Who Is To Blame in the Teachers’ Strike?

[Graduating Students most at Risk]

 newonewyne and little girls  Image

Teachers in Durham County have now been on strike for one and one half months.  Peel Region teachers ended up on strike two weeks ago as have teachers from the Toronto Board.

Who Suffers?

Certainly parents are feeling a large part of the pain. Kids that would normally be in classrooms are home.  In families where both parents work or in the many single parent families it means either leaving work or finding costly daycare/baby sitting  services.  The law says that a person who has charge of a child less than 16 years of age cannot leave the child without making provision for his/her care or supervision that is reasonable under the circumstances.

Absolutely, high school students about to graduate are in a real mess.  Those planning to pursue post-secondary education will know that even though they may have conditional acceptance from the various colleges and universities based on mid-term (December) marks, the final acceptance is entirely dependent on yearend report card results.   That practice by the colleges and universities is reasonable and intended to assure that the student’s midterm marks represent a trend rather than an exception in the student’s ability to grasp subject matter.  Is it reasonable to expect that colleges and universities would be willing to make an exception if the final report cards are not available?  There is (at least) some risk to the idea that the post education institutions would take on risk by way of exception.

Then, there are the students (in grade twelve) who did not possess high enough marks at mid-term to make the grade at desired universities or colleges. I am not sure how can possibly make things right for a student who had low marks at mid-term but had worked diligently following that to get his/her marks up to acceptable levels.  It is not uncommon for the parents of those students to have paid for private tutors in many such cases.

Who is to blame?

There is more than enough fault to go around in these labor actions.  Unfortunately even though the students are blameless, it is many of them who are about to waste two years of their life.  They will have wasted academic year 2014-2015 but will be in limbo during academic year 2015-2016 as well. Finding jobs in these job markets will mean minimum pay jobs for the fortunate and unemployment for those less fortunate.

The Minister of Education and the Premier of Ontario

Certainly during the 2014 Ontario general election, the reigning Liberal government made everyone believe that only they (the Liberals) had the recipe for peace in the education file.  The accumulated facts at the time of the election were not providing good evidence that the existing government was doing a good job in education.   Compared to other Canadian provinces, many USA states as well as a number of foreign countries, Ontario’s educational standards were in a downwards spiral.  Our students were doing less well in key subject areas such as the maths, the sciences and languages.

But upon analysis, a much bigger finger can be pointed at the ruling Liberals in Ontario.  It was the Liberals, after all who denuded the numerous and autonomous school boards across Ontario and thereby vested your children’s’ educational fate in the hands of civil servants at the Ministry of Education.   In so doing, they (the Liberals) created a two headed monster that made collective bargaining even more difficult. Anyone in education will tell you that there are now two bargaining tables .  There is a central bargaining table dealing with wages and benefits and then there is the local bargaining table that deals with working conditions.

Any unionist will tell you that this is an unfair and heavy handed approach to collective bargaining.  At the local table, a union may have agreed to disagree on a given issue pending results from the central table dealing with wages. As example, a local Board may have been insisting that teachers perform additional extracurricular tasks.  The union rank and file may well set aside those demands pending sufficient wage increases obtained at the Central bargaining table.  That is an untenable position to put either the teachers’ union representatives or the Local School Board in.

The offshoot of that decision to hand everything over to the bureaucrats (high paid, career civil servants) is that the long held Liberal plan to social engineer sex education could bypass local family reaction.  That plan fizzled and we now have over 70,000 Ontario parents signing petitions to stop the planned sex education changes.  Many more had simply pulled their young children out of classes to protect their children.

I would certainly have to put 90% of the blame for this strike squarely onto the desk of the Premier and the Minister of Education of Ontario. But, as I said, there is plenty of blame to go around.

The Local Boards

I will state a bias before proceeding. I sought office with a local school board in the past municipal election.  This is NOT sour grapes BUT it turns out that as early as July 2014, in my public statements, I was predicting labor unrest in education and offering to apply my own business experience to avoid exactly what is now taking place.  I was defeated (but certainly not disappointed) by a candidate who had a much narrower agenda. So mote it be.

However, I was and am acutely aware of unsavory labor practices being used by local boards and the hard feelings that resulted.  The fact that the elected  local Boards have not taken local bureaucrats to task and demanded that they conduct themselves fairly and professionally leaves about 7% of the strike fault on the Board room tables of the Local Boards of Education that permit edgy labor practices to take place. I (for one) can see unfairness taking place.  We rate teacher performance sometimes in a very underhanded manner. It comes across as dishonest and it certainly is not what taxpayers are lavishing large salaries on Board Superintendents to do.  Enough said, the teachers and the superintendents know full well about this and I would have expected elected Board members to reign in rogue Superintendents. In so doing, many of the local working condition issues would now be non issues.

The Voters:

Although the final 3% of the fault by my estimation falls to the voter, the number is deceptive.  The voters, after all placed trust in the Liberals and then similar trust in their elected local school boards. On the other hand, who counts individual snowflakes in an avalanche?  People seeing political office rarely get held to task for the promises made. Thus, the voters that placed trust in the Wynne Liberals and numerous under qualified local trustees share a spot in the blame spotlight.  People can be extremely gullible.  When judging the education file in both Ontario and Municipal 2014 elections, my own senses were telling me that many things were amiss in Ontario’s education system.  I can honestly admit that I was not “buying the Liberal election line that there were peaceful days ahead”. 

In many ways, I am grateful and relieved that I did not get elected.  This is a mess.


Copyright   Thunderbird Rising 2015

 The above article is copyrighted.  You may use, copy or distribute this article conditional on attributing your source (Thunderbird Rising) and the author (Lloyd Fournier)



One thought on “Who Is To Blame in the Teachers’ Strike?”

  1. Spot on. But I’d be inclined to place higher blame on the people who voted back in the Liberal government. You were also right before the election when you said there would be major upheaval this year in the education portfolio.

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