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’s Advocacy Roles (From the General Secretary)
ETFO’s advocacy roles are far-reaching. ETFO advocates for the needs of its teacher, occasional teacher, DECE, ESP and PSP members. ETFO advocates for students and their families. ETFO advocates for better schools within our public education system and for social justice in the broader society. Here are a few of our current advocacy roles that are making a difference.
This fall, the ETFO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety – Report and Recommendations was released. The report offers 22 recommendations in six areas: training; workplace violence and serious student incidents; lockdown procedures; environmental concerns in school communities; joint health and safety committee (JHSC) effectiveness; and a provincial-level structure for working with education partners. This task force report provides practical guidelines for use by all education partners in meeting both legislative and policy requirements to ensure that school communities are healthier and safer places to work and learn. You can read the report and recommendations at etfohealthandsafety.ca/.
ETFO has also monitored the progress of two other studies. One is the fact-finding study commissioned by the Minister of Education on Regulation 274. This regulation sets out the hiring practices that must be followed to fill long-term occasional and permanent positions in Ontario public schools. ETFO had representation on the Ministry working group studying this issue and ETFO members participated in the fact-finding study. ETFO members also participated in a provincial study on teacher workload and professionalism and ETFO representatives sat on the advisory committee to the study and provided feedback to the report writers. The reports were released in late November and are available to members on the Ministry of Education website. Understanding these issues and their impact on building better schools provides ETFO with new understandings of where and how we need to exert pressure on the government to ensure that we can advance ETFO’s education agenda.
ETFO’s Building Better Schools plan has been successful in raising public awareness about important issues for students and teachers, and was particularly helpful in framing discussions about education in the recent provincial and municipal elections. The plan also forms the basis for ETFO’s ongoing lobbying at Queen’s Park. Earlier this fall, ETFO representatives participated in the Ministry of Education’s funding review and spoke directly to the need to increase grants in the key areas identified in the ETFO plan.
The rollout of full-day Kindergarten (FDK) classes across the province was complete in September 2014. This year, ETFO put forward to the government concerns from local leaders and members regarding class sizes, physical space requirements and support services. This led to a meeting between ETFO representatives and the government, and a commitment to continue the dialogue for successful implementation. ETFO interacts on a regular basis with Ministry officials to identify concerns and to propose solutions.
An important focus for ETFO right now is continuing our journey in addressing social justice and equity issues that are raised by First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) peoples. ETFO released Aboriginal History and Realities in Canada: Grades 1-8 Teachers’ Resource this fall with classroom lessons. ETFO will also be launching the southern tour of Spirit Horse, a play that addresses stereotypes and the journey of two Aboriginal children, as well as professional development workshops for teachers. Our new FNMI executive staff member is enthusiastically establishing relationships with individuals in Aboriginal education organizations and institutions to support future initiatives, programs and resource development.
ETFO’s advocacy on the collective bargaining front is at the top of our agenda. As most of you know, a new bargaining process is in place under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 that includes central (provincial) and local tables. ETFO helped to shape the final legislation by proposing amendments that were subsequently adopted. This fall ETFO has been involved in meetings with the government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) to determine central and local items. Even before these meetings began, ETFO formed a Provincial Benefits Project Team to prepare for central table discussions.
This is just a taste of the advocacy roles ETFO plays. To find out more, check the “Advocacy and Action” section of etfo.ca.
When I think about the importance of providing all Ontario students with the public education they deserve – class sizes that allow them to get the individual attention they need, resources to help them excel to the best of their abilities and the critical special education supports needed to ensure equity for every student – I think about our commitment to ensuring that every child is offered a promising future.