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Ontario makes new offer. Union says not so fast

Government plan freezes classroom sizes
20200206 Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario ETFO north bay generic sign 4 turl
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario signs ready to go. Jeff Turl/BayToday

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said Tuesday the government has made additional proposals at the negotiating table with a single focus on ending the impasse.

"During the negotiation process, the government tabled proposals with each of the teacher unions, which included substantive moves on lower than proposed but not lower than on the ground class sizes, support for students' unique learning needs, full-day kindergarten, as well as reasonable proposals on merit-based hiring and compensation," said a news release.

"Despite these consistently reasonable moves, the teachers' unions continue to reject the government's student-centric proposals while simultaneously focusing on significant increases in compensation, particularly enriching generous benefits schemes," said Lecce, in the press release.

The government announced:

  • A commitment to a funded maximum average class size of 23 in secondary schools - leaving them essentially the same as 2019-2020;
  • Replace the previous Local Priorities Fund with a new, student-centric Supports for Students Fund, which allows boards more flexibility to address students' unique learning needs, including special education, mental health, and STEM education;
  • The Supports for Students Fund would continue at the same funding amount of the Local Priorities Fund.
  • A commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten; and
  • Increases in wages and compensation.

The government is also announcing a policy to give parents the ability to opt their children out of the mandatory online courses required for graduation.

"The government is calling on the unions to cancel future strikes during this period to allow for good faith bargaining. Moreover, the Government continues to make the case for the advancement of merit-based hiring," adds the release.

Meanwhile the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). accused Lecce of making pronouncements to the media that are outside the collective bargaining process.

“ETFO does not bargain in the media and we have not seen details of the Minister’s proposals at the central bargaining table,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “We have learned from past experience that Minister Lecce’s public announcements do not necessarily translate into negotiating proposals at the table.

“I can say that the minister only referred to one special education fund while we are trying to maintain a second fund that was agreed to in our last contract extension. If that is the case, special education funding is still down by about $25 million. And contrary to what the minister said, these funds flowed through school boards, not unions.

“Minister Lecce has not reversed the class size increases in grades 4-8, which remain the largest in the system,” added Hammond.

He says the government is only proposing changes because its consultation documents became public last week. "It was evident that this government was not listening to the people as it said it would do last fall.”