Toronto Parents Speak for Themselves in Defence of Public Education

Coinciding with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s province-wide day-long strike, parents and elementary school students held a rally at Queen's Park on Tuesday, February 11, to publicly speak out against the anti-social cuts to public education in Ontario and to stand firmly with teachers and education workers.

The action was organized by Ontario Parents Against Cuts to Education, a network of concerned and active parents in Toronto to demand that the Ford Government stop speaking in their name in order to undermine the just struggle that Ontario teachers are waging to defend their conditions of work and the public education system.

Parents and students spoke at the rally and expressed their unequivocal support for teachers and the public education system. One woman with two children in elementary school pointed out that public opinion is with the teachers and as a parent she knows first hand the vital and important role that teachers play in Ontario to educate the young and prepare them for the future. She noted that it was unacceptable that the government is attacking the teachers and education workers in the name of parents and putting forth spurious claims about defending the public school system.

Another parent chastised the media for attempting to isolate the teachers and misrepresent their demands which are just and fair. Several grade 5 and grade 6 students took the mic to say why they had come to the rally, voicing their concern for their own education and that of future students in Ontario.

At the rally, Parents Against Cuts to Public Education circulated an open letter addressed to Premier Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce noting that they have been speaking to the media and at public events and through social media about "what parents want" and saying that parents are getting "impatient" with teachers and making other claims. The letter takes Ford and Lecce to task for these remarks pointing out that they have had "no significant dialogue" with Ontario parents and therefore cannot speak in their name. The letter also warns them that parents will not be "shut out of this conversation" where decisions "your government makes do not just impact student's academic futures -- they affect our children's physical and mental health." Many in attendance signed the letter.

The letter makes specific demands to immediately stop cuts to special education funding affecting the most at-need students; to reduce the number of students in each classroom to improve support for all students; and to hire more Education Assistants (EA) to provide more classroom support and management. The letter also calls for the government to make e-learning optional and not mandatory because it means less teacher support to students and paves the way for further privatization of public education. The letter also decries the loss of course options for secondary school students and the potential cuts to the one teacher, one early childhood educator (ECE) model kindergarten currently in place.

The letter also informs Ford and his Education Minister: "As parents in the public school system, we have witnessed the immeasurable impact an educator can have on a child's life. We value teachers, EAs, ECEs, and support staff, and are incredibly grateful they're fighting for our kids. A strike is inconvenient, but the alternative is far worse."

Parents have been organizing across the province in support of the striking teachers and education workers. The battle for public opinion on the question of public education in Ontario is raging. The parents are not taken in by the claims of the government that the changes it is trying to implement are in the interest of public education or their children. They are speaking from experience and with conviction, demanding the government listen to them rather than "speaking for them."

(Photos: WF)

This article was published in

Number 5 - February 12, 2020

Article Link:
Toronto Parents Speak for Themselves in Defence of Public Education


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