Education advocate warns elementary teachers risk losing all support
Ontario’s elementary school teachers risk losing whatever public support they still have as their boycott of extracurricular activities drags into the spring term, says one education advocate.
After the Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation recently announced that high school teachers could resume extracurricular activities on a voluntary basis, all eyes were on the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, waiting to see if they would follow suit.
But on Thursday, the ETFO said it would advise teachers to continue their protest spurred by legislation that led to the imposition of new contracts late last year.
“Goodwill is a wonderful thing and we have the deepest respect for the people now on the other side of that table, but we need to turn these conversations into concrete action,” Sam Hammond, president of the EFTO told CTV News.
Annie Kidder, executive director of the parent-led public school system advocacy group People For Education, told CTV’s Canada AM that it’s understandable teachers are angry, but they may now find themselves stuck in a corner.
“They haven’t figured out a way to go, ‘we are really angry, we think this was really wrong, but we’re willing to take this step’ and the high school teachers were able to get themselves there,” she said in an interview Friday.
As the protest drags on, the union risks losing support from the public, Kidder said.
“It’s not like contract negotiations over your car plant,” she said. “This is one of the few times where, in a contract negotiation, kids can be directly affected.
“So it’s a weird kind of negotiation – how do you keep your hardline if that’s what you want to do and not lose support because there’s the little child that wants to play soccer, and they can’t,” she said.
The head of the EFTO said he needs more concrete promises from Premier Kathleen Wynne, not just vague talk about the next round of bargaining.
The union, however, won’t say what actions they’d like the ruling Liberals to take, or what their concerns are.
Education Minister Liz Sandals said she’s disappointed that extracurricular activities won’t be returning to the classroom, but pleased the union wants to keep the lines of communication open.
The Liberals sparked anger and controversy when they imposed contracts on teachers in January, cutting benefits and freezing wages for many instructors.
In protest, the unions urged members to stop all voluntary work at the schools.
With files from The Canadian Press