Tuesday 28 October 1997
Education Quality Improvement Act, Bill 160, Mr David Johnson /
Loi de 1997 sur l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation,
projet de loi 160, M. David Johnson
Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations Inc
Ms Pat Johansen
Miss Rita Ubriaco
Lakehead Women Teachers' Association
Ms Carolyn High
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Thunder Bay
Mr Jules Tupker
Lakehead Board of Education School Advisory Councils
Ms Lyn Walter
Mr John Stephenson
Ms Connie Hartviksen
Lakehead (Public) Secondary School Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association
Mr John Palko
Ms Charlene Dulacka
Mr Andrew Horsfield
Nipigon-Red Rock District Women Teachers' Association
Ms Audrey Cormier
Atikokan OPSTF, OSSTF, OECTA and FWTAO
Ms Pam Money
Mr Roger Dolyny
Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation, Thunder Bay district
Mr Jim Green
Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, Fort Frances-Rainy River unit
Ms Cathy Brindle
Ms Karen Crane
Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, Thunder Bay elementary unit
Ms Eleanor Pentick
Fort Frances-Rainy River Women Teachers' Association
Ms Sharon Preston
Northwestern Ontario Small Business Association
Mr Doug Guinn
Mr Mark Lawrence
Ontario Secondary School Students' Association, northwestern region
Miss Sarah Viehbeck
Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation, Fort Frances-Rainy River district
Mr Allan Holt
Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario
Mme Denyse Boulanger-Culligan
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, District 29, Thunder Bay
Ms Arlene Gervis
Ms Joan Powell
Thunder Bay and District Labour Council
Ms Evelina Pan
Lakehead Board of Education
Ms Suzan Labine
Ms Cathy Woodbeck
Mothers for Education
Ms Susanne Marquardt
Ms Beverley Rizzi
Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, Thunder Bay secondary unit
Mr Don Cattani
Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens, Lakehead élémentaire
Mme Linda Houston
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, SESP unit, District 29, Thunder Bay
Mrs Sue Smith
Mr Donald Watson
Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
Mr Kevin Debnam
Ms Joleene Kemp
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Fort Frances-Rainy River
Mr Andrew Hallikas
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Chair / Président
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia PC)
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South / -Sud L)
Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre / -Centre PC)
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau PC)
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold ND)
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge PC)
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming L)
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr Bob Wood (London South / -Sud PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton PC)
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur L)
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William L)
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex PC)
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener PC)
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma ND)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora L)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel
Ted Glenn, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1000 in the Valhalla Inn, Thunder Bay.
EDUCATION QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1997 LOI DE 1997 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DE LA QUALITÉ DE L'ÉDUCATION
Consideration of Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability, and make other improvements consistent with the Government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à réformer le système scolaire, à protéger le financement des classes, à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte et à apporter d'autres améliorations compatibles avec la politique du gouvernement en matière de qualité de l'éducation, y compris l'amélioration du rendement des élèves et la réglementation de l'effectif des classes.
The Chair (Mr Gerry Martiniuk): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and members of the committee. I am convening the hearings of the standing committee on administration of justice, consideration of Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997. My name is Gerry Martiniuk and I chair this committee.
We have a long day today. I think all of the submissions are for 10 minutes only, which is a very short period of time. If I have to interrupt at the end of 10 minutes to protect those speakers behind that speaker, you will understand.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have just a couple of things. You will know that there is one presentation, I believe, that is a half-hour presentation. I thought it was worth an explanation that that's the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations, which was on the minister's list of those who would be able to present for half an hour. It happens that the provincial president of the home and school federations is from Thunder Bay and will be making a presentation here today. That's why she will have half an hour while the other presentations are 10 minutes.
If I may, as well, I believe as of this morning there are still three unfilled speaking slots. It has been the precedent of our committee that if there are vacancies in those slots and if there are people present at the hearings who had requested to speak, through the process of calling the clerk's office, they would be allowed to fill those vacant spots. Would it be with the committee's agreement that we continue with that precedent?
The Chair: I think that is carrying on. Would you provide the name and address to the clerk. If there are more than three, we will have to make a decision, but otherwise there are three spots available right now.
Mrs McLeod: You will be relieved to know I have no motion to place.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mrs McLeod. Are there any other preliminary matters at this time?
ONTARIO FEDERATION OF HOME AND SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS INC
The Chair: If not, let's proceed quickly to the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations Inc, Pat Johansen, president. Good morning. As you take part in the presentation, you have one half-hour. I would ask you to identify yourselves, if you're going to speak, for purposes of the record.
Ms Pat Johansen: Good morning. I would like to thank the Chair and the members looking at Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997. My name is Pat Johansen. I am the federation president, and I would like to note that I am the first president elected from northwestern Ontario in the history of OFHSA.
I have with me this morning, just for moral support, local people. We have Anne Mettam at council level and Linda Lahdekorpi, who is one of the board of directors at the federation and represents region A. I have my two sons sitting with me just to remind me who Bill 160 will affect.
I am not going to read everything because you have been given copies. Be kind when you question me, please.
An overview: The Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations has been actively promoting parent involvement in the school, the community and the province since 1916. OFHSA is a non-profit, volunteer organization, parent-initiated and parent-driven. Our membership is throughout this province. Our only vested interest is our children and their education. Members pay a yearly fee, and a current list is maintained at the OFHSA office in Toronto.
This brief is based on policies adopted by delegates at annual meetings and comes with the authority of those members. Through study, participation and the provision of parent education programs, we support active partnerships between parents, educators and legislators. Our purpose is to work towards the best for each student.
The most significant feature of the Education Quality Improvement Act is the transfer of authority and decision-making power from school boards to the province. Numerous areas currently subject to the collective bargaining process or to decision-making by local trustees will become the right of the Minister of Education and Training to determine.
The Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations supports local decision-making. Local representation through local boards of education is essential to ensure effective, ongoing access for parents to decision-making in education. Parents have greater opportunity for consulting in the development of education policy and content at the local level. The centralization of authority runs counter to the commitment to ongoing consultation with parents.
This commitment was referred to many times by the former Minister of Education and Training. A reference in the act to mandating school councils in each school doesn't ensure that the voice of parents will be heard in the development of curriculum and policy matters, which now rest in the hands of the education minister.
Ontario is a province of diversity. Local decision-making allows communities to reflect and address their unique needs and strengths in the education of their children. The provincial government is a further step removed from the focus of education: the student.
We support the minister continuing in his role of overseer to ensure an equitable education for all students across the province.
We acknowledge that the minister should continue to determine the number of required instructional days per year. We support the provision in section 7, the new clauses 11(7)(b) and (c), which allows boards some flexibility to determine specific dates to best meet the needs of their communities. We trust that this provision will allow consultation between the boards, the minister, ratepayers and employees.
We continue to express concern with the powers and duties of the Education Improvement Commission. This is a body of ministry-appointed individuals who are given wide-ranging authority in education matters, including disposition of assets and transfer of employees. We object to appointed people having such authority over democratically elected school boards. Members of the taxpaying public have had no input to the establishment, membership or function of the Education Improvement Commission.
We've got responses to school boards and funding which you can read, but because of what is going on, I would like to read what we've got to say about teachers.
OFHSA members believe that teachers in the classroom require a high level of education. In 1971, members showed progressive thinking in calling for teachers to hold a minimum three-year bachelor degree or equivalent in education for elementary school non-specialized teachers.
In 1972, OFHSA adopted the policy that there should be a revised curriculum for teachers' colleges and university faculties of education to include techniques for handling large classes of students -- we didn't realize that would become as important as it seems to be -- and methods effectively using lay readers, teacher assistants, trained volunteers, older students etc in order to increase student contact with the teacher. These additions, however, should not replace the teacher in the classroom but supplement the program. OFHSA supported the establishment of the Ontario College of Teachers and its responsibility for ensuring that teachers continue with professional development throughout their careers.
The faces of students have continued to evolve. The 15 years since the introduction of Bill 82 have seen greater numbers of children with special needs entering into our public system. Many of these children are identified through a formal process while others, often due to parental sensitivities, are identified only informally by education professionals in the school.
There are more children exhibiting conduct disorders and increasing numbers presenting learning disabilities. It does little good to debate the whys of the situation. We must simply acknowledge that this is the situation which exists and which teachers must address. Individuals leading classrooms must have greater preparedness to meet the needs of these students and the needs of the classmates with whom they interact.
These children are in all of our classes, whether they be art, history, music, computer tech, physical education etc. An accomplished musician, artist or technician may be fully qualified to talk about his or her understanding. It does not follow, however, that he or she understands how to teach or how to address the individual learning needs of students. We believe that students have the right to be instructed by qualified teachers. A teacher teaches students, not subjects.
I'm probably going to leave too much time for questions, but I'm going to go to the section entitled "Other."
OFHSA supports the establishment of Ontario education numbers for our students. This move will assist administrators and ensure that student records are well maintained and quickly transferred in the event of a move. It is hoped that the increased communication will allow a seamless provision of educational services to students. We also support the various provisions for privacy as outlined in the Education Quality Improvement Act.
We support the amendment of the act through the addition of section 35, section 16 of the bill, re the resident pupil's right to attend a more accessible elementary school.
We are unclear as to the implications of the repeal of section 50 of the Education Act, section 27 of the bill, re religious instruction. Does this intend that no religious instruction may take place in public and secondary schools? Does this override the rights of a parent and a local school board where such instruction has been endorsed by the electorate?
We support the continued recognition of home and school councils and the continued provision for school boards to appoint representatives to these where requested.
In summary, we, the 18,000 members of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations, are committed to equitable education across the province. We support decision-making at the local level to ensure effective, ongoing access of parents to the decision-making in education.
Members of OFHSA have always been supportive of a move to smaller class sizes. We uphold the importance of the student-teacher relationship and the value of time spent developing the above through classroom instruction and extracurricular contact. We do not believe, however, that Bill 160 clearly addresses these values. As it stands, Bill 160 leaves too many questions unanswered, yet it is clear that reforms are needed.
We, as a federation, recommend the following -- and I won't be popular:
(1) That there be one publicly funded system.
(2) That the authority and decision-making power remain with the local school boards to allow for the opportunity for community input.
(3) That the powers given to the ministry-appointed Education Improvement Commission be revoked, since these powers belong in the hands of the democratically elected representatives such as school board trustees.
(4) That there be continued ministry responsibility for funding through the legislative grant process.
(5) That there be equitable education across the province and that the role of the minister be to act as overseer to ensure this.
(6) That funds distributed to school boards -- public, separate or French -- reflect the percentage of students who are educated in that system.
(7) That there be no alteration in the present system of funding by pooling commercial and industrial taxes.
(8) That the minister reveal his funding formula before any further action on this bill or the introduction of any further reform.
(9) That funds saved through these and other educational reforms be reinvested in the classroom for the direct benefit of students.
(10) That the practice of allowing boards to have flexibility over exact placement of instructional days, exam days and holidays be continued, and that the minister be supportive of school boards in the granting of requests for special changes to meet the needs of their communities. An example would be the announcement here locally two weeks ago of Giardia in the water. That might be a special circumstance.
(11) That the pupil loading factor of 35 be reduced to 30.
(12) That the practice of collective bargaining between school boards and employee groups continue.
(13) That the involvement of non-certified experts in the classroom be in partnership with and under the direction of certified, experienced teachers.
(14) That the government develop defined criteria for the employment of such experts. These criteria should include a code of ethics, role description, evaluation and a chain of accountability.
(15) That there be compulsory, uniform testing of students for the purpose of evaluation and identifying and addressing student needs.
(16) That there be involvement of parents through the continued relationship between school boards and home and school councils.
(17) That there be increased opportunities for parent involvement in decision-making at the provincial level through participation and appointment to ministry committees. This participation must not be limited to members of the Ontario Parent Council.
(18) That the act clearly state the definition of "quality education," with research to support this definition.
(19) That the act clearly state the criteria it will use to evaluate the successful education reforms in creating quality education.
In conclusion, the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations believes strongly in parental participation at all levels of public education. We believe that parents have a valuable and unique perspective which is a necessary inclusion in any discussion of education policymaking and reform.
The purpose of any reform or education restructuring must be to improve the learning experience of students. Like the ministry and educators across the province, the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations is committed to high quality education for the students of Ontario. We petition you to make the necessary changes to Bill 160 to reflect this commitment and to ensure the best for each student. Thank you.
The Chair: We have five minutes per caucus and we'll start with the government caucus.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you for your presentation this morning. It was certainly very informative and very thorough. You have a great deal of comment around the role of parental involvement, which we of course second. We've had a lot of input from parent groups across the province in terms of the role of parents and where their comfort level is, some suggesting that we should remove the advisory aspect. School boards have suggested you can't mandate or legislate volunteerism.
I'd like to get from you this morning -- I know you've highlighted it a little bit -- your level of comfort, where you feel your decision-making should lie and the type of decision you feel comfortable making as a parent in the school community.
Ms Johansen: I'll try not to be personal. I'm representing a number of parents, so I'll try to give you a broad idea. Number one, we, as a federation, do not believe that you can legislate parental involvement. That has to be something the parent wants to do. I think you might have seen that now across the province with the introduction of parent councils or the law that states that you have to have a parent council in every school. Not everyone is comfortable with that and being part of that.
We in the federation have a number of different roles. I've become, not necessarily because I wanted to, very politically active, but you have parents who want to come in and they're just happy to come into the classroom. They don't want to be advising the school. I don't know if that answers your question.
