By Sara Marett
As Ontario's teachers' federations set the table last night to discuss Bill 160 with the government, they were stood up by their dinner guests.
Yesterday, as Education Minister Dave Johnson announced he was prepared to make amendments to Bill 160, Ontario Teachers' Federation President Eileen Lennon sent a letter to Johnson, inviting him back to the bargaining table.
"I am more than prepared for my staff to meet with the unions tonight to discuss our amendments to the Bill," Johnson said yesterday in a news conference. At the 7 p.m. planned meeting, however, the government only provided one staff member to brief the federations on its amendments, not to discuss the Bill, said Marilyn Roycroft, spokesperson for the OTF.
Lennon released a statement last night saying she was very disappointed and angry the Minister would not meet to find solutions that would be in the best interests of the 2.1 million students in Ontario. "The amendments presented tonight leave the government with the tools to extract hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of teaching positions from public education," she said.
Johnson announced legislative plans yesterday to remove principals and vice-principals from the unions, as they are part of the managerial aspect of the schools and have been put in a difficult position. Lennon called this initiative vindictive and punitive.
The teachers' federations have put together a five-point plan for the Bill which they presented to the government yesterday, said Charlotte Morgan, communications officer for the OTF.
The teachers' plan urges the government to refer matters of funding for constitutional reference. It suggests transitional and school year issues could be solved through discussion with the government and that the issue of non-certified "teachers" should be investigated by the College of Teachers. The plan asks for the removal of regulatory powers on class size, teacher-student contact time and the right to strike.
The government's legislation regarding school principals was a suggestion made by the Ontario Parents' Council, an advisory body to the Ministry of Education. "We feel the principals should be accountable to the school community, rather than the unions or the boards," said OPC member Martha Harron.
Meanwhile, London parents are beginning to feel the effects of the strike as children have now missed a week of school. "I don't think about my inconvenience, I think of the inconvenience for the kids," said parent Jodi Lackten.
When asked what she thought of Mike Harris, 12-year old Becky Waldie said, "I think he's a slug."