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General Secretary Sharon O’Halloran
Photo by Kathryn Gaitens
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ETFO Will Continue to Fight for the Public Education Students Deserve

Sharon O’Halloran

Since the fall, ETFO has been working to respond to government consultations on education. At the same time, we have been planning our own mobilization and engagement efforts, working in solidarity with parents and other allies, and doing the important day-to-day work of the federation – workshops, conferences and services to members. ETFO has been outspoken about the importance of maintaining the current model for Full-Day Kindergarten that includes a teacher and early childhood educator and recognizes the unique contributions each makes to the classroom. We have continued to advocate for increasing investment in public education and maintaining caps on class size. Educators, along with other experts in the field, identify small classes as the most important factor in an educator’s ability to work effectively with students and meet their diverse needs.

ETFO has responded to the many Ministry of Education consultations that have occurred over the past six months. Most recently, we responded to the government’s proposals to remove class size caps in elementary classrooms and to modify Regulation 274.

Regulation 274 provides a fair, consistent and transparent hiring process for long-term occasional (LTO) and permanent teaching positions. The regulation ensures a fair and predictable pathway to long-term and permanent employment in Ontario’s public school boards for qualified teachers. Regulation 274 is an effective deterrent to favouritism in the hiring process for teachers. Learn more about Regulation 274 at etfo.ca.

In addition to the consultation submissions, ETFO set up an online action to protect smaller class sizes at BuildingBetterSchools.ca. Almost 80,000 people (parents, educators and other community members) responded by writing to their MPPs and the Minister of Education to oppose the removal of caps on class size and the increase in class size averages. Parents especially know the positive impact of small classes; many are organizing in their own communities. BuildingBetterSchools.ca also engaged members of the public in a Hands Off FDK campaign, which gathered more than 500 stories from parents and educators about why the current structure of the Kindergarten classroom works best for Ontario students. As we continue to develop our public campaign, we will share these stories. ETFO has been a leader in advocating for education and other issues and we continue to see incredible public support.

At the end of February, ETFO launched our public campaign. Our new 30-second TV ad is built around the song “I Believe the Children Are Our Future.” The ad is both an anthem and a testament capturing the dedication and hope that public elementary educators bring to their classrooms every day. As we watch children engaged in different types of learning, the tag line, “Don’t make them pay for government cuts,” provides a forceful reminder of why Ontario needs to invest in public education. Viewers are then asked to take action at BuildingBetterSchools.ca. ETFO’s billboard and transit shelter ads continue the theme of investing in the future of Ontario children. An ad with the headline “Protect Full-Day Kindergarten. Protect our future” and accompanying classroom photo underscores the importance of Ontario’s Full-Day Kindergarten model. A second ad boldly advocates for public education with the headline “When we invest in public education, we invest in our future.” All ads tie the campaign back to ETFO’s BuildingBetterSchools.ca and to digital platforms. ETFO’s digital advertising campaign will reach millions of Ontarians in the coming months.

As we move into the spring and our preparations for bargaining, we have begun member engagement and mobilization initiatives. The goal is for ETFO locals and stewards to connect with our 83,000 ETFO members directly. For members, this is an opportunity to get involved, to share experiences and points of view and to find ways to engage and participate.

Historically, ETFO has been a leader in defending and advancing Ontario’s public education system. ETFO has made significant gains for our members and our students, and contributed to advancing rights for all Ontarians. In light of the current government’s agenda, we will inevitably have to continue to fight to help the government realize that Ontario’s public education system needs investment not cuts. As education professionals, we know that students deserve no less.

- Sharon O’Halloran

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ETFO’s advocacy roles are far-reaching. ETFO advocates for the needs of its teacher, occasional teacher, DECE, ESP and PSP members.