Volume 91, Issue 54

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

Jack Frosh


Teachers set to step into ring

By Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

The controversial education reform Bill 160 was swiftly made into law on Monday, but those opposed to the bill insist the fight is still not over.

The bill was passed with a vote of 81-48 and will transfer classroom size, teacher preparation time and the length of the school year into the government's control.

Bill 160 proved to be one of the most controversial reform acts introduced by the Ontario government as it prompted a two-week long province-wide teachers strike on Oct. 27. As over two million students were out of the classroom, teachers fought for support of their political protest. Now, the unions insist the fight will continue as they investigate ways to prove the bill, as law, is unconstitutional.

Eileen Lennon, president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation, said the province's teachers will take court action in the near future. "We will charter our case around three issues – funding, the inability of school boards to raise taxes and the removal of principals and vice-principals from the [teachers'] federations," she said.

Lennon added the unions will be monitoring the government's implementation of the bill and will continue to wait for a new funding model from the Ministry of Ed

ucation. She added they will ensure the government does not abuse their newly attained regulatory power.

Provincial Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty will also continue to fight the bill and promises if elected in the next provincial election, he will repeal Bill 160 and introduce a new education reform bill, said press secretary Duncan Fulton.

The Ontario College of Teachers, however, is pleased with the passing of the bill and believes it makes no changes to the profession or certification of teachers, said director of communications Brad Ross. It was the College who made the recommendation to the Ministry to remove a clause from the bill that would allow non-certified professionals to be hired as teachers.

Western's dean of education Allen Pearson said the passing of the bill will have numerous repercussions on the education system. He explained issues such as job prospects, salaries and working conditions will be altered under the bill.

Pearson added the overall morale among teachers will no doubt drop significantly as a result of these changes. He predicts teachers will no longer have the enthusiasm or desire to provide services such as extra-curricular activities for students and may even take early retirement as a result of the future changes to education.

"This is unfortunate, particularly for new teachers who are enthusiastic about entering a teaching career," he said. Pearson added Western's education students are currently in a re-scheduled week of practicum due to the strike.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997