'Walk-in' protests over education 'cuts' to occur at public schools across Ontario, groups say

WATCH ABOVE: After narrowly averting a massive strike by 55,000 educational support workers, Premier Doug Ford’s government will now turn full attention to teacher negotiations. Travis Dhanraj reports. (Oct. 7)

CUPE and various parent groups say parents, students, education workers and teachers are set to hold ‘walk-in’ protests at public schools across Ontario on Thursday.

The action comes on the heels of a victory for the union. On Sunday, CUPE announced it had reached a tentative deal with the province for 55,000 educational support workers.

Jessica Lyons, a spokesperson with advocacy group Ontario Families for Public Education, said in a recent statement that the rallies are being held to “protest education funding cuts and to celebrate the incredible gains made for our kids by CUPE education workers in their recent contract negotiations.”

“With a three-per-cent cut in per-student funding across all Ontario school boards, 10,000 teaching positions lost over four years, and cuts to vital supports and special needs services, the province’s already underfunded public school system is under attack,” Lyons wrote.

CUPE education workers, Ontario government reach tentative deal to avoid strike

“Now the tides are turning and the government is realizing that Ontario families and workers cannot be divided, and together we will win what all our kids need and deserve.”

Advertising to promote the event has been posted to social media and other union sites, including that of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) website.

The site offers a link to flyers and other resources. The website said Thursday’s action has several goals, including the reinstatement of the previous Liberal government’s health curriculum, providing an education system that has low class caps, and no mandatory e-learning. Demands also included protections for full-day kindergarten and sufficient special needs supports.

ETFO said on its website that the union “is supporting this parent-driven solidarity action and is encouraging all members to participate. Walk-in actions are a powerful way to show our collective support and defense for public education.”

Ford government says wage cap in tentative deal with CUPE a win

The union said the “action may happen before or after the school day.”

The Ontario government is currently in talks with several teachers unions to reach a deal on contracts that represent over 160,000 public-sector education workers in Ontario.

In a statement sent to Global News Wednesday night, Education Minister Stephen Lecce responded to the planned protests.

“Our government is making historic investments in education, a heightened focus on mental health, emphasizing math and financial literacy and modernizing the curriculum so it better matches the evolving needs of the job market,” he wrote while also addressing future contract negotiations.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith with our labour unions to ensure students in the province stay in class where they belong.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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