The advisory council, I guess there are certainly people who would like to do that, but my concern with that is you're only getting so many people at that level. If they haven't got a way of inputting or questioning the rest of the school, then it's just a handful of parents who are giving that advice. With our federation, we try to ensure that everybody's opinion is asked for and given. I don't know, did I answer you?
Mr Smith: Yes. Thank you very much. That's the feedback we're looking for. Were you consulted by the Education Improvement Commission?
Ms Johansen: Yes, we were.
Mr Smith: Could you share with me your experience of that consultation process?
Ms Johansen: First of all, we translated it. Before it came out and we translated it, yes, we did make a submission. Our name is not on it. It was not a verbal communication because of distance and the time limits on it. We have had input into it. Once it came out, we translated it and that's now what we're presenting to you.
Mr Smith: What sort of time frame were you given to respond? Do you recall?
Ms Johansen: I don't believe it was more than two weeks, and we're a provincial organization. It was a lot of writing back and forth in that. When you're looking at the entire province, those time lines are just unrealistic.
It came through on computers, but if you're expecting every parent in the province to be able to have access to it, not every parent has a computer. Once this did come out, one of the members tried downloading it, first of all. The way it was formatted through the computer was unique, so when we did get a hard copy of it, we shuffled back and forth with those who have computers. I'm computer illiterate, so I had to it do with the fax machine. We put together what you see here.
Mrs McLeod: Thank you, Pat, and don't apologize for leaving time for questions. With the rest of the day with 10-minute slots, we'll be lucky if we get another question. So this is a welcomed opportunity to pursue some of the issues you've raised just a little bit more.
There are a couple of things that you presented that I just wanted to express my appreciation for and one is the emphasis you've put on local accountability and local decision-making. I know there's been some attempt to portray the current confrontation as a power struggle between unions and union leaders and government, when in fact if the government takes as much control that this bill gives it, it's not just teachers who are being shut out of the process, it's also local school boards and parents and students and the general public.
You touched on the concerns you have with the role of the EIC. In fact, as you know, it has been given an expanded role and a longer duration under this bill, so I appreciate that.
I appreciate the strength of your statements around the use of non-certified teachers to head up the classroom. That is certainly the intent of Bill 160, because if experts were working along with the qualified teachers, we know that happens already. The bill is intended to provide a replacement for qualified teachers.
Of the two that you touched on that I want to come back to, one is your statement that the funds saved through these and other educational reforms be reinvested in classrooms and that the minister reveal his funding formula before any further action on this bill, which is a request we've been making over and over again. It is a request that has been made of this committee through repeated presentations and it seems to me like a pretty reasonable request to make of the government.
That brings me to the quality education and the part of the brief that you skipped reading. The concerns here for funding also relate to quality. Bill 160 isn't about curriculum. I think we all support and actually would compliment the government on having brought about some positive changes in curriculum at the elementary level and potentially at the secondary level. They have brought in testing which, while people may ask some questions about the specifics of it, they feel it is a move in the right direction. But Bill 160 is about some other things. One of the things is class size and that's what I want to ask you about.
The government is going to be able to control class size with this bill. They want people to believe it's about smaller class sizes, because people want smaller sizes. We've got a government that has said categorically there will be no funding for 25,000 new students a year that are coming into the system and a government that says that, at a minimum, this bill could lead to the loss of 7,500 teachers. Furthermore, we now have evidence that it is planning to take $700 million more out of the system. How do you get smaller class sizes with 25,000 more students a year, thousands fewer teachers and $700 million less money?
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's new math.
Ms Johansen: Definitely. My daughter is not really very good in math. She might be able to figure that one out.
I skipped over that and that probably was a point that we should raise, but we have a motion on our books that we want a maximum 35 -- I'll read it. It says, "That the ministry guidelines for pupil loading be lowered from the present 35." That means right now -- I'll get personal, and please forgive me for doing that. I have a son in grade 7 who has 38 students in his class. That does not promote effective learning. We want to go from the present maximum of 35 students to a maximum of 30 pupils without lessening classroom areas for the building of regular elementary school accommodations. Number one, with 38 in the classroom, the school was not built to those standards, so it's not effective learning, it's not safe. My son's missed a lot of school through sickness. Again, I'm being personal, sorry. I don't know how they figure they can take that amount of money out. What kind of class sizes are we going to have? We are concerned that they haven't given us any kind of model.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Good morning, Pat. Thank you very much for your presentation. Let me follow up just a bit in terms of the funding cuts. You talk about the discussion of a further cut to the education system. That no longer is a discussion. It's been confirmed, obviously, by the Premier. We know it was confirmed in the performance contract of Veronica Lacey, the deputy minister. Obviously that's the plan of the government. That's a very significant part of Bill 160, which I think needs to be better known.
You make reference to the fact that cuts already put forward by the government, I guess of some $532 million, have had a real impact on classrooms. Again, the government committed that the cuts would have no effect on the classroom; we know differently. I think it would be useful, and feel free to be personal, to tell the members of this committee what impact those cuts have had and if you can imagine what the further cuts that are clearly part of the government's intention will have on the classroom education for the students.
Ms Johansen: The cuts that have occurred already have affected classes -- they are larger. With this particular board and probably with boards across the province, we've already seen a cut to special education programs. They are trying new models. I'm very concerned because I have a child with a special need. What is going to happen to them? What is going to happen to the rest of the special needs children? With increasing sizes, you're going to get more in those classes than are already there. I'm very concerned what kind of quality we are going to get for any of the students in a class.
Mr Gravelle: What about the resources in the classroom?
Ms Johansen: Right now I think it's a pretty sad statement for education, personally. Schools are out funding for things in the school that they are allowed to; as you know, you cannot purchase textbooks. Parents are out doing the gambling thing -- pull-tabs, bingos. That's pretty sad. Sorry, I apologize to the other members.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much for your presentation and congratulations on being the first representative from northwestern Ontario in your position. Also, thank you for arranging the weather we've got here in Thunder Bay.
Your presentation was quite comprehensive and I appreciate it, but I'd like to hone in on a couple of important issues that you raised. First, you talk about the need for local control and local involvement of parents, school boards and teachers. Bill 160 centralizes control in the hands of the minister and in the cabinet with the regulatory power to control class size, organize schools, school days, the school year and so on. What problems do you see with that? If the government feels that it wants to improve the quality of education -- that's what this bill is called -- and it doesn't think that it should be different from one part of the province to another, why shouldn't it be concentrated at Queen's Park in the hands of the minister?
Ms Johansen: This is such a large province, as you know from travelling. There are different issues in different areas. We don't necessarily have the same concerns here in the north that you might have in Metro Toronto. Just the distance here in Thunder Bay is one factor.
Mr Wildman: We might not even have the same interests in Algoma that you have in the northwest.
Ms Johansen: Exactly. Just the weather alone; do we have to phone down to Toronto if there is a storm like we've had to find out whether we are going to close the school or not? Just little things like that. I don't know how they could expect to be able to put one stamp fits all throughout the whole province.
Mr Wildman: You also refer on the last page of your presentation to the Ontario Parent Council. You say there must be an involvement of parents in decision-making at the provincial level as well as locally: "This participation must not be limited to members of the Ontario Parent Council."
On Bill 104 we heard presentations from many, many groups like yours and other parent councils and parent groups. They were unanimous in their opposition to Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, except for the Ontario Parent Council, which was supportive.
Ms Johansen: Gee, I wonder why.
Mr Wildman: Can you explain this? Who does the Ontario Parent Council represent, in your view?
Ms Johansen: It represents 18 people who are picked by the ministry to represent 18 people's views. They do not represent my views necessarily. I'm not asked for my input to anything on the parent council.
Mr Wildman: I'd like to go to one other issue that is really central to this whole controversy around Bill 160. I know that you represent a large number of parents in the province. Basically, what you are saying is that the minister should reveal his funding formula before further action is taken on this bill. You're also saying that the funds saved through whatever restructuring should be reinvested in the classrooms. Are you saying all the funds should be reinvested, or should they be allowed to take a further $700 million out, over and above the $500 million?
Ms Johansen: No, I don't believe they should be allowed to take that. That's the view of the members.
Mr Wildman: On your section on funding in your paper, which you didn't read because you wanted to cover some of the others, you say that without the funding formula, "without that vital piece of the puzzle it is impossible to assess the value of any proposed change." And then, the assurances that money will be reinvested in the classroom "must be supported by a specific funding model which has been vetted through all stakeholders in public education. We are concerned about discussion indicating a further cut of $1 billion from the education purse. This is unsupportable."
Then it says your members support the recommendation of the EIC that any savings realized through education reform be reinvested in the classroom.
What you're saying here is that you can't really assess Bill 160 and its impact on students' education unless we know how much money the government is going to put into education and how that figure is arrived at.
Ms Johansen: Exactly. That's like me trying to build a household budget when I don't know what the dollars are going to be, I don't know how much I'm getting. If they're taking that much money out of the system, will there be any money to reinvest in the system?
Mr Wildman: I like your analogy. Another analogy that's been raised before the committee was by a business person who said this was like expecting a business person to approve a business plan on a new venture without knowing what the revenues and expenditures would be.
Ms Johansen: Exactly.
Mr Wildman: It doesn't make a lot of sense. Finally, I'd like to go to one other issue you raise, which is central to the controversy that has led to this disruption in the education of our kids, and that is the question of experts in the classroom. Initially it was indicated, and it still is in the bill, that so-called experts could be brought in and replace certified teachers. Now the government is saying no, it never intended that they be replaced but rather they just supplement, which of course already happens. You don't need anything in a bill to do that.
My concern though is, in either case, if we're bringing a lot of people in at a time when we are really looking at the qualifications of teachers through the College of Teachers, how do we assess the qualifications and suitability of outside experts?
Ms Johansen: That's one of our concerns.
Mr Wildman: I don't want to be too dramatic about this, but obviously we have to be concerned about the safety of our kids. We do not want people to come into the classrooms who -- let's look at it this way. In other areas, such as hockey, we are now realizing that there is a small minority of people who are using their expertise to take advantage of kids, and we don't want that to happen in our education system.
The Chair: Sorry, we've run a couple of minutes over. I thank you very much for your presentation here this morning.
I apologize to the committee. I neglected to recognize Frank Miclash, member for Kenora; Michael Gravelle, member for Port Arthur; and of course we are in the riding of Lyn McLeod, who has been with us throughout these hearings. I understand that this city is the second most beautiful city in northern Ontario.
Mrs McLeod: Based upon our week's experience, it is also the sunniest and warmest city in the province.
The Chair: The committee thanks you for arranging this wonderful welcome and the weather. On behalf of the committee, I can tell the audience how pleased the committee is to be in this fair city.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Rita Ubriaco.
Miss Rita Ubriaco: Thank you, members of the committee. I have a brief that I can't read in 10 minutes, so I will skip over some of the parts. The reason that I've been presenting briefs for about 15 years is my motivation for being here today. My property tax bill for the current year is $918. The child I love most in the world, who is very bright and has spent six years in the Ontario system, cannot read, write or do math. That's where I come from.
I'm skipping over page 1, except to say that, under the Constitution, the government has the right to make laws. The people's recourse, of course, is to change the government.
Skipping to page 2, the things I have against Bill 160 are here. Early in the most recent education debate somebody said that you can't leap over a chasm a little at a time. Imagine my shock and dismay to find that Bill 160 takes some mighty half-leaps, and some of them backwards.
The Fair Tax Commission is only the latest of many to recommend that education be removed from property tax. Education has nothing to do with property. It's regressive to have education on property tax. After promising that they'd take education off the property tax, we have a real dog's breakfast. I don't know who's going to figure out the tax bill. I understand I'm still going to get a tax bill for education on my property and I find that most unfortunate and a real flaw in Bill 160.
I'll address the question of local autonomy later.
On page 3, under "Bill 160 -- Pro," I have a little request to my union friends. Depending on one's point of view, Premier Harris was either monumentally stupid or monumentally honest to admit that he would not reinvest the waste eliminated from the education system in the classroom. Teachers' unions should be just as honest in admitting that prep time, class size and a closed shop have been strategies to keep teacher jobs in the face of declining enrolment. I think we need that honesty. Manipulating class size and prep time during school hours can add 10% to 20% more teachers to the payroll. I am not at this point saying that you should or should not do it; I'm just saying please let's be honest that that's one of the things that happens, in those calculations.
The fundamental flaw in the education empire that causes all the other flaws is the belief promulgated by the faculties of education that methods, not knowledge, are important. Despite contract provisions to the contrary, teachers often teach outside their areas of expertise in high schools. In the elementary schools, the preparation of the teacher may be a degree in phys ed, and she teaches English, music -- you name it, she teaches it -- because she has a certificate. In the high schools, English is the subject most often misassigned. A teacher of phys ed, shop or home economics with an open space in his timetable is allowed to teach a class of English because he has a certificate in methods.
In a recent public commentary, I illustrated the idiocy of preferring certification over knowledge by saying that in Ontario Wayne Gretzky wouldn't be allowed to teach hockey. In reply, one of the most militant union demagogues said that Gretzky would not know how to impart his knowledge. She proved my point by refusing to see it.
The difficult notion that some persons may be better qualified in some situations than certified teachers is nowhere better illustrated than in the area of computers. The ministry has been notorious for introducing new curriculum before anybody is trained to teach it. As a result, when computers came in, the certified teacher of typing, math or whatever went off to take a summer course in methods and came back to teach. The result of that is that in many senior elementary school classrooms the teacher is the least computer literate person in the room. How much better for the kids if computer whizzes taught computer skills.
