Dozens of high school teachers picketed outside Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute (LCVI) on Wednesday, braving the bitter cold to send a message to the Ford government.
“As this government started to implement these cuts, we’ve seen class sizes ballooning, in some cases to as many as 40,” said Colin Matthew, president of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) District 15. “These aren’t ideal learning conditions for students at all.”
OSSTF members walked off the job for numerous reasons, the biggest being cuts to education, an increase in class sizes and the introduction of e-learning courses as a graduation requirement.
Matthew said the current funding model supports 22 students to one teacher in a classroom, but there are still classes with as many as 33 students.
This is the second time in two weeks that Ontario high school teachers have walked off the job. The first strike, which took place on Dec. 4, featured a province-wide walkout for public school boards. This time, only nine school boards are involved:
- Toronto District School Board
- Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board
- Near North District School Board
- Grand Erie District School Board
- Rainy River District School Board
- Simcoe County District School Board
- Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board
- Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board
- Trillium Lakelands District School Board
LCVI is part of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Teachers and OSSTF members started picketing in front of the school at 7 a.m.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to most folks that talks with the government have stalled,” said Stefani Burosch, student services attendance counsellor at LCVI. “The union has been very clear that they are ready to come to the bargaining table, and the minister has chosen to continue to share misinformation and falsehoods.”
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has continually called the job action “unacceptable” and has said caving into the union’s demands would create a ripple effect for all other education labour groups.
“They choose not to consider the impacts outside of OSSTF as if they live in isolation to the other unions and education workers, but they don’t,” Lecce said on Tuesday.
Union representatives insist a strike that disrupts student learning still has the students’ best interest in mind.
“The real disruption came last March 15th, when the then-minister of education Lisa Thompson announced significant changes to the secondary system that would have seen class sizes balloon,” said Matthew.
“So I would say the real disruption has been introduced by this ford government, and that the educators that are out here today are working to push back on those cuts and protect student learning conditions.”
“This is a crisis of this government’s doing,” added Burosch. “We are here, as education workers, for our kids. We are here for parents, for our communities. We are fighting just to maintain that status quo. That is at the bare minimum of what we’re asking for — to maintain to be able to maintain the resources, to be able to provide that world-class education system that we know that we enjoy in this province.”
A few students joined the picket at LCVI.
“Every teacher has put in more than enough work for me and more than enough that they’re required to do,” said Caitlin Lanning, grade 11 student at I.E. Weldon. “I want to support them every way I can.”
“It’s difficult enough to teach 22, let alone 25 or 28,” said Lucas Loveys, grade 12 student at I.E. Weldon. “The mandatory online, e-learning classes won’t be helpful for students, because you’re not getting that 1-on-1 interaction.”
Negotiations between OSSTF and the government remain at a standstill with no apparent end in sight.