Letters to the editor: Time to stand up for public education

Students, parents and staff at Kimberley Public School took part in the June 6 Walk-In for Education rally. Photo: Submitted.

Parents in Ontario: it’s time to wake up.

Our own kids have started to lead the way. On April 4, more than 100,000 students walked out of more than 600 schools to protest recent education changes.

Educators, support staff, and school board trustees have all been vocal about education cuts as well. On April 6, more than 30,000 Ontarians filled Queen’s Park to protest education cuts. School board trustees across the province have written letters of concern to the Minister of Education. More than 50 parent councils have passed motions at council meetings speaking out against the proposed changes.

Most recently, more than 300 school communities participated in the June 6t Walk-in for Education. Thousands of parents, students, school board trustees, teachers, education workers, and their unions joined forces at their local schools to show unity in the fight for education. Some schools danced, some chanted, some made signs and signed petitions. The energy and sense of community at the walk-ins were incredible.

What exactly was everyone fighting for? Here’s a short timeline:

The Ford government wasted no time attacking public education as soon as they came into office. Almost immediately, they cancelled the $100 million school repair fund, scrapped the Indigenous curriculum rewrite, dropped the updated sex ed curriculum, and cut funding for programs for vulnerable youth.

Then came the announcements about the uncertainty of the full day kindergarten program, changes in autism funding, mandatory e-learning, and class size increases.

The chaos and uncertainty has had far-reaching implications.

There are images on social media of high school students crammed in hallways as they wait to re-select courses due to course cancellation. This is because class size increases mean less time with teachers in crowded classrooms, and fewer course options.

Skilled trades, STEM classes, art and music programs, electives, and support for gifted students and French Immersion are all threatened in various school boards. These impacts will be felt even more strongly in rural school districts.

Although Ontario’s education system ranks highly worldwide, our schools have already been failing some families. Indigenous, black and other racialized children; queer, trans, and non-binary youth; and students with special needs face systemic barriers in education that these attacks will worsen. We need to fight for schools that all our children will thrive in.

Ford’s attrition fund, which doesn’t cover support staff, attempts to distract from the fact that he is permanently removing thousands of educators and classes from our schools.

In three years, when the attrition fund has dried up, almost a quarter of all high school classes in the province will have disappeared, leaving our kids with fewer options and fewer pathways. Rather than addressing our revenue problem, Ford is targeting social spending, the cost of which is lower than the national average. These cuts come at a heavy cost not only for our kids, but also for the future of our province.

Ontario, it’s time to tell the Premier and the Education Minister how we really feel about education cuts. Email premier@ontario.ca and minister.edu@ontario.ca, and ‘cc’ your local MPP. Talk to your friends and family about the importance of public education.

Visit Ontario Families For Public Education on Facebook to stay up to date on education announcements.

We all want a bright future for our children. We want to drop our children off at schools that have the means to provide a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment.

The best part is that this type of education system is within Ontario’s reach. When families, students, and educators work together, we can stand up for the public education our kids deserve. Together we can win this.

Joy Henderson, Scarborough Families for Public Education, Toronto

Charlene Dunstan, East End Parents for Public Education, Toronto

Becky Wallace, Ontario Families for Public Education

Kylie Balogh, Waterdown Families for Public Education

Rachael Little, Oxford County Voices for Education

Crystal Bevens-Leblanc, Limestone Families for Public Education

Jessica Lyons, West End Parents for Public Education, Toronto

Sarah Declerck, Toronto Centre Parents for Public Education

Stacey Guymer, Perth County Families for Education

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