Can Bill 160 be fixed? Changes that can be made to make the necessary sections on prep time and opening the closed shop fairer to teachers follow. Teachers and the ministry must accept as a given that prep time and class size are mechanisms to manipulate the number of teachers. Together they must arrive at an absolute minimum and absolute maximum class size number. The home and school people have suggested 30 as a maximum. I think that's pretty fair. Then teachers within each jurisdiction should be allowed to negotiate which of the two variables they prefer. Teachers with no marking or preparation load should have the least prep time and the biggest classes, and those with the biggest loads should have the most prep time and the smallest classes. Nowhere should school-hours prep time exceed 10%, and PA days should be on Saturday or after 3:30.
Teachers and the ministry alike must accept that the primary qualification for teaching a subject is demonstrated knowledge of and love for that subject. Grammatical use of the English language is the next requirement. Where certified and uncertified teachers possess these two basic requirements virtually equally, preference should be given to the certified teacher. The uncertified teacher, on a letter of permission -- and this mechanism has existed for a million years -- shall pay dues to the relevant union and take summer courses in methodology to become certified. Where a whole subgroup is involved, for example early childhood education diploma holders for kindergarten, the subgroup should be a separate bargaining unit.
Many teachers complaining about my public comments mentioned the extra stress placed upon them by integrating special needs kids into the classroom. Asked why they didn't complain, they said they didn't want to look bad. In any formula for class size, it is absolutely imperative that where any special needs child is in a classroom, there must be a monitor to help that child. Where there is more than one special needs child, the number of monitors must be increased.
The best treatment of Bill 160: With the improvements outlined above, specify that it is an interim measure for the coming three-year board term. These three years must be used to develop and establish real reforms.
Abolish all boards of education in favour of school-based councils; that's where you get real local autonomy. You can't have both of them, because if they disagree, who wins? If one wins all the time, what's the point of the other?
The province should establish province-wide standards and province-wide bargaining for teachers. It should fund teachers' salaries and teaching materials from provincial revenues, not the property tax. School buildings, their maintenance, non-teaching staff and their substitutes, and buses should be funded from municipal property tax collected and spent by city councils. The question of whom do you call when there's a snow storm is quite clear. The local building is in the jurisdiction locally.
Funding for teachers should be linked to performance. If your kids pass the provincial exams, the province pays your teachers, whether you're in a religious school, an art school, a Hall-Dennis playpen or a home-school situation.
Mr Wildman: Just teach for the test.
Miss Ubriaco: Oh, I always hear that about teaching to the test. How many 16-year-olds do you know who study for the test very happily when they want to get a driver's licence?
This gives you one system, not the kind of thing that says, "Let's cut the Catholic school funding." This gives you one system. Everybody passes the same exams. If you are at the Christian reform school and your kids pass the test, you get money for your teachers. I'm not saying that every child has to pass every test; of course that would be understood by everybody except those who laughed back there.
The first year of the interim mandate should be used to ask all parents what kind of school they want for their kids. Personal interviews as well as questionnaires should be used. At the end of the process, if 50% of the parents want status quo schools, 50% of the classrooms available should be assigned to them. If 5% of the parents want denominational religious schools with strict discipline and dress codes, 5% of the classrooms should be assigned to them.
The Chair: Excuse me. Our time has elapsed. The 10 minutes is up.
Miss Ubriaco: With respect, may I please read the final page?
The Chair: If I do that, then I must do that for everyone, and we are going to run overtime and some people may not be reached. That's the difficulty. As I explained at the beginning, 10 minutes is really not a large amount of time. We just cannot go over the 10 minutes.
Miss Ubriaco: I'm sorry. I wish you wouldn't allow political speeches by the members, then.
LAKEHEAD WOMEN TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: The Lakehead Women Teachers' Association. While they are coming up to the table, may I just amend the schedule some of you may have. Our 4:20, the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council, will now be heard at 3:30, at their request. The new presenters will be Don Cattani, OECTA secondary, who will be heard at 4 pm; Sue Smith will be heard at 4:20 pm; and Don Watson will be heard at 4:30.
Welcome, Ms High. Please identify yourself for the purpose of the record and proceed with your 10-minute presentation.
Ms Carolyn High: My name is Carolyn High, and I'm the president of the Lakehead Women Teachers' Association.
The Lakehead Women Teachers' Association represents 470 women who teach in the public elementary system in Thunder Bay. I'd like to say that we have a proud history of demonstrating leadership in educational changes, professional development, promotion of women's issues and the protection of worker rights. One of the priorities of the Lakehead Women Teachers' Association is to promote a positive learning environment for our children; an environment that enables our children to meet their full potential and an environment that provides the necessary programs and supports for our children to compete in the global economy.
We are not averse to changes if these changes have a positive impact on our children in our classrooms. We believe that a lot of the things that are in Bill 160 put at risk children in the classroom as far as the integrity of our working and learning conditions is concerned. A number of our concerns are centred around the following things: the actual development of Bill 160; the redistribution of the decision-making; the regulatory powers of the minister; the working and learning conditions; and the integrity of local collective bargaining.
The provincial government has initiated numerous changes in the past two years, and we can name them: amalgamation of boards, the College of Teachers, a new curriculum, provincial report cards. I can go on and on. Because of the overwhelming amount of information that is going out to the public in such a very short time, it's very confusing for people to get a full grasp of how important this bill is and how it's actually going to affect education for years to come in this province.
It seems like a lot of the rationale behind Bill 160 is that what we are presently doing is not working, that we spend too much money on education, that the education system is inefficient and that teacher organizations are impeding change. I would like to say that a lot of what we're reading in the media and through public announcements and so on in the last little while all seems to be based on negative statements that are based on limited research and misleading statistics. We have not been looking at the positives of what our children are doing, such as that we have one of the highest graduation rates; that we have a high rate of students who are actually attending post-secondary institutions; that we have done very well indeed in international testing when it comes to things like the Third International Mathematics and Science Study; that Ontario's ranking in North America per pupil expenditure has actually fallen to 49th place since 1991-92, when we were at 13th place; and that recent Environics polls have indicated that 90% of the people want to have present funding maintained and even increased. We believe that Bill 160 gives the tools that people need to actually do a lot of cutting in the education system, and we're very worried about that.
As far as redistribution of power, Bill 160 destroys the ability of local stakeholders and elected trustees to respond to the education needs of children in their communities. This bill allows the provincial government to regulate every aspect of what school boards do. There will be no local control over their budgets, over their buildings, over their staff. The minister will be able to transfer schools to other boards and even to take over the administration of a school board if that board is perceived as mismanaging, and that's not even defined.
The provincial government will have complete control over rates of taxation and control over revenues and expenditures for our community. This government believes that locally elected officials on school boards have acted irresponsibly. I assume that's the rationale behind this. In fact in our community they have been very responsible. In recent years, $4 million has been taken out of the system. There has been a reduction in administrators and teachers of 5%. There has been amalgamation of schools and closures of schools. There have been coterminous arrangements made for cheaper transportation costs and reduction in programming. We're already lean and mean. We do not need any more reductions in what we're doing.
We are afraid we're going to lose our regional equity with Bill 160. We're a large geographical area. We have extra costs. In fact, the cost of education in the north is probably about 25% higher than other areas, due to our location. It seems that this bill says that one shoe fits all and that Thunder Bay will be faced with equity of resource problems and our trustees and teachers will have no tools whatsoever to address the public's concerns.
The other area I'd like to talk about is the regulatory powers. Bill 160 moves many decisions on learning conditions from the local communities and places them under the minister and the cabinet. By doing so, this government undermines public debate, the role of elected politicians and the actual essence of what democracy is all about. Regulations will only be revealed after the fact. There is no process here for input. These decisions will be made in isolation from the realities of what is actually going on in our classrooms. The idea of what kinds of decisions will be made -- for example, what has just occurred with the discussions over not reinvesting money in education. It was finally revealed, with respect to the personal contract of the deputy minister, that there actually are plans to take a large amount of money out of our system. We see this bill as the means of doing that. So right now we're saying we want more checks and balances within our system so that we don't starve our education system to the point that we will reach that crisis that has been talked about so frequently lately.
In fact the regulatory powers -- and I really want to focus on this, are the most appalling aspect of this bill. This bill allows the regulations to override the Education Act when they're in conflict. This is a King Henry VIII clause that is something the Canadian public has not witnessed since the birth of democracy in Canada. The only time such powers have been initiated in my recent memory was the War Measures Act after the October crisis in Quebec in 1970. Even then, it was discussed afterwards whether or not this actually should have been used, and yet we are allowing powers that are of the same magnitude as that.
There have been many discussions, and just within the last few seconds, about learning and working conditions. I want to make it very clear that those are being set -- it's the process that's in place, with the checks and balances, that preserves the right of our children to have a good education. To simply discuss this in relation to class size or prep time or whatever is really irrelevant; it is the process for determining what is needed so their needs are actually met. I would like to talk about it a little bit.
Since 1975, when teachers were actually allowed to negotiate for learning conditions, the quality of education for our children has improved a lot. We've had reduction of class size; we've had early childhood education being a focus in this province; we've had teacher training so that we can stay on top of what is actually going on and what is needed to do a good job; we've had the integration of special kids and a recognition that kids have individual needs.
When I started teaching back in 1970, I had class sizes of about 40 or so. This is not something we want for our children. We have bargained for class sizes that are adequate. In fact, in 1986 and 1987, FWTAO conducted a campaign to lobby for smaller class sizes in the primary grades that actually led to provincial funding grants for keeping the class sizes in those grades to 20 or 21. This government is just about to take away that public funding, and these class sizes are now going to start soaring too.
The Chair: There's one minute left.
Ms High: I also want to make time here for teacher qualifications, because this is a really important area. Bill 160 does not define what a teacher is. Therefore, any position could be deemed a non-teaching position. Because this area will be under regulatory controls, a position could require a qualified teacher one week and be deemed a non-qualified teacher's position the next. That's unacceptable. It could also vary from board to board because there would not be firm standards for establishing qualifications for a given position.
It is ironic that the present government, which established the College of Teachers, wants to remove teachers from the classroom. There is no point in setting even higher professional standards for teachers and then giving teachers' positions away to those who do not meet those standards. How can parents and communities ensure that their children receive the best instruction possible without standards or tracking of what is going on?
Our classrooms need teachers who have the expertise in content, in classroom management, in monitoring student progress, in dealing with special needs students; for example, if a class has an autistic child in it. It is our teachers who know what the essential stages of child development are all about and the social and learning needs of children.
I'd like to thank the committee for hearing me and I'd like to really focus on those three main points: local control, decertification and also the regulatory powers.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms High.
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES, THUNDER BAY
The Chair: Our next presentation is CUPE, Thunder Bay. Good morning.
Mr Jules Tupker: Good morning. My name is Jules Tupker. I'm national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. With me is Shirley Marino, who is the president of Local 2486, the local that represents the custodial staff in the Lakehead public school board.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. However, I temper my thanks with a feeling of frustration at having to be thankful to a group of democratically elected people who are behaving like a bunch of school yard bullies offering some underlings a chance to take a swing at them before the gang pummels them to the ground.
I say that because I have seen how your government has not reacted to presentations I and many other like-minded people have made to your representatives on Bills 49, 84 and 99. You are here for a public relations scam and I believe you have no intention of changing Bill 160 in any way that would be favourable towards the workers in the education system.
Nevertheless, I will take my swing, because I and my union members are persistent and no matter how many times you knock us down, we will get up and swing again until we either take you down ourselves or the rest of the school yard joins us to wipe out your gang.
The Chair: Excuse me, sir. This won't come off your time. I would ask the audience if you would not applaud. That's considered a demonstration, which according to the standing orders made up by the Legislature is not permitted. If you persist in that, I will merely recess and continue to recess until that kind of behaviour stops. Thank you, sir. Please proceed.
Mr Tupker: In the end, as history has shown us, the bullies will lose.
The direct impact of Bill 160 on Ontario teachers has been and will continue to be put forward by the teachers of this province. I, as a representative of over 40,000 school board employees not represented by the teachers' unions, will try to limit my presentation to the impact of Bill 160 on CUPE members.
We as taxpaying citizens of this province have just as great a concern over how our tax dollars are spent as any other citizen, and as public employees we probably have a greater concern than most because foolish spending of school tax dollars will have long-term affects on our livelihood.
A basic premise in Labour Relations 101 is that an employee who enjoys her or his workplace will strive to make that workplace better. A major factor in having an enjoyable workplace is having input into how that workplace is managed. We as school board employees are always looking to improve our workplace and working to improve the school environment. We try to cooperate with our employers and we rely on our employers to take our input and use it to better the system.
This process is basic to the operation of any business, and although we have not always been as successful as we would have hoped in influencing employers, we believe we have contributed to developing Ontario's schools.
What your government is doing is depicting the whole education system as tarnished and painting everything and everyone with the same brush, rather than pinpointing the problem areas and working with the individual groups involved to create a system we can all be proud of and say we all had a part in improving.
Let me go back. My comments on painting with the same brush: Those are comments I made to a former employer I worked for many years ago, before I became a rep, when the employer decided to send out a memo to every employee in that department claiming abuse of coffee time. There were one or two employees, I suppose, who were abusing it, but rather than confronting those employees and dealing with the individuals, they painted every employee with the same brush, claiming every employee was abusing the time.
