The following ETFO media release was posted on July 21, 2020.
Under the guise of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government is rushing through changes to the Education Act that could prove detrimental to students and public education without consultation.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is concerned that the changes included in Bill 197 are being rushed through the legislature this week with no adequate debate, no legislative committee study and no consultation with education stakeholders.
“The proposed removal of requirements for directors of education to be qualified teachers could lead to the hiring of fiscal managers rather than qualified education experts,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “We don’t need directors of education who put the government’s agenda of cuts to public education before the needs of students and educators.”
Bill 197 also contains changes to the mandates of TVO and TFO with regards to distance learning, which could open the door to further privatization of educational content creation and delivery.
“At a time when the focus should be on providing adequate funding and resources to ensure a safe reopening of schools, this government is instead choosing to rush through legislation that undermines public education and threatens further privatization.”
ETFO is also concerned about regulatory changes that would exempt students from Kindergarten and primary grades from suspension without providing adequate resources to support students and educators.
“With a blanket ban on suspensions, the government is ignoring the ongoing issue of violent incidents by students with behavioural issues that require urgent attention in order to protect the health and safety of all students and staff. We need a balanced approach to suspensions that should be developed through meaningful consultations with all stakeholders and include discussions on the allocation of appropriate resources.”