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A statement from OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof on the Ford government’s fall economic update

There was never a credible justification for the Ford government’s plan to remove one in four Ontario high school teachers and critical support staff from our schools over the next four years. But even the flimsy excuses the Premier and the Minister of Education have been offering up until now have been completely discredited by the government’s very own economic update, delivered this afternoon.

It’s clear from the outlook provided by the Minister of Finance today that the government either willfully misrepresented or failed to assess properly the fiscal situation they inherited. Either way – whether they were dishonest or just inept – it’s now abundantly clear that there is no fiscal excuse for tearing the heart out of our world-class education system and jeopardizing student success for generations to come.

Barely two months into the current school year, we are already seeing the chaos this government’s measures are causing in our schools. In some schools, students are crammed into classrooms with 40 or more of their peers. We have seen school boards in which specialized supports and services are no longer available to students with special needs. We see grade nine students with gaps in their timetables because courses aren’t available, and we see students in senior grades who are unable to access the courses they’ll need to graduate. This is only the beginning. Over the next four years, as the government’s plans roll out, these problems will only multiply.

Why is all this happening? Why are these students encountering these serious barriers to success? It’s happening because the Ford government insisted it was necessary to tackle a massive deficit that never truly existed.

Public education is possibly the best investment in the future that any government can make. It’s time for the Premier and the Minister of Education to end this charade, reverse these misguided and entirely unjustified cuts, and stop using Ontario’s students as pawns in a cynical political game.

OSSTF/FEESO and the government have several days of bargaining scheduled over the next two weeks. In light of this economic update, we hope the Minister of Education will finally reverse his government’s direction and instruct his team to come to the table prepared to negotiate an agreement that is good for Ontario’s education system, students, and the future economy into which they will graduate.

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The upcoming provincial election is an opportunity to strengthen public education-- the cornerstone of a strong society--and create a more equitable and prosperous future for Ontario. Ontario’s public