By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
The union representing Ontario secondary school teachers recently flocked to the community offices of Durham MPPs to protest of educations cuts.
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) could be found outside the offices of Jennifer French in Oshawa, Peter Bethlenfalvy in Pickering, Rod Phillips in Ajax, Lorne Coe in Whitby, and Lindsey Park in Bowmanville as well as other MPPs across the province.
With their rally, the OSSTF wished to inform local MPPs of the effect the cuts will have, as they expect approximately $1 billion in total cuts.
Ryan Kelly, the rally captain outside of French’s office on Centre Street North, says, “The Conservatives have only been in power for less than a year now, and they’ve cut the $25 million to specialized programs, as well as I believe province wide there’s a $330 million cut to special education funding.”
The $25 million in cuts Kelly refers to were made to specialized school programs in December, and included programs that benefited at-risk youth, such as after school programs.
Kelly says he understands the boards have been able to make budget adjustments in order to replace the funds they’ve lost for now, but he thinks the cuts “will be felt and will be seen years from now.”
Kelly believes more cuts are on the horizon, as he notes, “One of the few things the government’s made clear… is that it’s their expectation to cut four per cent for every ministry.”
The teachers present at the rally are adamant there should not be any further cuts to the funding of public education, as they believe it will result in fewer teachers and support staff, which in turn will put pressure on class sizes, and will mean less help and supervision for students.
According to the OSSTF, more cuts will also result in higher costs for post-secondary students and their families, and will result in higher student and tuition fees, more student debt, and fewer support services.
They are also seeking more enhancements and improvements to public education funding, stating this will help provide services such as improved mental health services and supports, and will help to keep schools safe and well-maintained.
Kelly believes Ontarians should be proud of class sizes around the province as this factor “translates to student success, and I think any cuts they are considering or planning that will affect front line workers and students are hugely poorly planned.”
However, Kelly stressed the union activities shouldn’t be seen as political activism.
“These are information pickets right now, they’re not protests by any means… We expect to see people at every MPP office across the province.”
While rallies are planned province wide, the group outside of French’s office was met with some support as cars honked their horns and pedestrians walking by took their pamphlets.
Kelly wants to tell Premier Doug Ford that he believes there should be, “no cuts to education. Education is such a powerful, worthy system and service that we provide in Ontario.”
Oshawa MPP Jennifer French says she’s “very glad to see the community is standing up for public education across the province.”
She says there’s a lot of uncertainty for public education right now, and that makes parents and teachers concerned about the quality of education students will be able to get.
“I absolutely, in no uncertain terms, oppose cutting services, and cutting supports for public education,” says French. “That is the wrong way to strengthen our province.”
“The teachers organizations, the educational support staff, parents, they all have my support,” says French. “And also, the students have my support, and they need supports in the classroom, they need a predictable, safe, structured and resourced learning environment, and I support that.”