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Fighting for Our Students and Their Families

Sam Hammond

I’m writing this at the end of May, ahead of the June 1st deadline for Voice. Every year, Voice publishes a women’s issue focussed on the politics and intersections of feminism, equity and women’s leadership. I am so proud to be part of an organization that does this work.

Across Ontario, our members and local leaders are mobilizing to elect MPPs who will advance a progressive agenda in Ontario. We have been working hard on campaigns that support NDP candidates, on canvasses with the Ontario Federation of Labour, on our provincial campaign to build better schools and on holding the Liberals accountable.

Our campaign has been focussed on the needs of our schools and learners and regardless of what has happened on June 7, our work to ensure that every Ontario student has a properly resourced, safe and healthy learning environment continues.

Our Building Better Schools platform, which we will take with us into bargaining in 2019, calls for fixing the funding formula to address real student needs and for ensuring that all Ontario students have the resources they need to get the education they deserve. Ontario’s education funding formula is based on a model introduced two decades ago that was designed to reduce overall expenditure for public schools. It needs to be fully reviewed and reformed. This along with smaller classes, testing rooted in learning, more supports for students with special needs, more access to specialist teachers and the social cohesion that results from one school system are all issues we believe will build a stronger school system in Ontario.

But we know even more is needed. Educators see the effects of poverty and economic inequality on students and their families. Ontarians need decent work, a well-funded education system and better public services like pharmacare, dental care and affordable child care.

According to the CCPA, Ontario has become more polarized as middle and working-class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper-middle and rich families take home even more. The bottom half of families raising children in Ontario “saw its share of earnings fall to 19% of total labour market income between 2000 and 2015 – down three percentage points – while the top half of families increased its share of the income pie by three percentage points, earning 81 per cent of the total income pie.”

These statistics are nuanced by intersecting identities. CCPA researcher Sheila Block notes, “The latest census data simply confirms the reality that racialized people, recent immigrants, and Indigenous people continue to face discrimination and that income inequality doesn’t just magically reverse itself. That takes political leadership.”

As educators, we teach about equity. As a union, we are committed to it. Equity means everyone having access to fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their multiple and intersecting identities. We must work together to ensure that it is implemented and respected, whether we are talking about pay equity, equal access to government services or equal access to a decent education.

I’m proud to be a part of ETFO, whose leaders and members mobilized for education and other equity issues and ensured that all political parties addressed the importance of fairness in this election. And after the election, we will continue to stand together for our students, our classrooms and our communities. This includes a commitment to standing up for broader social issues that affect the communities we live and teach in every day.

We have to hold the provincial government to account on all of the issues that affect our students and our classrooms. On June 16, join the OFL, ETFO, 15 and Fairness and other community and labour groups at the Rally for Decent Work. June 16 is about one week after the provincial election. We want to keep decent work on the agenda and let the government know that labour is a force to be reckoned with and will hold the government to account.

I look forward to continuing to work with you to improve our schools, our working conditions and classrooms and to fight for the rights of our students and their families.

- Sam Hammond