Teachers rally at MPP’s constituency office
Smith tells educators he can’t say much about what’s going on
MPP Dave Smith said he couldn’t address in detail the concerns of 30 teachers who rallied outside his constituency office on Thursday over cuts to education.
Smith said the provincial government is negotiating a contract with Ontario’s teachers, and it limits what he can say to those who brought to him concerns about ballooning class sizes or violence in the classroom.
“Unfortunately, I’m very limited as to what I can talk about, because we’re going through the collective bargaining process right now,” Smith said.
“And as someone who represents the Crown, I cannot say much about the negotiations.”
The rally started at about 3:30 p.m. with a dozen teachers.
Within a half-hour, more had come to join them adding up to about 30.
Teachers from high schools, elementary schools, supply teachers and students in the faculty of education from Trent University were all at the rally.
Starting Monday (Nov. 18), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation could be in a position to begin work-to-rule action.
Meanwhile, public elementary school teachers in Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes plan to begin a work-to-rule action Nov. 26.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) issued a news release Thursday stating that means teachers won’t carry out administrative duties such as filling out report cards until they have a contract — their last deal expired on Aug. 31.
Key issues for ETFO include resources for kids with special needs, reassurance that the government won’t cancel fullday kindergarten and a plan to address issues such as violence in schools.
Jen Deck, president of Kawartha Pine Ridge ETFO for occasional teachers, said at the rally that Grade 1 and 2 teachers are increasingly becoming the targets of violence from their young pupils.
She said she receives regular reports from teachers who’ve been punched, hit or kicked in the classroom by their pupils.
Deck said incidents like these are on the rise — and she thinks smaller class sizes and funding for educational assistants would help.
“We need those supports,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government also proposes to require all student teachers to pass a standardized math test.
That concerns Brittney Vandersel, who is in teachers’ college at Trent University.
Vandersel is the co-chair of the Ontario Teacher Candidate Council, a new group of student teachers from across Ontario who want to speak up on issues such as the math test.
She said on Thursday the government plans to test math skills, math pedagogy and on pedagogy in general — but that’s been the extent of the information available from Queen’s Park.
Faculties of education aren’t being told anything more, Vandersel said, leaving prospective teachers wondering how to prepare for a test they’ll have to take, starting in March, as they apply for certification.
“We’re going into this blind,” she said. “We’re here to speak up. We want resources, we want answers, and we want equitable testing and assessment.”
Vandersel asked Smith about this, but he added this is also an issue he cannot discuss.
About 30 high school, elementary, student and supply teachers shouted and called for an end to education cuts on Thursday.
Teachers from high schools, elementary schools, supply teachers and students in the faculty of education from Trent University talked MPP Dave Smith outside his constituency office on Water Street.