With teachers threatening strike action again, does Ontario need school choice?

Talks of a teachers' union strike persist in the Ontario education sector, as ongoing negotiations between the ETFO and government appear to have stalled ahead of the new school year.

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The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is soliciting member votes for potential strike action as bargaining between Education Minister Stephen Lecce and the union begins to crumble.

An ETFO media release details how negotiations have stalled and accuses the government of refusing to engage in meaningful discussion around education priorities, which they list as improved supports for students with special needs, violence in schools, compensation, fair and transparent hiring practices, workload and working conditions and smaller class sizes.

Minister Lecce published a statement on the potential strike action, saying it generates unnecessary anxiety for parents and students.

The Ontario government has been heavily criticized for unjustifiably keeping kids out of in-person learning for the longest duration of any developed nation throughout the COVID pandemic, a move that Premier Doug Ford appeared proud of.

Now, Lecce claims that his goal is to continue providing students with stability.

Lecce recently introduced The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act which grants him new legislative powers intended to increase school board accountability and empower the voices of parents, supposedly to pressure school boards to get back to basics.

Yet halfway through the summer break ETFO president Karen Brown referred to the growing number of parents concerned with the quality of education in the public system as transphobic.

While the school system in Ontario becomes inherently hazardous, with violent occurrences up 70% since 2017, it appears that the public system is failing both students and educators.

Ontario has over two million students in kindergarten to Grade 12, with three times as many students enrolled in school than any other province.

And those students have been subjected to persistent school closures and strike action since the work-to-rule campaign began in late 2019 that saw four major teachers' unions across Ontario advocate against school budget cuts and for things like smaller class sizes.

Is it time for parents to demand school choice in Ontario, where parents have the freedom and financial support to send their children to a private, charter, public school of their choice or, of course, educate them at home?

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  • By Tamara Ugolini


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