The adverse ramifications that had on the membership were amazing, "You accuse me of something I didn't do." That's exactly what you people are doing here. You're accusing us of destroying the education system, and that's not the fact at all.
My basic labour relations premise is one that I am sure you and your bureaucratic colleagues are aware of, and assuming you are aware of this premise, your single-mindedness in pushing your plan through in the form of Bill 160 leads me to believe you don't give a damn about labour relations. You in fact have so much disregard for labour relations that you are prepared to destroy the livelihood of my members by enacting this regressive legislation that will provide you with the ability to give away their jobs to the lowest-bidding private contractor.
This disregard for my members' welfare leaves me puzzled. Why would you be willing to destroy the lives of thousands of hardworking, loyal employees? There must be something very personally compelling to you that would lead to such destructive tactics.
The answer of course is self-preservation. You have promised your rich friends and your friends in the business community that you will give them money in the form of tax breaks and more business, and you are prepared to sacrifice the livelihood of my members to get that money.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees is not prepared to let that happen and we will fight to ensure that our members keep their jobs and to ensure that their jobs remain in the public service and are not turned over to private companies.
In reviewing Bill 160 and the major components contained in it, I can only conclude that this bill, thinly veiled as an attempt to improve the education system, is nothing but a raid on that education system to try to pull out as much money as possible. The raid on the health care system is not going as well as expected and this may be the only chance left to find easy money.
The proof lies in the four underlying principles of Bill 160:
(1) Downsize the education system by merging school boards and virtually eliminating the only voice the public has, ie, the elected school board trustees.
(2) Centralize control and funding of the remaining school boards by removing control of education spending and taxation from school board trustees.
As the previous speaker has said, we need individual school board trustees to deal with particular issues within the north. Time and time again the south creates these wonderful, broad-reaching programs that do not work in the north. It's unbelievable. We keep on telling you that there are special situations in the north, that we need special consideration in the north. Let us determine how we will spend the money and how we will run the operation in the north. Your process here is eliminating that opportunity.
(3) Lay the groundwork for full-scale privatization by introducing outsourcing of school board services and jobs.
That is a major concern we have. We see the regulations that are being introduced as very far-reaching. This bill and the regulations in this bill will override any regulations or any act, including Bill 136 and the Employment Standards Act -- absolutely unacceptable to us. There are acts in place that protect our rights and our employees and our bargaining unit rights. The regulations in this bill will override that. We will not stand for that.
(4) Pull up to $1 billion out of the education system and deny it at every opportunity.
That's the underlying premise of this bill. There's no other reason for it.
Your cutback on every aspect of the education system is an attack on every individual employee in the education system from the school board trustee to the teacher to the custodian, and your attack will not be tolerated.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees suggests you stop acting like a bunch of school yard bullies and urges you to scrap Bill 160.
We encourage you to meet with individual groups in the education system, be they parents, school boards, students or school board workers, and to work with these people to bring about the changes that both you and they feel are needed.
Mrs McLeod: Thank you very much. You've touched on something that Carolyn referred to as the Henry VIII clause, which is basically a clause in this bill that allows the government for a transitional time, and the transitional time is not defined, to take action if it deems it in the interests of the students, that overrides not only this bill but any other bill or act of the Legislature. I believe it is unprecedented.
We saw in Bill 26, which we call the original bully bill, the ability of the independent commission to be put above the law. There are certainly places in this bill the EIC is put above the law. I don't know that we've ever before seen a bill that has a clause which allows the government, in cabinet, to override through its actions any other act or bill. How do you think that might be used? Obviously it would apply not just to teachers but to other educational workers.
Mr Tupker: I have no idea how it's going to apply. It's extremely troublesome to us. We feel we presented some good arguments on Bill 104, and of course there were some changes made. We see a Bill 136, and CUPE was very instrumental in backing the government down in certain areas of Bill 136. We feel this legislation now is an indication that the government is using the back door to try and get everything it lost in Bill 104 and Bill 136, to try and slam us down and take control over our rights under the collective bargaining process.
Hon Mr Wildman: If this were a struggle in the school yard, I'd want to have you on my side after listening to your presentation.
My main concern is on that one particular section and what you've just said, because that is very worrisome. If you have a regulatory power in this bill that can override all other legislation, then basically the efforts your union and your members made on Bill 136 to protect your rights and the collective bargaining process could be lost here. That's why you feel so strongly about it.
The government says no, it doesn't intend that. Would you agree that if a government puts an article in a piece of legislation it's because it intends to use it, not just there in reserve? Your concern is how they might use this. Is that correct?
Mr Tupker: That's absolutely correct. Why else would they put that piece of legislation in, hide it under section 58(3) and sort of slide it in through the back door? I have some problems with the fact that the government is saying, "No, we'll not enact that legislation." The government also announced they weren't planning on taking up to $600 million out of the process either, up until last week, and then all of a sudden they said: "Oh, by the way, we are actually going to take that out. You're right. We were wrong in that position."
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): In your fourth point you mentioned pulling out $1 billion from the education system. I'm somewhat confused. You just mentioned $670 million. What's the correct figure?
Mr Tupker: You tell me what the correct figure is. You started off by saying you're not going to take anything out. Then your minister says it's going to be up to a billion and the Premier says, "Well, it could be 5% or 6%," which totals up to somewhere around $600 million or $700 million. You tell me what the number is.
Mr Beaubien: But you're not quite sure.
Mr Tupker: Are you quite sure?
Mr Beaubien: I think to reform education and to find out that you would not save any money would be totally irresponsible. I think there's money that can be saved in the system. As to exactly what dollar value, I don't think anyone's got a figure.
We talk about bullying tactics. I think your presentation is a bully presentation. You said you backed down the government on Bill 136. The language you use is bullying language. I think the government listened to the presentation you made on Bill 136 and realized that maybe, yes, on some of the things we were asking we had to compromise on and we did. But no, you have to use bullying language, "We backed down the government on Bill 136."
The Chair: Our time for this presentation has elapsed. I thank you very much for coming here this morning.
Mrs McLeod: Just to be helpful to Mr Beaubien, if he would like a precise figure from the deputy minister's contract, I would certainly be happy to share this page of that contract with him.
The Chair: I'm sure he has that, Mrs McLeod.
LAKEHEAD BOARD OF EDUCATION SCHOOL ADVISORY COUNCILS
The Chair: We'll proceed to the next presentation, if they are available, the school advisory councils. Good morning and welcome.
Ms Lyn Walter: Good morning, members of the panel and to all the concerned public who are present. We are very pleased to be presenting today and have a very important message to share.
We are representing school advisory councils from the Lakehead Board of Education and have with us representatives from these councils in the audience. We would ask them to now stand to show you that this submission is a collective response expressing the sentiments of each council present. Many of these parents have had to arrange time off work to be here today because they are so deeply concerned and want to be seen, recognized and listened to.
Our names are Lyn Walter, Connie Hartviksen and John Stephenson. We are council chairs from the elementary and secondary school panels within the Lakehead Board of Education.
We are the parents who are in the schools, in the classrooms and at our council meetings volunteering our time. It is our children who are directly affected by the changes occurring in schools. Many who are being so critical of public education and who are making recommendations for such drastic change have never been in the schools, in the classrooms or our open council meetings, or do not have children being taught in our education system. Please listen to what we are saying here today.
We have heard from our Premier and our Minister of Education that Bill 160 is what the parents want and that this is what the parents have asked for. You did not ask these parents, because we do not support Bill 160. This is not what we want. You created these councils. Now please listen to what we are saying.
Mr John Stephenson: What is wrong with Bill 160? Decisions about the education of our children have traditionally been made collaboratively. All stakeholders, including provincial ministries, ratepayers, parents, administrators and teachers, have been accommodated and empowered to participate in a system that has attempted to balance diverse and sometimes conflicting needs.
The education system has always benefited from this synergy. Since the introduction of school councils, those involved have worked diligently to strengthen existing partnerships and to forge new alliances that continue this tradition of collaboration. We have worked and will continue to work very hard to preserve the delicate balance which drives us towards excellence. These efforts are only now beginning to bear fruit.
Bill 160 threatens to upset the cart and spill this carefully nurtured fruit before it can even begin to be enjoyed by those that matter the most: our children. It does this by proposing a massive and anti-democratic centralization of authority that will systematically ignore the points of view of people who care about children and who have valuable insights into their needs.
The regulatory power given to the government to define many, if not all of the details of its proposed reforms without the scrutiny of public debate is of great concern to us. Sections of the bill give unprecedented power to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the Minister of Education and Training and the Education Improvement Commission. Contrary to the Regulations Act, this bill, if passed, permits the making of regulations that can supersede the bill itself, as well as any other legislation.
Bill 160 purports to transfer control of authority for many administrative decisions regarding the education of our children to the provincial cabinet. It claims this is necessary in order to effect a smooth transition to district school boards and to allow the government to implement reforms of the education system designed to improve the quality of education our children are receiving. It is apparent to us, however, that Bill 160 is equally, if not more so, about saving money by defining working conditions for teachers.
The government wants to reduce education spending and is seeking the power to do this without the need to consult and endure public debate. As parents who care about our children, this makes us extremely angry.
We are deeply saddened about what Bill 160 is doing to our entire community. Everyone is discussing it and everyone feels he or she is right. Emotions are running high and we are seeing friends pitted against friends, family members against family members, profession against profession. The bickering, the name-calling and the mud-slinging must stop. This is an unhealthy environment for our children to be in.
We are believers in public education. We believe in the principles of equity and quality and caring that underpin our system. We believe that the vast majority of teachers and administrators who have the care and responsibility for our children are also dedicated to these same principles. We need to collectively begin to think sincerely about what is good for our children. Together we should seek political solutions to the conflicts that have brought the education of our children to a complete halt.
The individual goals of the parties that are mired in this current dispute should not be mutually incompatible if the true goal is the improvement of the quality of education of our children. If the challenge of finding win-win solutions for these conflicts is not met, we will all be losers, and of all of us, our children have the most to lose.
Ms Connie Hartviksen: Why are we so angry? Last year each school was mandated by the government to establish a school council. For almost a year we have been asking for further clarification of the proposed expansion of our role. We are profoundly disappointed that in Bill 160 there is not even a definition of school councils. We learn only that councils will be legislated and that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations regarding advisory school councils, including regulations relating to their establishment, composition and functions. Now in our second year of existence, we are still operating in this vacuum. The prospect of regulations defining our role being adopted without our input and without any public discussion frightens us.
In Thunder Bay many schools had well-established councils in place before there was even a mandate for them. We have worked hard to establish trust and good working relationships between parents, teachers, administrators and our students. We addressed the needs of our own school community and were initially comfortable with our role.
In the last year we've had to respond to not only our schools' needs but also to requests for input about provincial issues. It will become increasingly more difficult to keep our volunteers as the workload increases and our responsibilities change. Many parents have indicated they don't feel qualified or comfortable with the expanding responsibilities that go along with this impending change. We have enjoyed our relationship with our trustees and we definitely don't want their jobs.
We are parents who want to participate in our children's education, not run it. We want a partnership, not the total responsibility. Boards of education perform a valued and needed role. They provide direction for public education that is locally sensitive and publicly accountable in a way that school councils never can. Bill 160 does not nurture partnerships at any level. Instead it centralizes power and control over our education system and places it in the hands of an élite few.
We are volunteers. You can't create legislation to tell us what to do with our volunteer time. How would you and how could you enforce this?
In the school council handbook, the need for communication was emphasized, saying that the overall success of school councils will be dependent on effective communications at all levels. Everything about Bill 160, from its contents to the way these contents have been communicated, has been managed in a manner totally contrary to this. As members of school councils, we are very angry, disappointed and discouraged about the stunning lack of information out there about Bill 160. This clearly demonstrates your lack of concern for us and for the fair democratic process. The message we are getting is, "Do as I say, not as I do."
It is important for the government to understand that the lack of criticism by parents of this bill should not be interpreted as silent acceptance or apathy. It's the result of a decided lack of digestible information about the contents of this bill, and also about the lack of time required to make a knowledgeable response. Even the process of selecting those who would have standing at these committee hearings appears to have been managed to control whose voices are heard. Consultations with parents must include more than just those people who have been appointed to the Ontario Parent Council. They don't speak for us.
Ms Walter: What to do now? Stop and rethink this bill. Consult with other parents, not just your appointed parents on the Ontario Parent Council. Consult with teachers, administrators and students. We do not object to change, but cannot accept Bill 160 as it stands; nor can we accept the haste to proclaim it. Proceed more slowly. Plan carefully. Give us specifics. You listened when we asked you to go slower with secondary school reform. You listened to us when we gave input to Bill 104. Please listen to us now.
We want you to take the time to include in the bill an affirmation of the principles of equity, quality and caring that underpin our public education system; to amend the bill to include a definition of the role and responsibilities of school councils that has been developed in full consultation with a broad cross-section of parents, teachers, students and community members; to amend the bill to say that you will only adopt regulations that are consistent with the broad principles that define public education; to amend the bill to require that specific regulations only be adopted after appropriate public consultation and debate including all stakeholders.
We want you to take the time to amend the bill to specifically regulate minimum and maximum class sizes and allow teachers and boards to bargain within this range, depending upon available funding; to amend the bill to include a detailed definition of the funding model for education that we can all intelligently assess; to amend the bill to require that only certified teachers will have supervisory control over the teaching of our children; to amend the bill to ensure that adequate preparation time is preserved and equitably distributed to maintain the delivery of quality educational programming.
