Strike looms for teachers
By Sara Marett
Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation President Earl Manners visited Western's faculty of education yesterday to educate tomorrow's teachers about provincial government plans for the public school system.
In the wake of Minister of Education and Training John Snobelen's introduction of Bill 160 the Education Quality Improvement Act, teacher federations are threatening to strike if their concerns about the bill are not addressed this week as the bill is presented for a second reading in the House of Commons.
The bill includes reform to areas such as class size, less preparation time for teachers and increased teaching time, contracting out to the private sector for such areas as visual arts, physical education and control of education tax rates.
The bill is designed to provide the highest standards of student achievement with the most efficient cost to the taxpayers, said Peter Hickey, communications assistant for the Ministry of Education and Training.
Manners, however, presented a different picture of the bill to education students and does not dismiss the probability of a province-wide teachers strike in the near future.
As he addressed an auditorium of education students, he applauded them for entering the field of teaching at such a volatile time.
"Teachers are on the endangered species list," he said, referring to the 10,000 jobs he feels will be lost if the bill is passed. These cuts are for one purpose only to help cut another $1 billion from education after the government has already cut $800 million, he added.
Hickey said the funding model for the new legislation will be released in early November. "Minister Snobelen is committed to fund whatever it takes for higher student achievement balancing the budget does not a play a role."
Manners explained the bill outlines a proposal for school boards to hire "specialists" in fields such as visual arts, music, guidance or physical education, which would also attribute to a decrease in teaching positions.
"Why do we need private sector, uncertified 'specialists' when we already have specialists who know how to teach?" he asked, adding Bill 160 is really about privatizing the school system.
Hickey explained the legislation is doing everything to reaffirm the public system. He said the bill only offers the flexibility of hiring from the private sector to offer students a diverse area of talent. "We agree that professional teachers should be used in the classroom," he said.
If the bill is passed and there is a province-wide strike, students who are participating in practicum teaching will be effected, Manners said. "Most of us would prefer not to have a confrontation of this kind, but the government has gone too far too fast," he said.
As students prepare for their practise teaching session beginning Oct. 14, they are nervous about the impending strike action. "We're really in limbo right now, we don't know exactly how a strike would effect our practicum, but it is very scary to think about," said Althouse College student Stacey McClacherty.