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Teachers across Ontario walking out for one day Feb. 21

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

For the first time in more than 20 years, all teachers across Ontario will simultaneously take part in a one-day walkout next week.

Members of the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants Franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) will all strike on Friday, Feb. 21. This marks the first time this has happened since 1997.

Nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers from Ontario’s 72 public school boards will hit the picket lines, leaving 1.4 million students at 5,000 schools out of class.

All four unions have been without contracts since Aug. 31, 2019.

The ETFO has already staged a number of one-day walkouts in Durham so far this month, including back-to-back days on Monday, Feb. 10 and Tuesday, Feb. 11.

In a released statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has remained “focused on getting deals at the bargaining table through private mediation.”

“We’ve made very significant moves on our position, but union leadership hasn’t moved on substantial items – like their already generous benefits packages and maintaining hiring based on seniority rather than merit,” Lecce stated.

In a cooperative media release from all four unions, ETFO president Sam Hammond accused the Ford government of attempting to “decimate [Ontario’s] publicly funded education system.”

“Our unions and members helped build Ontario’s world-class education system. By not seriously addressing the issues critical to students and student learning, the Ford government has made a sham of contract talks over the last seven months,” Hammond said.

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof claims the government is stripping the education system of resources, and “laying the groundwork for private interests to profit from [students’] education.”

“It is now evident that the Ford government’s agenda is entirely ideological and not at all concerned with providing quality education,” he said.

In January, the government announced it would provide compensation up to $60 for eligible parents of students affected by strikes, pledging to spend up to $48 million per day.

Despite 12,000 applications within the first 24 hours, only about one-quarter of all eligible parents have applied for funding.

The Ministry of Education recently acknowledged due to technical glitches with its funding program website, some parents received money for more days than they should have.