The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has declared another one day strike for next week. Martin Regg Cohn writes:
A one-day strike in public high schools is a declaration of warning.
A second day is a declaration of war.
With this week’s province-wide warning shot, and next week’s targeted strike planned for Toronto schools, it’s tempting to conclude that Ontario’s Tories and teachers are fighting to the finish. Right down to the last student and parent in the province.
We've been here before. Back in the Mike Harris years, the premier -- a failed elementary teacher, who spent three years in the profession before he dropped out to become a golf pro at his father's golf course -- appointed a high school dropout, John Snoblen, to the Ministry of Education. Snoblen immediately declared that he was going to revolutionize education in Ontario. And the best way to do that, he said, was to "create a crisis." He proceeded to do just that.
And now we have another education crisis:
Yes it’s about budgets, because billions of dollars are at stake. But the undeniable reality is that this time, it’s not just about money but pedagogy.
The Tories have grudgingly admitted as much — by backing down on their pre-emptive moves against teachers which seemed designed to provoke the latest strike action. Even before both sides sat down at the bargaining table, Doug Ford’s Tories set it to blow up:
Ahead of negotiations, the government announced thousands of teaching jobs were out the window, thanks to four mandatory online courses for students (an untested innovation never attempted on that scale); and major increases in class sizes (an unwanted degradation that the government falsely claimed was welcomed by employers and parents).
In the ensuing uproar, Ford replaced his first education minister, Lisa Thompson, with rookie politician Stephen Lecce, who quietly walked back the regressive and provocative moves. But it was only a tactical retreat, in which the government tried to split the difference.
Instead of pushing average class sizes up by roughly six students, the government countered with three; instead of four online courses, it recalibrated to two. This wasn’t so much a concession as an admission of contrition for failing to think things through in the first place.
Lecce now complains the unions won’t meet him halfway. But if the government cuts its cuts in half, that’s not much of an improvement, as the opposition New Democrats keep pointing out. They have a point.
Reacting to the strike action, the government is casting teachers as money-obsessed: In fact, the Tories obsessed over money before talks even began, announcing a one-per-cent wage freeze across the public service (the OSSTF wants only a cost-of-living increase).
Teachers are asking for a 2% raise. Not unreasonable, considering that "the provincial government’s own statistics bear this out, showing the average collective bargaining increase in Ontario was 1.9 per cent so far this year — and even higher in the private sector, at 2.1 per cent."
No. What this is all about is what it was all about twenty-five years ago: In Ontario, the uneducated are waging a war on education.
Image: HuffPost Canada