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"If Teachers Were Doing This For The Money, They Wouldn't Have Hung On This Long!"

Updated on March 6, 2020
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Day 5 Of Ontario High School Educators Strike


Teachers Aren't Striking For Money

I was talking with my 15-and-a-half-year-old daughter this morning on our way into school this morning, as we often do. She's basically been paying attention to what's been happening with the strike action on two counts: she is affected to an extent as the strike day means a day off school for her, where she gets to sleep in and ensure she's on top of her schoolwork while still ensuring there's time for video games, and she understands that if I am on strike for the day, the only money I receive is my strike pay, which then impacts my family financially and therefore, in the long run, will impact her and her sister.

My daughter gets what's happening. She understands that while she may not be impacted by the e-learning requirement that currently is on the books, her sister definitely will be. She understands that while she's currently in large classes due to class caps - currently, 34 students in an academic class - the removal of class caps will be devastating for her and her colleagues regardless of what the student-teacher ratio will be.

She also understands that when negotiations happen, they need to happen with the people you're negotiating with in front of you and not in front of the media.

She also understands basic math. She knows that one percent is not a lot of money - a few hundred dollars at best - and that by year three of this contract, when it actually happens, there are many teachers who will not regain the monies lost due to strike action. She understands that elementary school educators have lost thousands as a result of the strike action that they've undertaken and that high school educators are not that far behind, given they are only one strike day behind their elementary school counterparts.

In her own words, "If teachers were doing this for the money, they wouldn't have hung on this long."

In just a simple sentence, she perfectly encapsulated what teachers are not doing. If this was truly about the money, we probably would have stopped, because at this point, we're losing more than we're gaining financially.

We are hanging on because we understand how devastating larger class sizes will be for kids at all levels. We know that the kids with learning issues and special needs will truly be left behind with these cuts, and we also know that while Stephen Lecce might have talked a good game at his March 3, 2020 press conference, there's nothing that's been put forward at the table. As a result, we have nothing to vote on, and nothing to do except to keep pushing the government to get to the bargaining table instead of telling the media they put proposals forward when in reality, they haven't.

There's only so much belief we can put into things people say, particularly when those people have not once backed up their assertions with fact or have consistently tried to bully educators through insults. In short, educators have been the ones trying to ensure fair negotiations while trying to maintain the high-quality education that we currently have. We can only put so much stock into what Lecce and other conservative Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) have said because this is a group that only released the official results of their million-dollar consultation because they were forced to do so by the Ontario Labor Relations Board.

I am continuing to fight because my kids deserve to opt in to e-learning if they so choose, not opt out because it's being forced on them.

I am continuing to fight because my kids deserve better than classes of 40, which could potentially happen with no class caps in place.

Sure, a student-teacher ratio of 23:1 sounds a lot better than the 28:1 that the government legislated back in March 2019, but without class caps, our students are still looking at the potential for much larger class sizes. If my kids choose to do e-learning, and it is their right to choose to take an e-learning course, they are looking at a class size of 35:1 and a whole lot of independent work in spite of the teacher's best efforts to stay connected to each student.

From a financial viewpoint, if teachers only cared about the money, we would not have hung on this long. Many of us have kids of our own, and we do not want to see them have to try and survive in an educational climate such as the Ford government seems to want.

Come on, Mr. Lecce. Get back to the table. It's not about the money.


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