Some Ontario parents donate strike subsidy back to education system
TORONTO -- Some parents of elementary school students affected by Monday’s strike say they will be donating the subsidy offered by the Ontario government back to the education system.
“Take the amount allotted for my child and put it back into education, where it belongs,” a parent wrote in an online petition against the Ontario Ministry of Education, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
Ahead of Monday’s one-day strike affecting elementary schools in Toronto, York Region and Ottawa, Lecce announced the Progressive Conservative government’s plan to offset the cost of childcare for parents whose children would be affected.
Families with children who are six years old and younger who attend a school-based child care centre will get $60 a day. Parents with students in kindergarten will get $40 a day and parents with students in Grade 1 up to Grade 7 will get $25 a day. As well, parents of students with special needs up to the age of 21 will get $40 a day.
The minister said that if all teachers’ unions were to withdraw service for one day, the cost of the initiative would be up to $48 million per day. Lecce also stated that by all teacher unions withdrawing service for one day the government is saving $60 million.
“What we are allocating is $48 million, a critical mass of that, back to the people of Ontario,” he said on Monday morning. “The message is clear, they should not be financially on the hook because the teacher union leaders direct their members not to show up to work.”
“A child should be in class each and every day. This government is standing with parents by putting some financial support in their pockets to help make their lives a bit more livable.”
Lecce said more than 130,000 parents across the province have signed up so far.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced Monday’s strike on Wednesday, providing the required five-day notice.
After Lecce announced the government subsidy, ETFO’s president Sam Hammond called out the government’s attempt to “bribe parents.”
Hammond said the union’s members are asking for smaller class sizes, more resources for students with special needs, protection of the kindergarten program, and fair compensation for educators.
“What we and parents are fighting for today will have an impact on the education of generations of students to come,” he said on Wednesday.
‘Stop hurting our children’
Parents of affected students echoed Hammond’s sentiment online, with one parent starting a petition calling for the government to “take the bribe money and put it back into education.”
“Show our educators your support and Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford your displeasure,” Amy Llewellyn, the creator of the online petition wrote. “Let them know that as a province, we do not accept their decisions.”
“We want money in our schools, not our pockets.”
The petition calls for 25,000 signatures and has almost reached its goal with more than 24,000 as of Monday morning.
One supporter of the petition, Tina Boardman, wrote that the ongoing strikes and work-to-rule campaigns have affected her two children living with autism.
“Sitting here watching the Ford government put out $48 million a day for child care because he doesn’t want to fix the school system… that $48 million a day would fix the school system. Stop hurting our children.”
Parents have as well expressed their desire to return the subsidy back to the education system online, outside of the petition.
Melissa Brown posted a letter she wrote to her daughter Violet’s teacher on Facebook.
“Since we support the teachers and view this as bribery from the government we will not be using this money for anything except to put it back into the school,” Melissa Brown wrote. “We would like to use our $25 towards your class.”
Brown went on to ask if there were any supplies her daughter’s teacher needed.
“We will pick it up and Violet will bring it to class,” she wrote.
More parents took to Twitter voicing the same aspiration.
A spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said on Monday morning that he is hearing a lot of frustration from parents.
“You look on social media, for example, you see the questions, you hear and see the frustration,” he said. “You see the frustration but I think there is a lot of will for the teachers as well. I think it really is a mixed-bag when it comes to this right now.”
Job action continues this week
Following ETFO’s members striking on Monday, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which represents more than 60,000 teachers and educational workers, plan to hold another job action that will close high schools at nine boards Tuesday, including the TDSB.
As well on Tuesday, elementary teachers in Grand Erie, Trillium Lakelands, Renfrew, and Superior-Greenstone school boards will walk off the job.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, which represents 45,000 teachers from kindergarten to Grade 12 will hold a one-day, province-wide strike Tuesday that will affect elementary and secondary schools in the English Catholic school system.
On Wednesday, ETFO says that all teachers at Thames Valley, Rainbow and Rainy River school boards will walk off the job and all teachers will hold a one-day strike Thursday at the Avon-Maitland, Halton, Niagara and Lakehead school boards.
ETFO has also announced another one-day strike on Friday at Ontario North East and Bluewater school boards.