An Open Letter to Stephen Lecce and the Ford Government
Shoulder Some Blame for a Change
Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford, you both should be ashamed of yourselves.
I am a parent of two daughters, ages 15 and almost 11, and a teacher with membership in the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation, though it doesn't really matter which union I'm a part of. My oldest is obviously impacted by the moves the OSSTF undertakes as a result of your poor performance at the bargaining table, while my youngest, who attends a nearby Catholic school, is impacted by job action by both OSSTF and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA). As a parent with an active social media presence, I am appalled by your ongoing blame game and complete lack of ownership of the current situation.
Let me be clear. When my kids screw up—which they do a lot because they're kids and they're learning—they, too, try and evade and avoid responsibility because it's easier to do that than admit fault. They have, however, learned that there is a degree of power and maturity if they step up, own their responsibility in whatever happened, and take whatever consequences that result. I don't see that from you.
You are deliberately feeding the Ontario public misleading information which has been disproven many times over. Mr. Ford, you've even said that you support teachers, but your problem is with "the head of the union." Notice you were quoted as saying union, not unions. I've no idea if that was simply a misprint or an actual quote, but if it was, in fact, you who said you had beef with the head of the singular union, why are you not addressing that directly with him or her? In addition, by making union singular, it makes it seem as though that you are discounting the other provincial unions. There's OSSTF, OECTA, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and l'Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO). Which union head, in particular, are you having a problem with, and why are you lumping all educators into the same realm as a result?
You both also need to keep in mind that, at least from what many of us saw in the media and from your range of press conferences and Twitter appearances on both of your accounts, you started unilaterally changing things before negotiations even began. You stated that class sizes would go up to a provincial average of 28 students to 1 teacher when it had previously been 22:1. You are trying to spin things so that the public believes that your current proposal of 25:1 is not an increase when in reality it's still an increase from the original 22:1 ratio. You are trying to say that the e-learning you want to cram down everyone's throat is also a concession, as well. Sorry, but when e-learning was a choice, and you are now saying that it would be mandatory, regardless of the number of courses, that isn't a concession.
You will not budge on your hacking of special education budgets, leaving teachers in these classrooms everywhere working twice as hard as they already do in order to ensure student safety. Several teachers have openly invited both of you on social media—anyone from your government, really—to come to an actually publicly-funded classroom and see what really happens. Where have you gone? For-profit daycares and private schools.
Mr. Lecce, you keep insisting that the bottom line is about wages. Your government unilaterally capped wage increases at 1 percent, which is being fought by several unions, yet happily accepted 20 percent increases to your housing allowance and I believe 14 percent overall wage hikes. Teachers who have gone through three strike days because your government won't concede on anything of substance have more than lost that one percent. If this was truly about wages, do you honestly think that teachers would continue to strike and lose money each day we're out?
Yes, we have to do what our union—you know, that collective agency that we're a part of?—votes to do. Every educator in a union voted, to a huge margin in favor of job action, to fight these heinous cuts. We were not afraid, as you, Mr. Ford, have said. Many of us have children of our own, some with learning challenges and some in need of special education supports which might be threatened because of your vicious cuts. We also have students who have significant financial struggles which means that these students could have problems accessing the technology required by your proposed cuts. We have students who have significant learning or behavioral challenges who need the special education support that you're wanting to take away.
It's important to note that no one has said cuts aren't necessary. Ontario is hugely in debt, and we all understand that. However, a poorly-educated populace results in an increased reliance on social services that might be in short supply. How is that going to drive Ontario's economy into something fruitful and productive?
However, there are other places to make cuts. Look at the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), whose responsibility it is to administer the tests that stress out countless students in Grade 3, 6, and 9, in addition to the Ontario Secondary Schools Literacy Test. This department is worth millions, serves no proper purpose other than to cause educators to teach towards a test, which leads students to prepare for weeks for information that they will probably do a "brain dump" of the second the test is done. There has been no real benefit shown to these tests, and yet, you insist on keeping them. Why?
Why do the cuts have to be limited to education or health care, which seem to be your two favorite areas to cut? Your substantial salaries, the corporate tax cuts . . . any of these could have easily been cut by at least half of what you put through, and yet they weren't.
Enough of the blame game.
Enough of vilifying educators.
Start doing your job—actually working for the benefit of everyone in Ontario, not only your rich business colleagues—and get back to the bargaining table with a clear head. Realize what you're doing to your voter base, and get your crap together.