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Teachers unions say new policy undermines collective bargaining

In a joint statement, the unions say the minister of education 'continues to introduce sweeping changes without providing the necessary time and resources for proper implementation.
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(stock photo)

Two of the major teacher's federations have come together to voice their concern over a new memorandum released by the Ford government. 

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), the unions representing more than 125,000 teachers and education workers in publicly funded schools across Ontario, have released the following statement in response to the new Policy/Program Memorandum 168 – Reading Instruction and Early Reading Screening (PPM 168), which was released Friday without notice by the Ford Conservative government.

"Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly claimed that 'stability is critical to Ontario students,' but his government continues to introduce sweeping changes without providing the necessary time and resources for proper implementation," the combined ETFO/OECTA release stated.  

"These changes will violate collective agreements when the new requirements mandated through policy memorandum are implemented, ignoring the collective bargaining rights of the professionals who care for and teach students across Ontario."

Union officials say this issue has been a topic of discussion during the current round of bargaining.

"By arbitrarily introducing this new policy, the government has once again circumvented the collective bargaining process rather than engaging in meaningful discussions and good faith bargaining with the professionals who know and understand the students in their care," the release stated. 

"The Ford Conservative government and Minister Lecce do not appear to be genuinely interested in doing what is best for students, nor do they seem concerned about stability in education. If they were, they would value the professionalism of all educators, respect collective bargaining rights, and ensure that adequate resources and time are available to all students and educators."

The Unions say the chronic underfunding of public education from this government continues to short-change students.

"Implementing a screener for early reading without providing the necessary resources, training, and other supports will leave vulnerable students behind, and will do nothing to truly address the issue of early literacy," the release continued. 

"The government must keep these issues where they belong: at the bargaining table. We once again call on the Ford Conservative government to drop the 'spin,' and instead work collaboratively and meaningfully with frontline educators and to make the real, sustained investments in publicly funded education needed, so that all students have the learning environment they deserve.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lecce sent an email to BayToday in response.

“Our government understands that the status quo is not acceptable and is determined to lift standards and outcomes in Ontario’s education system when it comes to reading, writing, and math skills," writes Grace Lee.

"That is why Ontario announced, following Ontario’s Human Rights Report in February 2022, a new reading screener for all students in Senior Kindergarten to Grade 2, as well as an overhaul of the language curriculum, as recommended by organizations like Dyslexia Canada. This September, students will benefit from an investment of $650 million more than last year, the hiring of 2,000 more specialized literacy and math educators, and a new language curriculum that follows the evidence - including phonics, cursive writing, and critical thinking skills.”