Getting what you pay for in education

In the category of "consequences that anyone with a brain could have predicted", the Toronto District school board's decision to stop teachers being able to carry over their allowance of sick days from one year to the next (and cash them out for money on retirement) has worked out approximately as you'd expect:

New figures from the Toronto District School Board show a 22% spike in teachers reporting in sick last month compared to the previous year, and a 53% jump from three years ago.
Teachers get an allowance of 20 sick days a year - presumably if you take more then they will be unpaid - and up to now if they had any remaining at the end of the year they could add them on to next year's allowance. With no limit on carry-over, it was quite feasible to have 200 days of leave on retirement:
But some school boards — the Ontario government says 40% — also allowed teachers to cash the unused days out, up to 200 days, on retirement. The practice resulted in teachers leaving with a golden handshake worth up to half a year's pay.
What's more, I'm guessing that the days would be paid based on their final salary rather than the salary for the year in which they were allocated.

You'll note that in the old system if a teacher was feeling a bit under the weather they would be incentivised to struggle in to work (thereby infecting their pupils and colleagues); the sick day they avoided taking would be a future source of cash. Now, of course, if they are sick they'll stay at home. This is an improvement, except that there is a view among some teachers that if they have the allocation they might as well take it, as commentator marilynsouth remarks:

When I had 20 sick days and could bank them I hardly took any days off and only when I was really sick, as banking was an incentive. Now you take that away, give me 10 days with no banking, Im taking all 10 days because there is no longer an incentive. I take them or lose them now, So Im taking them, good luck trying to prove if im sick or not....
It's a tricky one to manage. On one hand teachers are exposed to tidal waves of germs as part of their job, you expect them to get sick (especially as they get older) and you shouldn't penalise them for it. On the other hand, setting out a fixed allocation of sick days doesn't seem to be optimal.

What does seem unarguable is that rolling over sick days and allowing them to be taken as cash only really benefits the moderately healthy teachers, and screws over students and less healthy teachers when the sick teacher struggles in to school to recuperate on the taxpayer's dime. While private sector practices vary, I don't know of any major firm who's taken this approach, and probably for a very good reason.

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