, we decided that it was important for the College to state our position very publicly.

While College staff worked to develop a brief to the standing committee reviewing Bill 160, we convened a special session of the Council on short notice. Council had a wide-ranging discussion of the issue and voted to recommend to the new minister, Dave Johnson, that he withdraw four clauses of the bill. This recommendation from teachers’ professional licensing body received significant media coverage.

The Registrar and I requested a meeting with Mr. Johnson. He responded quickly with an agreement to meet and a letter stating, "It is certainly not this government’s intention that Bill 160 would change teacher qualifications or alter the role of the College."

When we met with the minister, he asked if we would meet at the staff level to discuss the issues. College and ministry staff met the following day.

The government has now withdrawn the four problem clauses. Clearly, the College of Teachers, which has just taken on the responsibility for self-regulation, made credible arguments in defence of our mandate.

New Responsibility

Just 16 months ago, the Ontario legislature recognized the teaching profession’s specialized knowledge and skill and trusted the profession to use that knowledge and skill to advance and protect the public interest. I believe we have done just that.

Quality education can not be based on the assumption that seemed to underlie the clauses that concerned the College – the supposition that possession of knowledge and skill is synonymous with the capacity to impart that knowledge and skill to students. The research on effective teaching clearly shows that this assumption is wrong.

The College of Teachers is still in its infancy and just beginning to establish who we are with our members, the public and politicians. And while we want to work with all the partners in education, I believe the College’s actions on this issue show that we will react quickly and effectively on professional issues that affect the College’s mandate, which is to uphold the public interest and the interests of our profession.