LITTLEWOOD: Ontario’s public school system is headed down a dangerous path

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This week, Ontario education workers and teachers working in publicly funded schools are excited and excited to welcome students back to school.

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After two pandemic years of historic disruptions to student learning, Ontarians can rest assured that the priority for education workers and teachers is a return to stable and safe in-person learning.

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It goes without saying that all Ontarians benefit greatly from a strong and stable public education system, and so we tend to agree with the Ford government’s main message this fall: the importance of stability so that students can compensate for the learning loss caused by COVID-19. .

However, the government’s implication that it is the sole responsibility of teachers and education workers to provide this stability is at best misleading and at worst a denial of their own responsibility.

A proper recovery plan that will restore true stability requires the government to end its practice of implementing policy changes or new programs in schools without warning, without consultation, with little funding and insufficient staff training.

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As negotiations resume — we firmly believe that the stability of Ontario schools in 2022 will require the Ford government to make real investments in public education that ensure a strong learning experience in a stable environment — with access to supports and services that students need.

For example, class size should reflect student needs and not be used as a tactic to cut costs. Restoring learning will require greater attention to student needs, all of which are provided by dedicated teachers and education workers.

And in a context of galloping inflation, stability means being able to retain quality professionals in the education system.

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More than a third of our union members are education workers, including teacher assistants, early childhood educators, office staff and many others. Many of these professionals earn less than $45,000 a year, making it much more difficult to attract and retain those who help our students who need it most.

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While the government claims it has no money for education, it is missing out on students by sitting on nearly a billion dollars of unspent federal government dollars for schools in Ontario.

Simply put, we cannot allow any government to defeat the system.

We’ve seen what this looks like in many parts of the United States with the establishment of charter schools, voucher systems, and private school tax credits that put billions of public dollars into their hands. wealthy corporations.

In Ontario, we are heading down our own dangerous path of increased privatization, with the latest budget proposing to take more money out of classrooms and into tutoring.

Education workers and teachers want to see government and school boards do their duty and come to the bargaining table with proposals that will ensure a continuous high-quality learning experience for all students.

Stability in Ontario schools means investing in Ontario’s world-renowned public education system — a down payment on our common future and well-being.

— Karen Littlewood is President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO)

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Jeremy S. McLain