Over 300 protest education cuts on Blyth's main street - May 2, 2019
BY DENNY SCOTT
Last Friday, over 300 protestors shared their belief that proposed education reform, from changes to sex education to significant cuts to the education system, are “shameful” in front of Minister of Education and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson’s Blyth Constituency office.
Teachers, support staff, students, parents and grandparents gathered in front of Thompson’s office at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The event included protest signs, flags, guest speakers and marching through the community to let the people of Blyth know they weren’t impressed with Thompson’s role in the cuts.
Guests included Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation District 8 (Avon-Maitland) union president Shane Restall, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association First Vice-President Warren Grafton and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Avon Maitland Teachers’ Local President Kent Cleland.
Grafton said that unity across the boards is important. He highlighted problems with the cuts, pointing to a school in Mississauga that recently told Grade 11 students there would be limited core courses offered in the 2019-2020 school year, forcing them to re-chose their course load for the next year.
He also pointed to the Near-North District School Board, which handed out redundancy notices to 121 secondary teachers, over half of the board’s roster.
Grafton said that the government is more interested in selling alcohol, tailgating and promoting horse racing than it is in the future of education and the children of the province.
He said that, by sticking together, the teachers, parents and students in attendance can “win this battle” and restore education to what it was.
Restall focused on dispelling myths, saying that teachers are not fear mongering or encouraging students to protest. He said these events are happening organically as a result of the “devastating cuts” proposed by Thompson and the reduction in local priorities grants.
“[Premier Doug Ford] and Lisa are not up to the job,” he said, adding the two are confusing class average with class size and were lying about job losses.
He encouraged people to fight for “students over buck a beer” and for “smaller class sizes over tailgating” and said that cuts hurt students.
Cleland said that he was impressed with the turnout for the event, then went on to say he was concerned about what Ford and Thompson would cut next.
He gave a brief history lesson, reminding everyone that previous governments had made teachers “public enemy number one” as a means of quelling protests and that the teachers and supporters should be ready for that.
He also railed against Thompson’s claims of “no jobs lost”, saying that elementary teachers will lose their jobs as well.
Finally, Cleland said that, as teachers, he and his peers are used to handling “bullies” like Ford and Thompson. He said he will do everything he can to protect “the best public education system in the world” and encouraged others to do the same.
For her part, Thompson, in an interview with The Citizen shortly before the protest, said that the $1.6 billion attrition protection plan was outlined over a month ago.
“We want to be perfectly clear, no matter what’s being said and no matter what information is being shared,” she said. “We are doing everything we can to let teachers know where we stand: not one teacher will involuntarily lose their job because of our proposed changes.”