With the school year ramping up and educators settling into your classrooms, I want to start by saying a big thank you. It’s an understatement to say that ETFO members have been through a lot in the past few years. Throughout this pandemic, our members taught from classrooms, from parking lots and from kitchen tables. Through your hard work, professionalism and force of will, you made Ontario’s public education system work during one of the most challenging times in this province’s history. Teachers and education workers have long known that the success of public education in Ontario rests on their hard work and goodwill – the pandemic just made this longstanding truth more apparent. As you guide your students through this year of recovery, I know that you continue to give your absolute all to ensure that your students get the public education they deserve.
This fall as we returned to the first relatively normal school year since 2020, we also returned to the bargaining table with a Ford Conservative government that is emboldened by its second majority term. Our intention is to bargain in good faith and secure the best possible contracts for our members. As always, when we do this work, the health and well-being of our public schools is also top of mind. How this government conducts itself during this round of bargaining will be a good litmus test for its commitment to public education and to the ETFO members who build and sustain the system. We know that with the right resources, educators bring learning to life for Ontario’s students and will continue to advocate for smaller classes, more supports for students and safer, healthier schools.
Our goals at the bargaining table are to strengthen the public education system, now and into the future. We are working hard to ensure that educators have the working conditions they deserve and students continue to have access to high-quality public education. As we move through the fall and into the winter, ETFO is implementing an ambitious and targeted public relations campaign. The campaign highlights the incredible work that ETFO members do in their classrooms each and every day and encourages the public to get involved in our lobbying efforts through BuildingBetterSchools.ca.
Our classrooms are microcosms of our communities and ETFO members are deeply affected by the struggles of their students and families. ETFO continues to organize alongside those who are seeking equal rights, decent work and paid sick days. We are also contesting the government’s unconstitutional attack on public sector workers through an ongoing legal challenge to Bill 124. This legislation unilaterally placed restrictions on collective bargaining and imposed a one percent cap on salary increases across the public sector. Bill 124 disrespects so many of the people who have stood on the front lines during the pandemic, including many racialized women, who are often among the lowest paid workers in the public sector. This is a critical equity issue for Ontario. It’s time for Premier Ford to respect teachers, early childhood educators, education and professional support personnel and all other public sector workers; Bill 124 must be retroactively repealed.
On October 24, Ontarians will be heading to the polls to elect mayors, municipal councillors and school board trustees. Municipal governments and school boards make decisions that greatly impact our communities. Electing progressive school board trustees is one of the most significant ways to support and defend our public education system.
ETFO members have achieved so much in elementary schools over the past 25 years by standing together. Imagine what we could achieve for the future of public education if the government decided to work with us, rather than against us. This year we will bargain, lobby and campaign to push the government to make the necessary investments to lower class sizes, support the learning needs of all students, eliminate classroom violence, ensure safe and healthy schools, and to fairly compensate the professionals in our public schools for the critical work they do. I look forward to working and organizing with all of you and wish you a wonderful school year.
– Karen Brown