In early February, OSSTF/FEESO members all over the province will be delivering a strong, clear message to both government and opposition MPPs that cuts to the province’s education budget would have a tangible negative impact on Ontario’s students, and could undermine the future prosperity of the province.
Local OSSTF/FEESO leaders are arranging to meet with MPPs in ridings covered by their Districts, and frontline education workers will be holding information rallies at those MPPs’ constituency offices. The goal will be to impress upon both the politicians and the public that proper funding levels for the public education system and the students it serves should always be seen as a solid investment in the future of our communities. Cuts to education funding, on the other hand, would serve only to damage the learning environment for our current students and undermine their success, both now and in their futures.
The information rallies and the MPP meetings are being organized, in part, to encourage Premier Ford to keep his promise to not cut the jobs of frontline workers. We are open to the possibility that some administrative “efficiencies” could be found within the system, but we are very concerned with cuts that directly diminish frontline services. Staffing reductions would have an immediate negative impact on student learning, particularly for students with special needs, and would exacerbate the problems that have arisen over the past several years with violence in our workplaces. Classrooms that are both safe and inclusive cannot be maintained without the necessary supports in place, including those supports provided by staff such as early childhood educators, educational assistants, psychologists, social workers and others.
In addition to supports for classrooms, appropriate class size is of vital importance for student achievement. While individual class size maxima are determined locally for public secondary schools, overall classroom teaching staff generation is accomplished through a provincially established requirement to maintain an aggregated board-wide average of no more than 22 students for one teacher. Any increase to this ratio would lead to a reduction in the number of teachers and deliver a crippling blow to programming. As a result, students would have fewer options for courses.
The majority of the rallies and meetings with MPPs will take place on February 7, although some may be scheduled for other dates in February in the event of calendar conflicts. The timing is to ensure that the message OSSTF/FEESO members want to deliver reaches the ears of MPPs—especially government MPPs—before the provincial budget is drafted. It is not yet known precisely when the budget will be presented at Queen’s Park, but the expectation is that it will be sometime between late March and late April.