Government Plan Freezes Classroom Sizes, Invests in Special Education, and Holds the Line on Wages and Benefits
TORONTO — Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, welcomes the government’s additional, reasonable proposals at the negotiating table to fight for the priorities of students and parents, with a single focus on ending this impasse.
During the negotiation process, the government tabled proposals with each of the education sector unions, which included substantive moves on lower than proposed but not lower than on the ground class sizes, support for students' unique learning needs, full-day Kindergarten, as well as reasonable proposals on merit-based hiring and compensation.
Despite these consistently reasonable moves, the teachers' unions continue to reject the government's student-centric proposals while simultaneously focusing on significant increases in compensation, particularly enriching generous benefits schemes.
On Tuesday, the government is announcing the most recent proposal put forward to all teacher unions, with a focus on getting a deal:
- A commitment to a funded maximum average class size of 23 in secondary schools - leaving them essentially the same as 2019-2020;
- Replace the previous Local Priorities Fund with a new, student-centric Supports for Students Fund, which allows boards more flexibility to address students' unique learning needs, including special education, mental health, and STEM education;
- The Supports for Students Fund would continue at the same funding amount of the Local Priorities Fund.
- A commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten; and
- Reasonable increases in wages and compensation.
The government is also announcing a policy to give parents the ability to opt their children out of the mandatory online courses required for graduation.
The government is calling on the unions to cancel future strikes during this period to allow for good faith bargaining. Moreover, the government continues to make the case for the advancement of merit-based hiring.
"The time to end this is now. Parents are frustrated, students are losing educational days, and teachers are uncertain about their future," said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. "I am asking the teachers' unions to return to the table, in light of this reasonable offer, to reach the agreement parents want, and students deserve."
These proposals demonstrate the government's commitment to getting students back in the classroom, investing in our students' potential while supporting the school boards' planning processes.
"This is a balanced plan that reflects the priorities of students and parents, maintaining class sizes, investing in students' unique learning needs, and holds the line on the reasonable increase in wages and compensation we are offering."
"If the unions reject this most recent, student-centric offer, parents should rightly be asking what exactly are the priorities of the unions," concluded Lecce.
“This is another reasonable step in the right direction, to ensure that students remain in class,” said Smith. “It is time for teacher union federations to work with all parties in good faith to reach a deal and put an end to continued strike action that disproportionately affects our children.”
- The Government’s plan includes no changes to class size for our youngest learners in Junior Kindergarten through grade 3. There are no changes to class size for students in grades 4 to 8. Provincial funding, and legislated class size restrictions, would change for grades 9-12 to reflect an average class size of 23. This is effectively the same as 2019-20.
- The Ministry of Education provides the framework, funding, and flexibility needed to support school boards in meeting class size requirements for all grades across the province. Local school boards are responsible for class organization.
- The Ministry of Education will continue to move forward on a made-in-Ontario online learning program that will ensure student flexibility, technological literacy and a wide selection of
- courses. By expanding and modernizing online learning, students will have greater flexibility, more choice, and will graduate with the skills needed to enter the workforce.
- The Ministry of Education understands that parents know best how their children can adapt and learn through online courses, by giving parents the option to opt out of the mandatory online courses required for graduation. As students prepare to enter Grade 11 and 12, parents will have the opportunity to engage with their child’s guidance counsellor to determine whether online learning is appropriate and beneficial for their child.
- The Supports for Students Fund will provide a total of $148 million, an amount equivalent to the remaining amount of the previously negotiated Local Priorities Fund, in the last round of bargaining.