As Michelle Landsberg stated in the Toronto Star this past Sunday, "We never thought we'd hear a Premier of this province mislead the public so blatantly, so outrageously, about so vital a concern to the citizens." We were told that no more money will be taken from the public education system, yet this week we have learned that this was not the truth.
We have lost our trust and confidence in this government. Start again. Gain back our trust. We are all challenged by this conflict to find a win-win solution that will enrich the education of our children.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today about our concerns.
Mr Wildman: In light of the time, I just want to thank you very much for your presentation. It was very well done. The list of proposed amendments to make this bill palatable is very, very good and comprehensive. It deals in a way that you as parents who are caught in the middle along with your students and your children will be able to have some real say and help to bring the teachers and the government together. The other group of course that is caught in the middle and left out is the boards, and you've spoken about the value of them. I just want to thank you very much for this presentation.
Mr Smith: Thank you for the comprehensiveness of your presentation. Very quickly, could you give me an idea what regulatory powers you would remove from regulation into statute, what areas of the bill?
Mr Stephenson: I think we have listed the areas that are of concern to us. There is a broad variety of areas where the bill gives regulatory power to the cabinet. We feel it's a semantic problem as much as anything. We don't mind regulations as long as we have an opportunity to comment on them. There should be a public process and we worry that there won't be. In fact, we're convinced that there won't be. So I think you have to look at every single area in the bill where that power is granted to cabinet and either protect the public by building in a process that allows for input and feedback or get rid of the regulatory authority.
Mrs McLeod: I completely agree that the goals of the different parties involved in this dispute should not be mutually incompatible if the goal of everyone is truly improving the quality of education. I believe that if your amendments were accepted now by this government our teachers could be back in the classroom. Do you think there is any chance you can improve the quality of education if the government's determined to make enemies of its teachers?
Mr Stephenson: I think we'd be digging ourselves a huge hole and it would take a very long time to get out of it.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation and work you've done in making it up.
LAKEHEAD (PUBLIC) SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPALS' AND VICE-PRINCIPALS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presenter at 11:20 was to be OSSTF, Red Lake division, but they have provided their time slot to the Lakehead (Public) Secondary School Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association. I hope I got that right. I'd ask you to identify yourselves for the purposes of Hansard and proceed with your submissions.
Mr John Palko: Good morning. Let me introduce Charlene Dulacka, who is presently a vice-principal at Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay. Charlene is a secondary school vice-principal with some experience in a number of schools. She has also been chair of a languages department and a classroom teacher.
My name is John Palko. I am the principal of Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute. I too have had a broad range of experience as an administrator in secondary schools, a department head and a classroom teacher.
We welcome this opportunity to present the views of secondary principals and vice-principals of the Lakehead Board of Education on Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997. I'd like to thank Wendy Nordby, vice-principal of Red Lake District High School for giving us her time.
In our presentation this morning, we'll be addressing student learning conditions, shared decision-making and the work of teachers. These areas are important to the running of effective secondary schools.
Our experience as school leaders and administrators leads us to believe that there are provisions in Bill 160 that will (1) impact negatively on student learning conditions; (2) exclude many present participants from the decision-making process in our education system, and that has been alluded to in the former presentation; (3) it will also overextend, dishearten and demoralize those we most need to engage in future reform efforts, that's our classroom teachers.
Let me speak on student learning conditions. The interactive relationship between teachers and students is at the heart of secondary education. The learning conditions that govern this relationship are affected by a number of factors, including the number of students in the classroom, the grade, level and range of ability of the students, the type of activities taking place in the classroom and the physical environment making up the classroom setting.
Over the past five years, it has been our experience that spending reductions at the provincial level have had a definite impact on the classroom. The teaching staff has been reduced by 5%, resulting in fewer teachers delivering the program, and supply and equipment budget reductions give us fewer resources in the form of textbooks and learning materials.
In our secondary schools this has resulted in larger classes, combined grade classes and the cancellation of certain classes. As a result, teachers have been trying to meet the needs of a more diverse group of students in larger classes. Our local federation has responded to these cuts by negotiating the staffing formula with our employer in our community.
In the Lakehead Board of Education, we were first able to negotiate the important area of class size in 1975 after a long strike, and I believe Lyn McLeod was on the other side of the table when the strike was settled. It was largely our desire to have control over this working condition, which indeed is the students' learning condition, that led to the inclusion of staffing in our collective agreement and we've tried to maintain that and work with that and make it a viable thing for our kids.
This formula has served us well in the past 22 years by allowing us to work with the board in recognizing the realities of school organization in Thunder Bay and in our secondary schools.
Bill 160 will remove our ability to negotiate a staffing formula. We fear that by having the ministry establish class sizes and staffing levels, local needs will not be recognized or met. Current financial needs of the existing government will result in larger class sizes, an increased number of students per teacher or some combination of these. Our working conditions affect the student learning conditions. Learning conditions for our students are best determined by our local community.
We also question how the central government in Toronto could possibly recognize the needs of our high schools in Thunder Bay.
Ms Charlene Dulacka: I would like to comment on the importance of a shared decision-making process in our schools.
Our experience in the Lakehead Board of Education has been very positive in the area of shared decision-making as it relates to school improvement. Our principals and vice-principals have promoted and nurtured a culture of collaboration, consultation, team-based problem-solving and decision-making in order to bring about positive and significant change to our schools. All of the educational research on school leadership that we are familiar with emphasizes the importance of people's involvement in the decision-making process to bring about real and meaningful change.
Our work with school councils is a case in point. The Lakehead Board of Education has been a leader in the province in the establishment of school councils. Unfortunately, school council members and school administrators are somewhat frustrated at the lack of direction that has been provided, the lack of specifics that have been provided with respect to the mandate and the intended operation of this group.
One cannot expect parent volunteers to give freely of their time and efforts while operating in a vacuum. Bill 160 says nothing about our concern and addresses no aspect of our concern with respect to the mandate of school councils. The centralization of control by the provincial government in essence excludes the very people we need to be involved in improving our schools.
Our third and last point concerns the valuable work of teachers in our schools. As school leaders, we recognize that much of the work of the school that goes beyond the formal teaching and learning takes place as a result of the voluntary contribution of the time and talents of our teachers. We are extremely proud of our schools, our cocurricular programs and other special activities that enhance the learning environment for our students. Much of what makes our schools inviting places to work and learn is the direct result of the efforts and goodwill of our teachers working directly with students and, in many cases, parents, guardians and other community people.
Those of us around this table, if asked to recall a special classroom or a special school experience, a memorable school experience, will more than likely think back to not necessarily a particular lesson or a classroom situation, but rather a time and a place, be it through a drama production or a musical event or an athletic activity that, albeit ever so insignificantly, allowed them to take the spotlight and for one small moment feel some sense of success, accomplishment and bonding with our school.
All these kinds of activities we know happen from the enormous goodwill of teachers who have the skills, the desire and the enthusiasm to become involved with students and extend their learning in ways that go well beyond the classroom walls of a secondary school.
This is the most significant aspect of school life that will be adversely affected by Bill 160. Teachers will be unable to become involved in the broader life of the school to the extent they have been because of the additional teaching load that will be placed upon them. The reduction in the number of teachers in our schools will reduce the range of specialized subjects available to students and also reduce the pool of talent available to contribute to the supervision of the school and the activities of the school beyond the classroom.
Last month, Lakehead secondary principals and vice-principals participated in a day-and-a-half-long forum involving parents, students, trustees and community people. All these people came together to examine secondary school reform for our local school system. What came through loudly and clearly from all participants was that one of the most serious threats facing our local school system at this time was the demoralization of our teaching staff, and with that goes the loss of all that makes school life meaningful and relevant for many of our students and their families.
Teachers feel they have been under attack and devalued by this government. The government risks losing the goodwill of the teachers, which could result in the disengagement of teachers in future renewal efforts. We also see that the nature of the workday is in jeopardy through the reduction of preparation time and the pending increase in the number of student contacts.
Teacher preparation time during the school day is absolutely essential for teachers to prepare lessons, to meet with individual students and provide them with their needed attention, to contact parents and to attend to the myriad of administrative tasks that all form part of the teaching process.
We, as school administrators, also rely on this time to assign school supervision duties to staff, to supervise our halls, our libraries, our cafeterias, our bus areas, our computer labs well before 9 in the morning, during the school day and long after the formal school day has ended. This time also allows teachers to work together and to share their expertise, which will ultimately enhance student learning. With pending secondary school curriculum renewal, we will also need this time and the goodwill of our teachers to bring about the effective implementation of all these new changes.
Mr Palko: We thank the standing committee for the opportunity to present our views. As school leaders, we're accountable to the ministry and the school board to deliver quality education for the young people in our community. We count on the time, talent and goodwill of our teachers to deliver the best possible school experience.
We have seen significant and positive changes take place in our schools as the result of the engagement of all members of our school community, working constructively together, and our hope as school leaders is that this government does not act in ways that will have a negative effect on our school system, a good school system that continues to get better.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have less than a minute. Is there anything you'd like to add or any other conclusions you'd like to present to this committee?
Mr Palko: Not at this time.
The Chair: I thank you very much then for your presentation.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Mr Andrew Horsfield. Mr Horsfield, you should have a written presentation that has been distributed.
Mr Andrew Horsfield: Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to speak to you today. When I heard that you were coming here, I thought I should request speaking time because I spoke to the committee regarding Bill 104 and, as they say, in for a penny, in for a pound.
In one way it's funny that I should have such interest in this topic. I'm not a teacher or a trustee or related in any way to anyone in the education system in Ontario. Like I said last time, I'm just a real estate broker from Thunder Bay. I have no ulterior motive for being here, except my daughter, my only child, will be part of the system in just a few short years and I want her to have a chance at a decent education.
As a real estate agent, I work under the legal concept of agency. I work for the people who pay me, the ones selling the houses, so I accept and fully appreciate that the leaders of the teachers' union work principally for the benefit of the teachers. It is their duty to fight any changes that are a loss of power or might be considered a detriment to the teachers.
But if we extend this examination of principles and agency to its logical conclusion, then we should try and establish what body should have the best interests of our children at heart and that can only be seen to be our elected representatives, for our MLAs answer to us, the voting public.
We demand good government from them or we'll fire them, much as teachers demand that their union representatives hold the line against any change. It's logical, legal and makes sense to me. So I can understand the union position. I just can't agree that they're attempting to protect the education of our children. That would be a breach of their fiduciary duties. To say that the teachers' unions' primary concern is the children's education is equivalent to saying Buzz Hargrove and the UAW's biggest concern is the safety of the car-buying public over jobs. It's the union's job to protect teachers and the cash cow, not our children.
If I was the leader of a union, I would much prefer to negotiate with smaller, fragmented boards throughout the province that I could intimidate with a massive strike fund and professional out-of-town negotiators. I certainly would not want to deal province-wide with an equally powerful opponent. Smaller school boards are a much easier target.
The problem with the current state of affairs arises when we examine the results of the present system. It appears to be failing our children. It's my understanding that Ontario spends more money per student on education than anywhere else in Canada, but our students finish squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to testing. So money is not the problem. If others are spending less and achieving more, that's proof we can do better.
It appears that I'm not the only one who feels our schools are failing us. Just look at the proliferation of home schooling and supplemental private teaching facilities such as Sylvan Learning Centre and private schools. Concerned parents are voting with their feet. They are paying for help outside the regular system to ensure that their children receive a good education. So you see, maybe I do have an ulterior motive. I don't want to have to pay for all that with my daughter. I want the education system that my tax dollars are paying for to give my child a decent education. I'll worry about university when she gets there.
Perhaps one of the greatest, most important tenets of our society is the concept of equality among people. No one is predetermined by birth to be more deserving than another in our country and province. Unfortunately, some people have a harder row to hoe than others; they need a little more help than the rest of us, and we should be happy to do so. But everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed. The advantages that our education system bestows upon its students should not be the happenstance of where you are born, and yet up to now, it has been. Our education system has been grossly unfair.
Under the present system, each local board raised what taxes it could and then went cap in hand to the provincial government looking for grants from the general coffers. Those students living in an area with a rich tax base enjoyed more benefits than their rural cousins. Smaller boards are subject to the whims of local issues and taxes. There are even inequalities within areas. Separate school pupils in Thunder Bay endure larger classes, fewer field trips and other such injustices. This bill proposes to stop all this.
Bill 160 places the burden of taxation for education upon the province. Smaller local boards won't have to worry about setting taxation rates. They won't have to respond to a sudden crisis with an increase in taxes or cutback in education. If a major local employer in a small town goes bankrupt or stops paying taxes for some reason, the students won't suffer.
Bill 160 will set a predetermined amount per student throughout Ontario. All students will be treated equally. Those pupils in smaller, rural areas shall be on a level playing field, and those children who need extra help, the ones with the harder row, shall no longer be a burden to their board; they shall be provided for. At last, an equal fair system of funding education throughout the province.
Another change this bill will implement is so simple yet so far-reaching. Bill 160 proposes to change the fiscal year to match the school year. Just think about it. Up to now, school boards have had to wait until the spring to receive their money. Meanwhile it has all been spent or committed. They have had to hope they were going to get enough money to cover their bills. It's like me trying to pay off my credit cards. It's not a pretty sight. You would have figured that with all the accountants they have on the government payroll, someone would have figured this out earlier. It's going to be a lot easier for boards to create and stick to budgets when they know how big a budget they're going to have. This simple yet effective change smacks of -- I almost hate to use the term -- common sense.
