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Since it was established in 1996, the Ontario College of Teachers has expanded into areas that are beyond its legislated mandate and that place it in the position of straying into the domain of the legislated responsibilities of the Ontario Teachers' Federation (OTF) and its affiliates, which includes the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
There should be a clear separation of roles where the College regulates the teaching profession in the public interest and advocacy for the profession is left to the organizations that represent teachers.
The "mandate creep" on the part of the College creates confusion about its role on the part of both teachers and the public. It has also led to a misguided use of College human and financial resources and to an increase in staff and budget that College registrants have been forced to pay for. The College revenue comes solely from fees charged for registering with the College.
There is growing concern on the part of teachers that the College is engaged in empire building and expanding its activities at their expense. There was an extensive protest on the part of registrants to the recent fee increase. There is no accountability to those who pay the fees for how the College funds are spent or whether a fee increase is justified. Since the College is ultimately accountable to the Ontario government through the government’s legislative and regulatory authority, ETFO is looking to the provincial government to intervene to ensure the College focuses solely on its core mandate of regulating the teaching profession in the public interest.
The Ontario Teachers' Federation and the Ontario College of Teachers were each established through provincial statutes. Each has a clear and distinct mandate.
The Ontario Teachers' Federation was established through the Teaching Profession Act, 1944. The Act assigns a number of responsibilities to OTF including: promoting and advancing the cause of education, raising the status of the teaching profession, promoting and advancing the interest of teachers and securing conditions that support best professional service, and promoting public interest in educational affairs.
The Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 established a separate regulatory body for Ontario teachers. It is the only teacher regulatory body in Canada. The overarching mandate of the Ontario College of Teachers is to regulate the teaching profession in the public interest. It performs this function through issuing licences to teach, setting and enforcing professional standards, and accrediting teacher education programs. The College stemmed from the 1994 report of the Royal Commission on Learning. The report did not envision the College having the role of advocating for the profession. That role was specifically excluded from the 1996 legislation.
Examples of Ontario College of Teachers Mandate Creep
Since the College was established, its conferences and workshops have evolved from fostering awareness of its core activities and mandate to addressing topics such as mental health, literacy, intergenerational conflict and school inclusion.
The College promotes contests, prizes, and awards as well as loyalty programs to promote shopping discounts for its registrants. This is not, for example, the practice of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, or the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
The College of Early Childhood Educators, established in 2007 and within a statutory framework that closely mirrors that of the Ontario College of Teachers, makes it very clear that its mandate does not include advocacy for the profession. This is posted on its website: http://www.college-ece.ca/en/AboutUs/Pages/Purpose-and-Mandate.aspx.
The College is not an educational institution or a professional association that advocates for early childhood educators. It is an organization that helps to serve and protect children and families by setting registration requirements and ethical and professional standards for registered early childhood educators (RECEs), and governing member conduct through a complaints and discipline process.
Misuse of Financial and Human Resources
The expansion of the College into providing professional learning programs, which is clearly within the domain of the Ontario Teachers' Federation and the Affiliates, is a questionable use of College financial and human resources.
Mandate creep on the part of College is leading to membership fee increases that teachers are required to pay each year to maintain their teacher certification. In 1997, the College annual revenue amounted to $15,345,000. By 2012, the revenue had more than doubled to $36,825,000. In 1997, the annual fee was $97; now it is $150. The staff grew from 104 in 1997 to 169 in 2013.
Distraction from Core Responsibilities
Engaging in activities such as professional learning and fostering a friendly image with registrants through prizes and awards are leading the College down a path where it is at risk of losing focus on its core responsibilities. It is setting a negative precedent for other Ontario regulatory bodies, some of which are also pushing the boundaries of their operations and venturing into advocacy activities. Finally, it is not in the public interest for Ontario regulatory bodies to engage in activities that confuse the public about their role and which take them away from their core work.
ETFO is looking to the government to amend the Ontario College of Teachers Act to clarify the College mandate and ensure that its operations no longer stray into the legislated responsibilities of the Ontario Teachers' Federation and its affiliates.