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General Secretary Sharon O’Halloran
Photo by Kathryn Gaitens
Article

A New Year To Show Our Collective Strength For Public Education

Sharon O’Halloran

You are the heart of Ontario’s world-class public education system. I want to welcome you back to a school year full of promise and challenge, both in the classroom and at the bargaining table.

Hopefully you had an enjoyable, active and relaxing vacation to recharge your batteries for the work that you love.

I am so proud of the actions of ETFO’s 83,000 members in defending public education over the past year in the face of the Ford Conservative government’s damaging changes. In the Queen’s Park rally on April 6, Red for Ed Fridays, MPP rallies and lobbying, ETFO pledge cards and messages that #Fordisfailing, ETFO members showed their passion for public education and the students they serve.

You also demonstrated your commitment to teacher working conditions and professional judgement. It was evident in your defence of Regulation 274 and your spreading the message #HandsoffFDK. Many of you took the time to post your stories on these issues at buildingbetterschools.ca.

The resolve of ETFO and its members to continue advocating for appropriate investment in teaching and learning conditions is likely to be tested over the coming months. ETFO’s goal is to engage in fair and respectful bargaining; however, this government has already shown its stripes. It has little respect for students and working people and is more concerned about reducing spending and offering corporate tax breaks.

Your provincial Executive is committed to negotiating the best agreements possible for all ETFO members and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. What’s important is that we have the support and solidarity of all members to do what’s needed – on the ground, in locals, at MPP offices or on social media – to stand up to this government.

We are fortunate to have built a tremendous amount of goodwill and support among the public, parent and community organizations, and students as we stood together on issues including the roll-back of the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum, cuts to autism funding, class size increases and possible changes to Full-Day Kindergarten.

We have continued to work with these partners to force the government to stand down on many of its ill-conceived announcements. The fact that the public trusts teachers rather than the government when it comes to education and the well-being of students suggests that actions we may need to take during bargaining will have the support of these groups.

Other issues are sure to arise from the Ford government this year including the possible privatization of public services. History tells us that privatization costs more because corporations cut corners and reduce wages to make a profit as we’ve seen with privatized health care, waste and water management and hydro.

We’ve also seen the effects of privatization on education, including charter schools, school vouchers and education tax credits. In the United States and some Canadian jurisdictions, alternative schools have syphoned off precious funding from public school systems while creating gross inequities for students. From an academic standpoint, these alternative schools have not outperformed public schools.

In 2018, the Ford government indicated that it may make changes to Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) for the 2020-2021 year. ETFO and many education experts remain steadfast that the FDK program is showing demonstrable results in the academic, social, emotional and cognitive development of students. That’s why ETFO is resolved to maintain the current model which includes the teacher and designated early childhood educator team. With your support, we will continue our campaign to maintain this model.

ETFO will continue to defend public education this year and I ask you to remain dedicated to that goal. Ontario students and parents are looking to ETFO’s 83,000 members to do everything possible to protect our world-class education system in the face of a regressive government. With your passion and collective commitment, we will not let them down.

– Sharon O’Halloran

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