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Sharon O'Halloran posing in ETFO building
Photo by Kathryn Gaitens
Article

A New Year to Mobilize for Public Education

Sharon O’Halloran

Welcome back to the start of another school year! I hope you had a well-deserved rest, and were able to refresh and recharge over the summer.

This past year was incredibly challenging for educators, students and families. What began as a year filled with promise and possibility turned into a year filled with endless disruption due to the Ford government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, despite all the chaos, ETFO members persevered and showed professionalism and care while working to maintain high-quality public education during a global health crisis. The emergency instruction and support you were able to deliver are worthy of a lengthy standing ovation. Your commitment is appreciated.

As we provided students with learning opportunities throughout a turbulent school year, we were reminded of the importance of equity in our public education system. We have witnessed the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, on marginalized communities, in particular racialized and low-income communities.

As an organization committed to equity, ETFO will continue to work alongside families, education unions, supporters of public education and public health advocates to ensure an equitable pandemic recovery for all. ETFO will also establish a task force to combat antisemitism and examine ways to enhance our advocacy and support for members, and adopt a policy to address anti-Black racism in the education sector. Working in solidarity on key issues for educators and students, we will keep pushing the province to prioritize safety, equity and wellbeing so students have the supports they need to be well and to succeed.

At ETFO’s Annual Meeting in August, delegates voted in favour of a policy statement calling on the province to ensure appropriate measures were in place for a safe return to school, including the vaccination of school staff. ETFO also issued a joint statement with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) in support of vaccinations in schools.

Our calls for smaller classes, mandatory masks for all, adequate ventilation improvements and other safety protocols continue. We must do everything we can to ensure a safe return to in-person learning.

The Ford government’s blatant disregard for the safety of students and educators will not discourage our advocacy. In fact, it motivates us as we #MobilizeFor2022.

Ontario’s future depends on all of us taking action to protect our world-renowned public education system. As we head into the provincial election in June 2022, we must work together to defeat the Ford Conservatives and elect a government that believes in public education and is willing to invest in it.

Since the Ford government came into office, public education has been constantly undermined. Over the past four years, we have seen unprecedented funding cuts, attempts to privatize public education, a plan to make virtual learning permanent, the disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing attacks on educators.

Ahead of June 2022, we need to organize, mobilize and campaign to elect a new government. By engaging with our colleagues, our school communities and the public at large, we can ensure public education is a key issue in the next provincial election.

ETFO members can volunteer in local political campaigns, organize local events, engage on social media and help ETFO promote our plan for public education. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to join our campaign at BuildingBetterSchools.ca/mobilize.

As we embark on a new school year, please know that ETFO will continue to defend public education and do everything in its power to keep you and your students safe and well. We will continue to advocate on your behalf through our lobbying and campaign efforts. By working together, we can continue to pressure the government to prioritize the safety and well-being of students and educators, and continue to build the equitable public education system Ontario’s students deserve.

My best wishes for a wonderful school year. Thank you again for all you do and will continue to do.

– Sharon O’Halloran

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