I have often heard that with funding goes the power. I can see why we are in such a flap. When we look at the issue of class size, I see it as a philosophical battleground between those who would be king, and that's wrong. I really don't care how much money a teacher makes. Teachers are worth every penny they can negotiate, just like sport stars, secretaries, realtors, MLAs or any other profession. It's supply and demand. But under no circumstances should my child or any child have to sit in a larger class and have her education suffer because the union executives were doing their job in negotiating a pay raise.
If everyone agrees that the number of students in a class is critical to the quality of education, then let the experts set the optimum size and stick to it: non-negotiable. It should not be an item to be bandied back and forth across a table in some smoke-filled back room: "You give us an extra 1% and we'll stick an extra kid in every class." No. It's too important. Right now in the province that spends more money than anyone on education, some students are enduring classes larger than optimum, and that's simply not fair.
Since I have several members of the government here listening to me, I want to make something perfectly clear: I am trusting you with my daughter's education. You'd better hire the best people in the business and set a class size that encourages learning and not just cost-cutting. I am placing a great deal of faith in you. You have done what you said you would do up to now, and I respect that. Please don't betray me now.
It's like this issue of class preparation time. Instead of trying to settle this thing right across the board, shouldn't we be looking at exactly how much time is needed in each subject? History and English teachers must need more time to prepare than phys ed or math. Not to belittle either subject, but accept that some subjects require more outside time. Maybe you should look at that down the road.
Or instructional time: It would seem to me that the more time a teacher actually spends in front of a class actually teaching, the better off our students would be. But of course I'm not an expert. I'm sure there are people out there who could make a convincing argument that spending less time actually teaching benefits our students. You have probably already heard from some. But I come from the old school that says a teacher in the classroom with the students is fundamental to improving education. Maybe with some of the money saved through this bill we can hire more teachers and reduce class size even more. Who knows? Maybe some day we'll even get away from an agrarian year set back in the 1800s to let kids help on the farm.
Sorry. Originally, I only wanted to speak to you about funding, but I guess when you get on a roll you can't stop. I'm only telling you some of my thoughts and opinions and the comments I hear from people like me who want to see the system saved or improved. We're not experts, but we're footing the high tax bills. I have never minded paying for quality. I will always elect to pay more if the product or service is better and I can afford it. It's about value and it makes sense. But that hasn't been the case in Ontario. We've been paying the bills, but the goods have been less than top quality.
Newfoundland beat our kids in math a few years ago. We lost to Newfoundland? Does that mean that in a generation or so our kids will have to go there for a job instead of their kids coming here? Just think about that. Think of the jokes: "What did the two kids from Ontario do when they bought a pair of water skis? Looked for a lake with a hill in it." That's going to go over really big.
The changes being proposed in Bill 160 are overdue. It should have been done years ago, as it has been recommended time and time again and has already been done in other provinces. Too many children have suffered under the present system. Too many pupils have been short-changed just because they live in the wrong area or go to the wrong schools. I can understand that the duty of the opposition is to oppose, but it must be hard when deep down you know that what is being done is right. It's kind of like a lawyer trying to get a guilty client off. The system may demand it, but conversely, there is an old saying that the viciousness and intensity of the attack often denotes the weakness of the argument.
My final words are for the government members. Most of the people I talk with are in agreement with your aims, but we challenge you to maintain the spirit of your words. Don't cut costs for cutting's sake. Do the things that are necessary to preserve and improve the quality of education so that I can tell my daughter in the future that I fought for her education and I fought on the right side.
The Vice-Chair (Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate that. You've used up your allotted time.
NIPIGON-RED ROCK DISTRICT WOMEN TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION
The Vice-Chair: The next group we have is the Kenora Women Teachers' Association. Identify yourself for the record and start, please.
Ms Audrey Cormier: I am Audrey Cormier, from the Nipigon-Red Rock District WTA, and I am here in place of Linda-Beth Marr from Kenora. She was unable to attend.
So, $1 million for the most recent Mike Harris ad, $82,000 for the sugary TV interview that fooled no one and approximately $1.5 million for this full-page newspaper ad which has run across the province. That adds up to approximately $3 million spent by the Harris government to try to convince the Ontario public that the existing education system is not working. In addition, he has recently announced he's going to pay $40 a day for under-13-year-olds during the civil protest. This is supposed to come out of the teachers' unpaid salaries. At this rate, a teacher with a class of 30 would be getting paid $1,200 a day, or $242,000 a year. My salary is nowhere near a quarter of that, Mr Harris. Who's paying the rest? Those collective agreements are starting to look pretty good in comparison.
It's insulting to the people of Ontario to have Mr Harris tell us over and over again that we can't tell if the system is broken and that he must spend millions of dollars to tell us that over and over again.
Notice that nowhere in this ad does it say it's about Bill 160 -- nowhere. He just hopes you will believe that. The ad is not about Bill 160, even though it costs millions of dollars. Most of these reforms are already in place. They were implemented competently by teachers and boards over the past two years. Teachers are working for the second year on those new understandable report cards and they're using the new curriculum daily. And of course you all remember those grade 3 provincial tests last spring, and I hope you are aware of their costs. How many of you are actively involved on those already newly created and functioning parent councils? Most of the reforms suggested in this ad already exist. They are not Bill 160. They have been enacted with existing legislation. It works.
So $3 million wasted? Oh, no. The Harris government has spent this money to create another smokescreen for its true agenda in Bill 160. They know how to create smokescreens. Didn't they rob health care in their last one?
Bill 160 allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council, aka the Minister of Education, to make regulations to just about everything in his 262-page bill. With this regulatory power, the minister can make just about any change he wants in education and to its funding, and he can do it all through an order in council with no parliamentary legislation or discussion needed -- scary stuff when you realize a $700-million cut in education was written into Deputy Minister of Education Veronica Lacey's contract as part of her mandate. Bill 160 gives the minister that power to cut and cut again, with no guarantee of how many times or how much he will cut. Can our public education system survive Bill 160?
I see a good public education as a way for any child from any walk of life to give themselves a chance to be whatever and whoever they choose to be in life. That's an ideal goal in a democratic society. With an education system cut to the bone and at the mercy of a provincial education minister, I see many children robbed of this ideal chance. Those who can pay will send their children to private or charter schools, paying $20,000-plus a year to educate their children, and those who can't will be left to struggle trying to do more with less.
With the proposed $700-million cut from the public system added to the previous $800 million in cuts in the past, $1.5 billion will have been cut from the education budget in the last few years. This isn't making do with less; it's making do with nothing.
All across North America and in the United States and even in Alberta and Manitoba, education systems are hurriedly reinvesting in public school systems after experimenting with legislation similar to Bill 160. They've sacrificed a generation of children. Will we? And Mr Harris wants us to trust our children to him.
Not only does Bill 160 give the minister unlimited powers and funding, it seizes control over the trustees of our school boards and their employees, the teachers. By repealing the School Boards And Teachers Collective Negotiations Act and replacing it with Bill 160, the minister will have unheard-of control of the negotiating process. Existing collective agreements must be renegotiated regardless of their termination date, collective agreements that have been bargained in good faith, not with government but with their local school boards, between people who understand local conditions. Our own Nipigon-Red Rock district school board and its elementary teachers have negotiated no pay raises over the last six years because we understood our local economic conditions. I believe this is being responsible.
Aren't signed collective agreements negotiated between two parties in good faith supposed to be law? And Mr Harris has the nerve to point at teachers for standing up for our democratic rights and the future of public education of our children.
As a consumer, when you shop for a car, you consider your family's needs and your resources, and then you shop for the best buy for your money. Would you buy a vehicle if it didn't suit your family or if it had many glaring technical faults which would compromise your family's safety? Ontario's public, its children, its parents and its teachers are these consumers. Bill 160 is the vehicle that is offered. We have researched this product offered by the Harris government. We see many glaring, potentially dangerous faults. We are not listening to the oily salesmen. We know Bill 160 is a lemon. Sorry, Mr Harris, we're not buying it. Please stop Bill 160.
The Vice-Chair: We have less than a minute per caucus. We'll start with the government caucus.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation. If you were to make recommendations on areas that should be moved from regulation into statute in Bill 160, what central theme areas would you focus on?
Ms Cormier: I would certainly focus on the funding issue. I don't believe it belongs to the government to be regulated.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you very much for your presentation. I think what was especially important about it was that you absolutely cut through the smokescreen that the government is trying to set up. We have watched the Premier on television and listened to him respond, and he really has been diverting what the issues are all about, because in fact, as you've pointed out, Bill 160 is about power, it's about control and it's about taking money out of the system.
I think the question that needs to be asked is that, as you've pointed out, a huge amount of money has come out of the system already, and the Premier finally acknowledged, essentially because he had to, that indeed there is at least another $667 million coming out of the system. Tell me as quickly as you can what effect you think that will have. We know that the impact of the cuts up till now has been terrible. What further impact do you think there will be from a further cut that has now been acknowledged by the government?
The Vice-Chair: I wish you had been a little quicker with your question, because there isn't time for the answer.
Mr Gravelle: She can do a quick response, surely.
The Vice-Chair: No, because we have the rule. Next, Mr Wildman.
Mr Wildman: I'd like to thank you for your presentation, and I'll be a little quicker. I really wonder if you want to simply move the regulatory power into the legislation or whether you think these powers should be left at the local level so that teachers and boards can negotiate on the basis of the local conditions.
Ms Cormier: I believe the existing system has worked very well. I don't think that provincial legislation can meet the needs of local boards and local areas. As I mentioned before, our economic situation in Red Rock was very severe with the Domtar downsizing, and because of that we were able to modify that. If it were regulated, we would not have been able to do that.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. That's the extent of time we have.
ATIKOKAN OPSTF, OSSTF, OECTA AND FWTAO
The Vice-Chair: The next group we have are the OPSTF, OSSTF, OECTA and FWTAO from Atikokan.
Ms Pam Money: Good morning. My name is Pam Money, and I am the local president of the Atikokan Women Teachers' Association. Today I am here to represent my own members as well as the other three federations we have in town: the Atikokan district of the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation, the local unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Atikokan district of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. I have with me today Ed Ojala from OSSTF.
Premier Harris stated that he understands that the job of the teachers' unions is to put their membership first. For the record, the number one priority for my federation is "to maintain a strong publicly funded education system which meets the diverse needs of the students, beginning at an early age." I am here today because Bill 160 will limit our ability to provide a high-quality education for the students of Atikokan.
Since coming into power, the Harris government has repeatedly disrupted the education system. Already, $1 billion has been cut from the province's education budget. The result in some areas has been the loss of junior kindergarten, larger class sizes, fewer textbooks and supplies, a cut in programs, a loss of library resources, cuts to special education programs and more. Bill 160 centralizes all power and decision-making with respect to education into the hands of the Minister of Education and Training and the cabinet. This consolidation of power gives the cabinet the power to cut education spending -- by $800 million, by $1 billion, by $667 million. This can be done without any regard to communities, to parents, teachers or students.
Ironically, Bill 160 is called the Education Quality Improvement Act. However, contrary to the name, this bill is not about the improvement of the quality of education, but rather it is the government's attempt to take away more resources and to further weaken the education system.
Any further cuts to funding of our schools simply mean that anything not considered to be essential by the province could be cut; for example, more junior kindergarten programs across the province, adult education, library services and specialty programs such as music, art and athletics. In Atikokan, we have fought particularly hard to keep our high school Outers program, a unique outdoor education program. For 33 years, students have had a character-building and confidence-building experience in our local environment of Quetico park. Future cuts could end growth experiences for our students of this nature.
Class sizes have risen over the last few years, not because teachers have willingly negotiated larger numbers but because funding has been drastically cut. Before the funding cuts, teachers were successful in negotiating lower class size limits. Negotiating lower class sizes by setting maximum levels has been a priority for teachers because they care about the students they teach. Smaller class sizes mean better learning conditions for students. Locally, if class sizes increase, it could result in fewer programs being offered at the high school level and more split classes at all levels of education in Atikokan. Parents are already voicing strong opposition to the multilevel, multigrade classes, a situation that will only be magnified with further cuts to education.
Research shows that quality is more important than quantity and few gains are to be made in learning by increasing the length of either the school day or year. There is also a large number of disadvantages associated with lengthening the school year. We're very concerned about the increase in dropout rates, less growth for children, the negative impact on student employment opportunities, disruptions to family life, increased costs of operating schools and less professional development time for teachers. While we are not saying that contact time does not make a difference, it is not simply a case of "more is better." Quality education is more than simply time in the classroom.
The government has introduced changes that will significantly reduce preparation time for teachers. Teachers use their preparation time outside of the classroom during the school day to perform a variety of activities necessary for students' learning: preparing lessons, marking, consulting with parents, meeting with other professionals such as psychologists and speech language pathologists, working with other teachers, providing individualized help to students, setting up projects, organizing school trips, school concerts and sporting events. That's just a few of the ways the preparation time is being used.
Teachers already do much of their work outside of school time, in addition to time spent on extracurricular activities. Many of these activities that teachers use their preparation time for cannot be accomplished outside of school time. Cuts to teacher preparation time will result in teachers having less time to offer a full range of activities and classroom methods and to respond to the individual needs of students. Less preparation time will mean fewer teachers in schools. Having fewer teachers in schools will mean a decline in the overall quality of school life and in the ability to deliver a varied and comprehensive program to Ontario's students.
