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Extracurricular conundrum

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill

It’s still all a giant mess, but it seems to be one in which many of the warriors are growing weary.
In our public elementary and high schools, there are still no extracurricular activities. Students at Huron Heights Secondary School have signed a petition asking for them back.
Two school boards elsewhere in the province are taking their local teachers’ unions to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, challenging the boycott.
According to the Toronto Star, the boards will argue that the broad definition of strike activity includes anything that “curtails . . . the operation or functioning” of schools or programs.
A ruling in that case could impact every school board and every teacher in the province.
But if teachers are ordered to perform activities outside the classroom, it would undo the goodwill that has existed for decades as teachers happily — and voluntarily — ran the clubs and sports of their choice.
Being forced to do something is never quite the same as doing it because you want to. And for many teachers, “wanting to” came from the idea that their profession was respected and valued, both in the classroom and outside of it.
Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservatives, is gearing up for a possible spring election with a new idea: Let principals reward those teachers who choose to perform extracurricular duties. Maybe they could spend less time on supervisory duties. Maybe, down the line, we could pay them for such work.
At least he’s putting ideas out there, and this is sure to be a popular one among parents and voters with a union-busting bent. But it’s not really practical. If teachers choose drama club after school instead of, say, supervising during lunch, then we’ll have to hire additional people to supervise during lunch. Hudak’s idea of a smaller, more focused government would quickly gain a fussy little layer of bureaucracy as bean counters calculate the trades between volleyball coaching hours and recess duty. It would also cost more.
If he really wants smaller, more focused government, then he should open a serious discussion about the big, Catholic elephant in the room. That’s never going to happen, because Hudak — and all the other leaders — are more interested in doing what’s politically expedient than what is fiscally and morally sensible.
Representatives from the teachers’ unions have said they’ll wait to see the outcome of this weekend’s Liberal leadership race, and then work with whoever the new premier may be.
Hopefully the teachers will gain something, and in the end everyone can happily return to glee club, and the status quo.

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