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Interview with Ministry of Education, Stephen Lecce

“The one-per-cent annual raise to teacher’s salaries the government is offering is reasonable”, says the Minister of Education.

Ministry of Education,
Stephen Lecceminister, 

The Minister of Education says that “the one-per-cent annual raise to teacher’s salaries the government is offering is reasonable” and ensures that financial support to parents will be provided if teachers insist on new strikes.

Milénio Stadium tried to obtain more information about the last meeting between government and teachers’ unions, but Stephen Lecce didn’t disclose any update. The Minister of Education stressed that government was flexible on the class size issue and clarified that “online learning pedagogy has matured significantly over the last decade”.

The Minister talked with our newspaper about teachers strike and promised to continue “the good faith discussions” with the unions.

Milénio Stadium: What happened in the last meeting between Ontario Education Minister and teachers’ unions?

Stephen Lecce: Out of respect for the ongoing central negotiations, we cannot comment on specifics discussions at the bargaining tables.

MS: Do we have public budget to increase the teacher’s wage to 2%?

SL: The one-per-cent annual raise to teacher’s salaries the government is offering is reasonable and is consistent with settlements we have already reached.

MS: If teacher’s prolonged the strikes, the government is considering to extend even more the subsidy to parents?

SL: Financial support will be provided to parents/guardians for each day of school that is missed on account of the strike, regardless of the length of the labour disruption.

MS: If the government increases the high school average class size from 22 to 28 students, the teachers believe that schools won’t have enough money to replace the teachers and education workers that will retire or leave the profession. What is the government opinion?

SL: As part of the bargaining process, the ministry has made an offer to our labor partners to change maximum average class sizes to 25 for grades 9 to 12. This is down from the class size average of 28 over four years that was announced previously.

We will continue the good faith discussions about class sizes with our labor partners.

The government is also providing an estimated $1.6 billion in additional funding between 2019–20 and 2022–23 through the Teacher Job Protection Fund. This funding will support and mantain teaching positions, where needed, so that reductions from the changes to class size and changes to online learning can be managed through teacher retirements and voluntary leaves.

As committed to in the spring, it is expected that there should be no involuntary job loss for teachers from the class size changes within the 2019–20 GSN.

The Financial Accountability Officer confirmed what the government had been saying – that there would be sufficient funding to ensure no involuntary job loss due to the implementation of the class size changes.

Many teachers who received redundancy notices across the province were later recalled for the 2019-20 school year.

MS: E-learning will replace gradually teacher’s on the province?

SL: Online learning is a measure we are introducing to support student choice and flexibility and support their long-term success.

Online learning pedagogy has matured significantly over the last decade, and research tells us that teacher-student interaction is a key determinant of success.

Unlike distance education courses in the past, where interaction with and guidance from teachers can be minimal and students are expected to learn independently, Ontario’s online learning experience is richly teacher-supported and -facilitated. Teachers will still be a part of the online learning experience and will be supported through professional learning and training so that they are able to provide high quality instruction in an online learning environment.

MS: The government is planning to do more cuts on education until the end of the mandate?

SL: The 2019-20 Grants for Student Needs (GSN) is projected to be $24.66 billion – representing a historic, high level of investment for Ontario’s publicly funded education system. In addition, $330 million is being provided for the Priorities and Partners0 they can reach their full potential and succeed in school, life, and beyond.

Joana Leal/MS

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