On March 15, 2019, Premier Doug Ford launched what has proven to be one of the most devastating attacks on publicly-funded education this province has seen. His disregard for the important work done by front line education workers, and his inability to see how drastic cuts are hurting students have galvanized OSSTF/FEESO members across the province like never before.
While we saw record numbers of protesters come out to the April 6, 2019 rally at Queen’s Park (some estimates put attendance as high as 30,000), just as impressive are the locally-driven actions and initiatives. OSSTF/FEESO members across the province have been standing up and saying “No Cuts to Education” since Ford announced his cuts, and the pressure shows no signs of stopping.
Since last March, we have seen over 80 rallies, protests, information pickets, and town halls. We have seen our members outside every single PC MPP office, challenging their elected officials to rethink increased class sizes that have led to job losses across our membership and significant reductions to student course offerings in most boards. Districts have hosted open town halls on education, opening up the dialogue to MPPs, Trustees, parents, students, education workers, and concerned members of the community. Many of these town halls have seen empty MPP seats, leaving us all again convinced that this government is unable to defend its education budget.
It’s been a full season of creative approaches, all drawing attention to our No Cuts campaign. Some districts have taken out local newspaper ads, many local leaders have been featured in interviews on the effects of cuts to public education, and many more have driven their message home using full-throttle social media tactics. Many Districts have used creative materials developed by the provincial Communications and Political Action Department, including infographics, posters, flags, signs, and buttons, to amplify their online and print media presence and extend their reach in the community. One District even used its local Member Mobilization funding to run a full bus ad (created in-house by OSSTF/FEESO) decrying the lost learning opportunities that students were facing when they returned to work in September.
Two separate provincial mail card drops, targeted to ridings with PC MPPs, have garnered significant support from the public, and coupled with a print media open letter ad purchased with our other education affiliates, cemented the solidarity of all education workers in protecting and enhancing public education in Ontario.
Add all of this to the Federation’s micro-site campaigns, hereforstudents.ca, betterschoolsstrongereconomy.ca, and bargainingforeducation.ca, and you have a powerful messaging reach. In fact, to date, our Here for Students digital letter writing campaign has led to over 56,000 individual letters sent to MPPs, calling for a reversal to education cuts.
The battle to protect Ontario’s world-class public education system isn’t over, but thanks to the solidarity shown by our leaders and grass-roots members across the province, we know we’re not alone. Our collective actions are making a difference and we won’t back down until we see the student services, supports, opportunities, and jobs for members reinstated.