For the ﬁrst time, albeit under unusual circumstances, every current teacher collective agreement contains a negotiated lump sum to support individual professional growth. More occasional teacher collective agreements than ever contain provisions to support professional growth. Today there is also growing recognition that teachers themselves are best placed to design their own learning. Collective bargaining can help to improve the environment for professional learning for members.
The need for professional learning does not end when the newly minted teacher emerges – bleary-eyed and massively in debt – from the doors of the faculty. PD will be a survival tool until retirement. Effective PD, the kind that results in additional or improved employee skills, is pure value-added from the employer’s perspective. Despite this, in practice our new graduate can still expect to pay for much of her or his PD over the years. The challenge for collective bargaining is to continually reduce that unfair and unwarranted burden on the individual.
PD is not simply a question of money; it is also one of professional autonomy. If the battle over recertiﬁcation taught us anything, it is that teachers have a clear idea of what they need to learn to best enable them to do their jobs. There is a well-established precedent for this emphasis on teachers controlling their own learning. As Barbara Richter noted recently in Voice (Decem- ber 06, Vol. 9, No. 2), elementary teachers’ federations began developing their own in-service programs in the early postwar period, in response to the government’s lowering of standards for entry to the profession. The federations provided what teachers needed to be successful.
School boards, of course, have always offered PD opportunities outside of the collective bargaining framework. For example, a number of boards have moved to a web-based report card system and are training teachers to use it.
However, this kind of targeted training does not address the many factors that drive the need for professional learning: changes in curriculum, increased paperwork, the focus on narrowly based assessment tools, changes in student and community demographics, limited resources in areas such as ESL, and the general downloading of ever more responsibilities onto teachers. Any educator who takes a dip in the alphabet soup of today’s schools—DRA, AEP, EIP, IEP, CASI—will recognize the gap between the training that is available and the training that is needed.
The scope of bargaining for PD is fairly broad. For example, the number of professional activity days is set by Regulation 304 of the Education Act