The government is proposing changes to allow people without teaching certificates to teach in our schools. We all agree that these individuals have their areas of expertise, but they lack the teacher training which makes the difference. Teachers know how students learn, how to evaluate the students' progress and how to manage a classroom. Teachers know that instruction in one area does not occur in isolation from instruction in other areas. Teachers are knowledgeable about the essential stages of development, socialization and learning. Teachers are subject to rigorous standards and expectations. Placing persons without teaching certificates in teaching positions is not being done to improve the quality of education. It is simply a way to save money in an already underfunded system.
The government sees teachers' collective agreements as a barrier to its plan to reduce education expenditures, collective agreements that have been negotiated over many years and in good faith by both local school boards and their teachers. Currently, teachers and other public sector workers have the right to bargain all terms and conditions of employment. It would be a regressive and punitive use of legislative power to limit the scope of bargaining of teachers.
Since January 1, 1997, the government has promised to release the new Tory funding model for education. To date, the boards have nothing. Our region 5B had 24 trustees representing the area. Bill 104 will now see the same region represented by seven trustees, and only one of those trustees will be from Atikokan. How can one trustee possibly represent all the interests of the children of Atikokan? The board's ability to levy taxes for any educational shortfalls no longer exists.
Our school councils are also reluctant to get heavily involved, as their roles and responsibilities are still questionable. The people sitting on these councils are volunteers, and they have been offered no training whatsoever and certainly no money with which to operate. Frustration is running high in this province with teachers, with parents, with school councils, with the school boards and with the students.
At this time, I will conclude with a news release that the local presidents put out yesterday to our local citizens.
The Atikokan teachers would rather be in their classrooms today than taking part in a political protest. We are taking a stand to preserve quality education for the students of Atikokan and Ontario.
This is not a strike. This is a political protest. A strike is an action against an employer. Our employers are our school boards. We are not taking action against the Atikokan Board of Education or the Atikokan separate school board. We are protesting the government's plans to destroy our education system. Please stop Bill 160.
I thank you for providing me with the time to speak to your standing committee this morning.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. You've used up the allotted time, so it worked out very well.
We will now stand recessed until 1:30.
The committee recessed from 1209 to 1333.
The Chair: We have a quorum. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'll reconvene the meeting of the standing committee on administration of justice.
Our first presentation is by Roger Dolyny. Mr Dolyny, welcome. We have allotted 10 minutes for you. Please proceed.
Mr Roger Dolyny: As an introduction or preamble to the points contained in this presentation, it should be noted that this is a distillation of views from many residents, ratepayers, parents and businesses across the Rainy River district where I'm from.
Our district is vast -- it spans some 280 kilometres by 120 kilometres -- but has a population density of only about 34,000 people. Our largest town is approximately 9,200 people, and we have the dubious distinction of having some of the longest daily student bus rides in the world, about four to four and a half hours a day.
However, the parents in our district are as dedicated and devoted to their children of time, effort, money and concern as any on this continent. Given these distances and weather conditions, they have to be. Perhaps that is why we in our district have seen what distances and balkanizing can do to bargaining with teachers, with no input from parents concerning their children's needs and a continual increase in taxes, without results from the graduating student. That is, some of them can't read or write or do simple math.
In September of this year, the Teachers for Excellence in Education in Ontario stated, "Parents, taxpayers and many teachers in Ontario realize that we pay far too much for a system of education that is producing average to less-than-average graduates on national and international scales."
One of the overwhelming concerns from everyone we have spoken to is simply this: Will Bill 160 give us, as parents and ratepayers, any hands-on apparatus for direct input into the education of our children?
One mother put it this way: "The Education Improvement Commission should have a method of surveying the input or concerns of school councils. There should be a means of surveying the various bargaining groups for input. Balance and coordination could then be struck between the parties."
Another mother, who is also a school council member, voiced these concerns: "There should be a manner and fashion that school councils could send their concerns directly to the Ministry of Education or the Education Improvement Commission or whatever direct policy-making body there may be implemented, but the system should have some decision-making powers for school councils and an absolute response mechanism for voiced concerns with a maximum turnaround time of seven days. And any person who sits on or gives advice to a school council and is a teacher or related thereto or is a board employee shall not have a vote on any school council decision."
Across our district, great concern was expressed about the lack of accountability regarding the expenditure of tax dollars. The point that was continually put forward, and this cuts right across the broad spectrum, is to audit the boards and publish who gets paid what and where the money is going. Board employees should be held accountable if budget expenditures are more than 10% higher than projected.
Both parents and business people are appalled that we are graduating students from our secondary school system who lack even the basic skills in reading, writing and simple math. When a graduate cannot read a maintenance manual for any type of equipment, the results are economic waste for business and this country, and when we have a system that graduates students into our universities who then have remedial courses in basic math and reading, this is totally unfair to our students, the parents and the ratepayers.
However, it was also pointed out that we have too many teachers doing guidance and social work instead of teaching. The discipline problem should not be foisted entirely on the education system but should have stern and consistent measures that are meted out so that teachers do not have to fear for their own personal safety when a student is disruptive or breaks the law.
It is our understanding that teacher work time in our Fort Frances-Rainy River board is as follows: In a five-period day, one period of 76 minutes is for lunch; one period of 76 minutes is for prep time. This leaves three periods -- that is, three hours and 48 minutes -- for teaching. Our class size ratio is approximately one teacher for every 15 students in the secondary school system. According to the news media, the teachers' union and the Ministry of Education, there are approximately 126,000 teachers in this province for 2.1 million students. This translates into one teacher for every 16 students. This is not only unacceptable; it's an incredible waste of money, especially given the comparative results that this province is achieving in education.
All parents, ratepayers and businesses interviewed stated that there is a need for consistency in application of school terms, contract negotiation and education standards -- that is, a core curriculum and meaningful test results -- and these should not be left up to individual boards that are woefully unprepared to deal with these issues with the teachers' unions. It should also be noted that since the inception of this school year this September and the start of regular board of education meetings in our district, two of these meetings out of a possible five have been cancelled because of lack of agenda. This would indicate that some of the reforms and changes, such as school councils, have been having a positive and fiscally responsible effect.
Appended to this presentation is a listing of a dozen parent organizations throughout the province that have sprung up demanding changes to an unresponsive educational system, and I'm sure there are more. There is also a listing of more than 100 reports and research documents that are critical of the Ontario education system. Any group that states that this displeasure and criticism of our education system has happened overnight is totally involved in their own special interest.
Lastly, all of the students, parents, ratepayers and businesses in our district with which we have discussed our education system and Bill 160 have all expressed their desire for change, but they also wish to have a local mechanism that would allow direct access and control over the dispensation of this education system for the betterment of the students.
The Chair: Thank you very much, sir. We have just about a minute per caucus and we'd start off with the -- oh, okay. He has made his presentation and has left. We'll go on to the next one.
ONTARIO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION THUNDER BAY DISTRICT
The Chair: The OPSTF, Thunder Bay District, Mr Jim Green. Welcome, Mr Green.
Mr Jim Green: Thank you for the opportunity. I guess I can jump right in. Unfortunately, it's only 10 minutes, so I'll just have to hammer away quickly.
This government has learned well from history. Canadians are a kind, gentle people with great respect for their governments, of course aside from the expected and accepted fantasy promises during campaigns. We expect our governments to institute policies which provide for the needs of all our citizens. Canada is a country that is concerned with people. In Canada we believe it is our duty to help those who are less fortunate. This government is taking us away from that direction.
Governments in other countries have used the big lie -- I don't need to tell you which ones they've been -- to implement undemocratic reforms. History shows that if a government tells the big lie loud enough, long enough and often enough, people will accept it as the truth. To quote Michele Landsberg from the Sunday Star, writing about parents raising children, she states, "To exploit their anxieties by feeding them a constant drone of deliberate lies, as Harris does, is unspeakably low."
The Conservative government in Ontario is bashing education and teachers with the big lie. The government has used this technique to convince citizens that educational services are broken and drastic changes are required to fix the problems. The government has said it so loud and so often that not only do the parents believe it, but now the government believes its own lies.
The reality is that this government is reallocating Ontario's wealth and concentrating it in the hands of corporations and the wealthy. The government is removing services from the majority of citizens in Ontario in order to give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest among us.
A quick study of our neighbours to the south reveals that where money rules and people are not valued, chaos prevails. When the youth of the nation cannot afford a quality education, hopelessness arises. The youth become disillusioned and hostile to the establishment. Since society obviously does not value them, they value neither themselves nor society.
That crime and violence are rampant in inner-city settings is not surprising. By making possible the establishment of a two-tiered education system and making opportunities available only to those with the money to pay, we are condemning ourselves to a more violent, less productive society. Although business may save a few tax dollars now, the lack of educated, flexible workers will impair their future competitiveness. This fixation upon the tax dollar at the expense of people is dooming our youth to despair and our country to mediocrity.
Past actions of this government have not made education more efficient or more effective. They have merely taken badly needed finances away from the children in order to finance the tax cut. The reorganizing of school boards will not improve education, but again is part of a scheme to transfer tax dollars to the rich. The Minister of Education and Training said he would create a crisis in education, and obviously he has succeeded beyond even his wildest dreams.
The government continues to misdirect the public with a media blitz to convince the citizenry that Bill 160 is required to produce improvements in our education system. Every program that this government has brought forward that might improve the quality of education has been implemented without Bill 160. All the real improvements in curriculum and teaching practices can be done without Bill 160.
The only purposes of Bill 160, other than a few insignificant housekeeping items, are clearly to allow this government to eliminate legally negotiated collective agreements, to allow this government to remove thousands of teachers from the education system and to allow this government to destroy public education. This will make public education a substandard system for those who cannot afford a private school for their children.
I believe there are some principles education should adhere to. Our teachers are committed to the highest possible achievement for our students. Our teachers are committed to a universally accessible public education system able to provide the best education in Canada. School boards must maintain their constitutional right to tax and to remain partners in educational decision-making and to ensure quality education programs.
Teaching is a profession, and every teacher in a classroom must be a duly recognized and certificated teacher. It is a fundamental right in a democratic society for employees to be able to negotiate all the terms and conditions of work with their employer. The provisions of freely negotiated collective agreements must be respected. Restructuring must be for the benefit of the students. Necessary transitions must be smooth, providing the necessary conditions for teachers to teach and students to learn.
Since Bill 160 meets none of these criteria, I would ask that you remove it. Thank you for this opportunity.
The Chair: Mr Green, we have about a minute and a half per caucus for questions.
Mrs McLeod: Jim, let's assume that Bill 160 goes through and the government in cabinet is empowered to make decisions setting class size. I'm just going to take that one issue, because there are a lot of people who are concerned about large class sizes who think that if the government took this power, it might result in smaller class sizes. So I'd like you to comment on, "We can't trust the teachers and the trustees to deal with class size."
Secondly, I don't want it to sound like a riddle, but I just want to put out three facts: that there are going to be 25,000 more students in our school system each year for the next five years, that the government's clear intent is to take thousands of teachers out of the system, as well as $700 million. How do you deal with a mandated, legislated class size and 25,000 more students, fewer teachers and 700 million fewer dollars?
Mr Green: Unless you're a magician, you can't. I've spent the last 30-odd years negotiating with school boards to reduce class sizes. We fought, we scrapped, we did without other things, but we got the class sizes down. Two successive governments have taken the money and the people out, and now there's a chance to take more. We've never negotiated larger class sizes; only governments have forced them upon us.
Mr Wildman: Jim, it's nice seeing you again. Could you tell me, as a teacher and someone who is dedicated to his students, what has brought teachers to this situation where they would take an action that would disrupt the education of students across the province, an action which has been described by the government as an illegal action and which I'm sure you as a teacher would not have wanted to do?
Mr Green: We have to be good citizens. As you'll read in the Globe and Mail on the editorial page every day, it's the duty of a citizen to resist oppressive, wrong legislation. This legislation is wrong. It will hurt our students. It will create a two-tiered system. We will deprive those who don't have wealth of the opportunity to contribute. It's an un-Canadian way to do things. Teachers would never have gone out if we were talking about their salaries, but we're talking about their students. That's what the concern is.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Bonnie Patterson, the president of the Council of Ontario Universities, recently said that she supports the government's goals in the field of education. She said, "I think the idea behind their strategy is to study, understand and then find the specific strategic investments they will make over the next decade to ensure that innovation and knowledge are the cornerstones of this province's wellbeing."
For the last day and a half, I've listened to you and your ilk come forward and quote Michele Landsberg, who is not exactly objective in her thinking.
I will say that I find it offensive that you would come here and tell us we're lying, when the unions have been telling their members that we as a government are bashing teachers, that we as a government are abolishing all teachers' prep time, when in fact all we are trying to do is to bring prep time down to the national average, when in fact we are not going to touch the elementary school teachers' prep time. All we have talked about was the secondary school teachers' prep time.
We have not bashed teachers. In fact, there are numerous instances in Hansard which are a matter of public record of the Premier and the former education minister and our members stating over and over again that we have the best teachers in the world right here in Ontario.
I want to say one thing further. Each and every one of us in our government caucus has, in our circle of friends and in our relatives, teachers. Do you think we are actually going to go out and alienate them? Get with it.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Wettlaufer. Your time is up.
Mr Green: Lie to me once and I can never trust what you've said. You lied to me; you continue to lie to me. How can I ever trust what you say? You told me you weren't taking the money out, and now your minister has been caught red-handed with Veronica Lacey's contract showing that you're taking the money out. You lie; you lie.
