New act could spell strike
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
A new education act introduced by the federal government on Monday includes a number of recommendations which could translate into a province-wide strike by teachers.
The Education Quality Improvement Act introduced by the Minister of Education and Training John Snobelen is based on a mandate of improved quality of education for elementary and secondary school students at a reduced cost to the taxpayers.
In a press release yesterday, Snobelen said the act "was the result of months of consultation with contributions from the Education Improvement Commission as well as many others." He added the legislation will pave the way to a more streamlined school system for administration.
The bill addresses the issues of standardized class size, increased teaching time, the use of non-teaching professionals in areas such as music and guidance and control of eduction tax rates with reviews of the funding system to ensure fairness.
"The government believes there is a need to improve the quality of education but this is not the proper tool to do it," said Patrick Dunne, director of education for the London/Middlesex Catholic School Board.
Dunne said he is happy with certain aspects of the legislation, such as providing equity of funding for school boards, but questions the idea of allowing unqualified individuals to teach.
"Staffing unqualified teachers for areas like music and guidance may reduce the cost to the education system but it will not improve the quality," Dunne said.
Peter Chapman, president of the London district of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said the government is making a concentrated effort to make people believe there is something wrong with the public education system.
"The government is constantly trying to compare our school system with others but how can you compare the multicultural society of Canada with the elite of other countries?" Chapman said.
A meeting in Toronto tomorrow will allow the five Ontario school federations time to discuss the legislation and decide on a course of action. According to Mike Moffatt, president of the London district of the Ontario Public School Teachers Federation, this could lead to a possible strike.
"[The government] has crossed a line in the sand and are looking for a confrontation," he said, adding the legislation is unacceptable to teachers in this province.
According to Moffatt, a cut in funding to school boards will force them to look to corporate sponsorship for funding and will result in privatization of public schools which may be exactly what the government wants.
Allen Pearson, dean of the faculty of education at Western, said the legislation "centralizes decision-making and takes the power away from the educators." He added school boards will not be in the position to be responsive to specific needs.
As for job opportunities for graduates of the faculty of education, Pearson said he is not concerned because despite the cutbacks, there are many other teachers in the province who will soon be retiring.