Education Minister Stephen Lecce dropped a bombshell at Queen’s Park this afternoon when he pulled the plug on two key planks of the Ford government that has caused labour disruption at Ontario’s schools including rotating and province-wide strikes.
Lecce said the government will increase class sizes at secondary schools from the current 22.9 to an average of 23 students per classroom.
The mandatory e-learning policy is also being changed.
The government had said high school students would be required to complete two online courses in order to get their diploma.
Now, parents will have the option to opt-out on behalf of their kids.
Lecce said current classroom sizes at high schools this year will remain the same come September 2020.
This isn’t the first time the Ford government has pulled back on class sizes.
The original announcement was to bump the average high school class size to 28, before rolling it back to 25 and now settling for 23.
In the area of e-learning, the government first said students would have to complete four mandatory online courses in order to graduate, before being forced to cut that requirement to two, and now today’s opt-out clause.
Lecce is asking teachers’ unions to call off planned province-wide or rotating strikes on Thursday.
In a statement issued before the minister’s announcement, Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, said the union is willing to accept the government’s one per cent wage increase in exchange for lower class sizes and the elimination of mandatory e-learning.
But despite the apparent about-face by the Ford government, the union is going ahead with Thursday’s province-wide strike.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling from the minister’s announcement.
Union boss Harvey Bischof called Lecce’s announcement an “amateur hour move.”
He suggested what the education minister said was not a proposal, it was a press conference.
The OSSTF has targeted several boards for a one-day rotating strike on Thursday including the Simcoe County District School Board.
At the Simcoe County District School Board, chairperson Jodi Lloyd said the minister’s announcement on high school class sizes was a positive one.
She said they have come a long way from 28 to 1 down to 23 to 1.
“We believe that class sizes are better for students that are smaller.”
While Lloyd doesn’t have all the details about the opt-out on e-learning, it sounds to her like what the Simcoe County District School Board currently does.
“The board is currently offering e-learning courses. Students can choose to take those courses if they wish or if they don’t want to they don’t have to take them.”
Lloyd thinks that’s what Lecce is offering through the opt-out.