the Ford Government

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has made a number of claims in the media about the Ford government’s plans for publicly funded education. Unfortunately, many of these statements misrepresent the facts.

Student Success

The government claims

Since they took office last June, members of the Ford government have been portraying Ontario’s publicly funded education system as broken and failing. They have used these criticisms to justify their reckless education reforms.

In reality

Ontario’s students and graduates are global leaders. For example, the latest results from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Ontario’s 15-year-old students performed sixth in reading, thirteenth in math, and tenth in science among all jurisdictions around the world.  

We are also widely recognized for our commitment to equity and inclusion, and the five-year graduation rate is now at 87.1 per cent, almost 20 percentage points higher than in 2004. Rather than tearing down, the government should be working with teachers to build on this success.

Education Funding

The government claims

The government has touted its “historic” investments in publicly funded education, including an increase of $700 million this year.

In reality

The government is playing games with the numbers. The increase in this year’s budget includes nearly $690 million for a short-term “attrition fund,” meant to mask the loss of teaching positions as a result of increased class sizes and mandatory e-learning, as well as $400 million for a new child care tax credit. The core fund for elementary and high school students was actually cut by $630 million, and another $230 million in funding for vulnerable students was eliminated.   

The government’s own projections show the plan is to freeze education spending over the next four years. When accounting for increases in costs and student enrolment, by 2021-22 the government will be underfunding education by $1.1 billion per year.

Collective Bargaining

The government claims

As contract negotiations have dragged on, the government has tried to cast blame on teachers. They say they have made “reasonable” moves at the negotiating table, and the responsibility is on teachers to find a way to reach an agreement.

In reality

While the cuts the government is now proposing are different from what was originally planned, they would still have significant consequences for student learning, including overcrowded classrooms, the elimination of tens of thousands of course options, and students going without the supports they need to succeed. As one commentator put it, the government has gone from “totally unreasonable” to just “unreasonable.”

These cuts are completely unacceptable to teachers, and public opinion polls show that parents and the public do not want them either. We are the last line of defence to protect publicly funded education – we cannot accept an agreement that would be so detrimental to learning and working conditions in our schools.

Teacher Compensation

The government claims

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly claimed that negotiations have stalled because teachers are holding out for wage increases. They have passed a law capping compensation increases for teachers, saying the government cannot afford to spend more on publicly funded education.

In reality

Compensation is one of the many issues discussed in any contract negotiation. But it is obviously not the only issue teachers are concerned about. We are standing up against the government’s plans to increase class sizes, eliminate supports for vulnerable students, and impose mandatory e-learning. We also want to protect Ontario’s internationally recognized full-day Kindergarten program.  

Teachers have been accepting below-inflation wage increases for almost a decade. As we negotiate a new contract, we are asking the government to bring this issue to the bargaining table where it belongs, rather than trying to interfere with our constitutional right to bargain.  

Teacher Strikes

The government claims

At every opportunity, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce have tried to mislead Ontarians by claiming “union-led escalation” happens every few years, regardless of which party is in government.

In reality

Teachers have always advocated for our students and a strong publicly funded education system, and there have been difficult negotiations over the years, sometimes resulting in local strikes or lockouts. But this is the first time members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association have had to take province-wide strike action during collective bargaining.

The last time all Catholic teachers in the province were off the job was 1997, during the political protest against the Mike Harris government’s drastic reforms to education. So the only thing common about what is going on right now is that when a Conservative government comes to power in this province, we have to take extraordinary measures to protect public services.

Take Action

It’s the only way to make a difference. Contact your representatives and demand they stop the cuts. Then spread the word to your networks!