No Ifs, No Buts, No Education Cuts!

Striking teachers

by Ethan Carley and Emma Pascu

Catholic teachers will walk off the job again on Thursday after negotiations between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education broke down. This will be the teacher’s fourth withdrawal of services since their first strike on January 21st. The latest strike, which occurred nearly two weeks ago, saw over two million students out of the classroom. 

Class sizes should not be raised any higher!

OECTA, along with three other teacher unions, oppose the Ford government’s proposed changes to the education system. These include two mandatory e-learning credits and an increase in class sizes.  All unions are asking for a raise to their annual salaries.

In a statement released last week, OECTA president Liz Stuart said, “Instead of coming to the table with a plan to reach an agreement, the government continued to insist on its deep, permanent cuts.” Since then, Minister of Education Stephen Leece has backed down on increasing class sizes and e-learning. Despite this, education workers will proceed with strikes and demonstrations scheduled for later this week. 

“All I know is that it’s about Doug Ford”

After the Ford government first announced education cuts last spring, students at STA were quick to voice their opinions. On April 4th, hundreds of STA students, along with thousands of others across Ontario, walked out of class to oppose the cuts. In an eruption of teenage protest, students marched along the streets, megaphones in hand, yelling, “No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!” The energy was electrifying. Cars honked in support, as young voices of anger echoed through the streets. The situation became so heated the police had to arrive to ensure the students’ safety. “Cuts Hurt Kids” was sketched upon every neon sign, as “Doug Ford Sucks!” was chanted intensely. It was a moment of pure political protest. 

Though nearly a year later, following the Teacher’s March on Queen’s Park and months of negotiations, virtually no progress has been made over the education dispute. The government and teacher’s unions are in gridlock, and students are missing more and more class time as job action ramps up. Do students feel the same as they did a year ago, and how are the strikes affecting them?

Striking teachers hold No Cuts to Education Flags

When Raider Weekly asked students why the teachers were striking, we gathered a mixed response. One Grade 10 student said, “Yes, teachers are striking because Doug Ford wants to encourage online courses, bigger class sizes and cut teacher’s jobs.” Another Grade 12 student expressed similar sentiments. “I feel informed because I know of the main issues such as e-learning and increasing class sizes,” he said. 

Some students painted a simpler picture of the situation. “All I know is that it’s about Doug Ford,” one Grade 10 student said. 

As proved in last year’s walkout, many students agree with, and support the teacher’s decision for striking. “I support the teachers because at the end of the day they are doing it all for us, and the cuts will lower our quality of education,” one Grade 10 student remarked. 

 “Personally, I am striking to maintain our current class sizes, and so that e-learning is not made mandatory for all students,” one teacher stated. 

Raider Weekly was also interested in learning how the strikes have directly affected the students. 

“Right now, the strikes are not really affecting me because it’s the start of the semester, but if it was to go on into the later months of semester two, then it would be hard for me as a Grade 12 student,” one senior expressed. 

A Grade 11 IB student appears to have no problem with the strikes, telling Raider Weekly, “I am honestly okay with them, because all my classes this semester are very independently geared.”

Juniors seem to have more trouble keeping up with their courses. As one student told us,  “A couple of my classes are moving quite faster because of all the days we have missed, so it can become quite challenging.” 

Another student seems to be enjoying her free time off. “I get to stay at home and do my homework and catch up,” she tells Raider Weekly. “As a pre-IB student it gets hard to make time after school, but with these strikes, I actually have the time to catch up and even sometimes get ahead!” 

Many students were right about the battle between the teacher’s unions and the government. When asked by Raider Weekly exactly why they were striking, teachers passionately came forward to advocate against the cuts. 

 “Personally, I am striking to maintain our current class sizes, and so that e-learning is not made mandatory for all students,” one teacher stated. 

Another teacher had more to add, telling Raider Weekly, “Teachers belonging to all unions are striking due to the province’s proposed cuts, and current cuts to education, which increase class sizes, takes teachers away from teaching special education, as well as with these proposed e-learning courses.” They continued adding, “We are striking because it is not equitable to students that either don’t have access to technology at home, as well as we don’t get that face-to-face time with students that have learning needs. It just limits that one-on-one relationship with students in the classroom.”

Along with expressing their reasons for striking, teachers revealed how they felt the loss of class time was affecting their teaching. 

“If we look back one year ago, there were three snow days and three bus cancellation days, which put a real dent into the flow of the start of the second semester. So in the same way, this is making the first few units for the courses I teach a little more hectic because we are playing catch up, and there’s a little more homework that needs to be done, so it’s impacting students as well as their extra curricular in or out of school. It’s inconvenient for everyone,” one teacher explained. 

An educator offered a logical explanation on what the proposed increase in class sizes would mean for students and teachers alike, “With an average of 22, we already have 30 kids in many of our classes. When they increase the average to 28, that doesn’t just mean we get six extra kids in our classes. Some of the classes need to remain small based on the needs of the students, therefore, some of the other classes would need to run larger. We would also lose a significant number of teachers in the building, which means certain courses would no longer be offered.”

It is becoming more and more evident that the increasing number of strike days will bring a heavier burden to students and teachers across Ontario. However, with the government’s most recent concession, will the teacher’s unions finally reach an agreement with the government, or will the job action go on?