Marit Stiles says what she suspected all along is true.
The New Democrat Education critic was reacting to a Toronto Star report that said the Ontario government’s massive consultations on education showed “virutally no support” for larger class sizes.
The Star said information revealed on Tuesday at an Ontario Labour Relations Board hearing indicated concerns about the impact of larger high school classes was raised during two public consultations by school boards, students, Black educators and directors of education.
Stiles told Barrie 360 news she and the NDP have been pushing the Ford government to release the findings of their one million dollar consultations for months now without success.
“They kept referring to the fact Ontarians support their plan to cut classrooms and increase class sizes and impose this mandatory e-learning plan.”
The MPP for Davenport will be at the Barrie Public Library on Thursday, where in a release, the NDP says there will be discussion about the impact of Doug Ford’s education cuts on children, families and educators.
Stiles says Education Minister Stephen Lecce has used a lot of excuses why he could not release details of the government’s consultations, such as how it would impede negotiations with teachers’ unions.
“If this government is using class sizes as a bargaining chip in negotiations with anyone, the people of the province have been very clear they don’t want these cuts.”
Last Friday, for the first time since the 1990s, all four teachers’ unions held a one-day strike, shuttering schools in the province.
Stiles says it’s a sad state and she lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Ford government.
“Doug Ford, right out of the gates, after their election, they started calling teachers’ unions thugs.”
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board accusing the province of bargaining in bad faith because an increase in class sizes was announced during the negotiating period.
The original spike in high school classes was from 22 to 28 students, but that has been rolled back to 25.
As for the government’s claim the teachers’ unions are demanding a two per cent wage hike when the province has held civil servants to an across-the-board one per cent increase, Stiles deflected, saying she wasn’t at the bargaining table.
“The conversations I have had with teachers and other educators and unions is the most concern is about the size of those classrooms and this risky mandatory e-learning.”
Stiles believes Ontario’s publicly funded education system is strong but says the cuts being proposed by the Ford government will be devastating.
“Parents are stressed. Students are worried about the time they are missing from classes and teachers want to be in the classes teaching. The government is taking this province in a sad direction.”
The education forum is from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.