ONTARIO ENGLISH CATHOLIC TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION, FORT FRANCES-RAINY RIVER UNIT
The Chair: Our next presentation is OECTA, Fort Frances-Rainy River, Cathy Brindle.
Mr Wildman: Mr Chair, a point of privilege or perhaps a point of order: If the government hasn't alienated the teachers, why are they all out on the sidewalk?
The Chair: That is not a proper point of privilege.
Ma'am, please proceed with your presentation.
Ms Cathy Brindle: I would like to thank you for the opportunity of speaking here this afternoon. I am here on behalf of the Fort Frances-Rainy River Unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association. I represent 42 men and women who are dedicated to providing quality education.
In responding this afternoon to Bill 160, it is important for you to know that we at the local unit are fully supportive of the recommendations in the brief which was presented by our provincial office. My intent today is to highlight some of the issues which will affect the teachers in the Fort Frances-Rainy River district.
The title of Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, is a contradiction of what is contained within the bill. Bill 160 is not about quality education improvement. This legislation provides the tools that will allow the government to extract many resources out of Ontario's schools. It allows the government to have complete control over key issues in education.
Although the men and women of the Fort Frances unit of OECTA are members of a union, we are first and foremost teachers, and as such have the best interests of our students at heart. It is for that reason that we have chosen to participate in the province-wide political protest. This decision was not entered into lightly and was viewed as a last resort. We have not blindly followed the direction of our union leaders, but have made informed choices.
I received a letter last night from one of my members, a letter to the editor. I'd just like to read part of it.
"I am a mother of three and a teacher of many. Today, I broke with my regular school day routine and participated for the first time ever in a political protest. As I endured the cold and harsh winds, I reflected on several questions: Who allowed me to teach? Who supports me as a teacher? What have I learned as a teacher? And why am I now outside, far away from my classroom? I concluded that I owe many a sincere thank you and that because I care for all children and their future I cannot support the proposed education reforms."
This teacher goes on to thank the separate school board, the parents, children and the people in the community. She then goes on to say: "So you ask me today, where would I rather be? Hands down I would rather be in my classroom with the children. However, my choice is to fight for the long-term interests of all children. I want to show how much I care for them, their education and their future."
Based on past performances, there is little trust in this government. We have been the target of much teacher-bashing. Mr Harris has spent a great deal of money on television commercials and newspaper flyers casting doubt on the competence of teachers and their willingness to do their job. On the contrary, teachers are committed to improving teaching and learning in Ontario.
Bill 160 is not about improving quality in education. Instead, it sets in motion a sense of instability within the system. As teachers, we set high expectations for our students and work to provide them with a supportive, secure environment so that they can work to their full potential. This is difficult to do when teachers themselves are in a state of uncertainty.
Bill 160 gives the Ministry of Education and Training vast authority and discretionary powers. Control over Ontario's educational system will be focused solely in cabinet, which is empowered to write regulations altering every aspect of education. Bill 160 will allow the cabinet to dictate by regulation a wide range of teaching and learning conditions, such as class size, school year, preparation time or other non-teaching time, teacher-pupil instructional time, roles and responsibilities of school administrators, designation of non-teaching positions, prescription of minimum qualifications for non-teachers and the right to strike.
Bill 160 will allow the cabinet to change all of the above without consultation, debate or discussion. If this act passes in its current form, cabinet will bypass the normal democratic process and impose its will without reference to the Legislature.
Because of the generality of the bill, the teachers in the Fort Frances area are concerned because we have seen the actions this government has taken in the past. We have seen our class sizes increase over the past number of years. Bill 160 empowers the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations governing the size of classes. However, the provision does not use the terms "reduce," "lower," "maximum" or even "maintain."
The Fort Frances-Rainy River district separate school board has made cuts to senior administration and has eliminated all coordinator positions. In one of our schools, the principal has teaching duties for half of the day. In total, our board employs three teachers to work in the special education department. We have three schools; there is one per school. Although these individuals do not have a classroom, they perform duties that must be carried out by teachers, as they are directly responsible for the education of students.
We are worried that as funding is reduced through the centrally controlled allocation model, we will be well on our way to winning the race to the bottom. As dedicated teachers, we care about the education of our students and we are concerned that the board would potentially have to depend on the use of unqualified instructors in order to address any monetary problems. Such an erosion to quality education is unconscionable. Our children deserve the best. Teachers have the necessary training and education to provide the best programs possible. To consider employing non-teachers for the care and custody of the future of our province is an affront to parents.
Bill 160 empowers the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations fixing the minimum amount of time during which a teacher must be assigned during the instructional program on a school day. It also limits the amount of time during which a teacher may be assigned responsibilities during the instructional program.
Preparation time for our board is not an expensive perk for the teachers. We are an elementary panel, but we see the effects of not having enough planning time. We currently have 100 minutes per week, which translates to 20 minutes a day, and it's available for us to perform a myriad of classroom-related activities.
Teachers are bombarded with larger class sizes, new curriculum initiatives, ongoing changes in technology and an increasing number of social issues faced by our youth. Because we are proud of the job we do and wish to provide an enriched program for our students, many hours are spent outside the classroom on extracurricular activities. Many activities take place in the evenings and on weekends. This has all been provided on a volunteer basis, and there has never been a shortage of these extra activities for students. If the government makes many of the changes they are proposing, teachers will be forced to work to the prescribed school day. The government will in effect be removing our ability to volunteer and go the extra mile for our students that we currently do voluntarily.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the teachers of the Fort Frances unit of OECTA are committed to continue providing quality education for our students. We are united in our desire to fight for the long-term interests of our students. We care about them, their education and their future. We believe that Bill 160 will not improve the quality of education. The real objective of Bill 160 is to take control of the education system and to extract further money from education. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Brindle. There's less than a minute to go. Therefore, is there anything more that you wish to present to the committee?
Ms Brindle: No, thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation here this afternoon.
The Chair: Our next presentation, Karen Crane. Good afternoon, Ms Crane.
Ms Karen Crane: Good afternoon, members of the committee. I make this presentation as a private citizen and taxpayer. I speak as a single parent, having raised three sons, now in their 20s, whom to date this current system of education has failed considerably.
My opening remarks quote the editorial of the Globe and Mail, October 20, 1997, in reference to Paul Martin's financial address to the country: "By any measure, education is key to a prosperous future. This was driven home last week by a painful Conference Board of Canada study documenting Canada's poor productivity performance relative to our main competitors. Education is a major factor contributing to this decline. If we don't do better, we get poorer.... Today's quasi-monopolistic public education system stifles innovations and serves the interests of those in charge, not the interests of the students."
Canadian Business Technology, September 11, 1997, page 48, states: "Ontario, the largest and richest province in the country, typically records disappointing marks. Ontario students actually finished below the world average on the third international math and science study tests."
The Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997, addresses these concerns and is another step towards providing students with the highest-quality education in Canada in the most cost-effective manner. The recent report of the Education Improvement Commission has recommended limiting class size and having teachers spend more time in the classroom and increasing student instructional time. Regulation-making powers in the Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997, would give the government the ability to act on these recommendations.
Union rhetoric continues to attack this bill with a media onslaught of misguided information. One editorial from the Thunder Bay Post, October 21, 1997, from the teachers of the Thunder Bay separate system, reads: "Teachers from Ontario are compelled to withdraw their services to protest a government that is planning changes to education that will be detrimental to the children of this province. Bill 160 is about saving money, with little or no thought to the long- and short-term effects of these changes on its children."
By sharp contrast, a quote from authors Foot and Stoffman in Boom, Bust and Echo, page 150, gives the fundamentals in contradiction to this argument. It reads: "A Statistics Canada study confirmed that our failure to adapt to the demographic change is the reason we have one of the world's most expensive education systems. The study found that the education workforce comprising teachers and administrators grew by 20% between 1971 and 1991, while the school-aged population was dropping by nearly that much, from 5.9 million to 4.9 million. In 1991, Canada spent $33.6 billion on elementary and high school education, a staggering $7.4 billion more than would have been spent had the ratio of students to teachers and administrators stayed at the 1971 level."
I concur that this bill is, in part, about money: the excessive lack of flexibility and disparities of funding that are allowed to continue with the present system of educational bureaucracy which clearly is averse to change.
Another area of concern is the lack of technological expertise, as it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that an education for the 21st century requires a good grounding in computers. "Teachers must be properly trained to integrate technology into the curriculum." Times Magazine, October 20, 1997, pages 51 and 52.
With our shrinking resources, Bill 160 would allow the availability of teachers to concentrate on the core curriculum while other aspects of learning can be addressed to reflect the balance necessary in promoting excellence in achievement.
Maclean's magazine, May 20, 1996 issue on Brave New Schools: "At the same time, teachers report that they feel less like teachers than emotional baggage handlers or crowd control officers. Teachers report that the fallout from that high-pressure, downsizing world lands at their feet every day: students with short attention spans and even shorter fuses, many of them sceptical about the rewards of hard work in a time of crashing expectations. Studies now show that between 25% and 40% of children are starting school with at least one identifiable learning difficulty or significant behavioural problem, from dyslexia to attention deficit disorder."
Says Dan Keating, director of the human development program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, an organization that analyzes obstacles to social and economic development: "It is not at all clear that schools as we know them are in a position to cope with what every study shows to be increasing levels of increasingly troubled kids. Meanwhile vast numbers of parents have lost patience with a profession that focuses too little on service and too much on the paycheques and perks of its members. Who else, they ask, can make up to $65,000 working nine months of the year?"
Confronted by a litany of teachers' complaints, they have a simple response: "Wake up and smell the 90s." More than ever, they are frustrated with a system in which they feel patronized and stonewalled on a raft of issues, from the teaching of phonics to the destreaming of junior high.
It continues: "Many parents were incensed late last month when the Toronto Teachers' Federation rejected outright a proposal by a city hall task force to open elementary schools one hour earlier, a move that would cut child care needs in the city by 25%. 'The school staff,' said federation president Frances Gladstone, 'was not willing to take it on.'"
Says Mary Margaret Laing, a member of the Ontario Parent Council and mother of three children in the Waterloo school district: "I think teachers need to start taking a look at the world around them. Every other sector is coming up with ways to save money while keeping its focus on the customer. Many teachers seem to be oblivious to that."
"Indeed, so grim is the economic picture that it appears to be propelling a new openness to change, innovation born, at least in part, of financial necessity. We have to accept that governments did not create global competition or the changes that are turning the Canadian family upside down," says Keating. "I think people are finally beginning to accept that these are social and community issues."
"A lot of social issues are ending up at the teacher's desk that don't belong there," says John Bachmann, president of the Waterloo, Ontario based Organization for Quality Education, whose members include parents, teachers, principals and school board trustees from across Canada." Rather than thinking teachers should shoulder all the problems or have a monopoly on the solutions, I think those on all sides are starting to see that it is time to let the walls down. At the simplest level, that means inviting parents to take a greater role in refitting schools and rethinking their role in a changing world. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario have introduced or passed legislation requiring every school principal to establish parent advisory councils, elected bodies that meet regularly with teachers and administrators."
Bill 160, the proposed Education Quality Improvement Act is the second part of the legislative strategy to ensure the highest quality of education in the most cost-effective manner. These changes are necessary to implement and further the reforms begun in Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, 1997. The purpose of this bill is to ensure a smooth transition to the new forms of school governance, ensure fair and equitable funding for the publicly funded schools and create and efficient bargaining framework. These goals will be accomplished in a manner that respects the constitutional rights of all Ontarians.
Helen Raham, executive director for the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education states: "I stumbled across this quote from the Ontario royal commission report, For Love of Learning, 1994 issue today, page 11: 'In the schools we envision, by no means would all educators be formally certified teachers and therefore members of the teachers' union. The fancy name for this is decertified staffing. We understand and are sympathetic with the mandate of union to protect the job security and benefits of its members but there is a principle even more overriding than this one. The interests of good teaching and learning must always come first. Most union activists believe in this principle, except when it seems to conflict with their union imperatives." But there is a contradiction in their position.
"Teachers came to us in droves to complain that they were impossibly overburdened. We say those burdens would only be lifted if they are shared by the entire community. We say that only through the differentiated staffing can schools fulfil the multiplicity of responsibilities that are reluctantly theirs. It seems to us that the unions cannot have it both ways. They can't complain of overload and then refuse to allow a solution to it.
"We can only hope that the unions cooperate for the good of the students."
Bob Bonisteel, director of Teachers for Excellence in Education quotes in a media release of September 23, 1997: "Parents, taxpayers and many teachers in Ontario realize we pay far too much for a system of education that is producing average to less-than-average graduates on a national and international scale. Our mandate is to focus solely on creating better schools and better teaching methods so that all students are able to learn to the maximum of their ability. With this in mind, we support the proposed legislation being brought forth."
The bureaucratic structure that dominates education in Ontario today must not be allowed to stifle this growth and success of a vision which will breathe new life into the crippling complexities of its current failing system. That vision begins with the passage of Bill 160.
I thank you all for your attention and for the opportunity to address Bill 160.
The Chair: There is only about 30 seconds. Is there any comment? We'll start with Mr Wildman.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much.
Mr Wettlaufer: Ms Crane, I'd like to thank you very much for your presentation today. Many business people throughout Ontario have been experiencing very much what you have said. I'd like to thank you for saying it again.
Mrs McLeod: Thirty seconds isn't enough time in which to debate the accuracy of the test results, which I wish I had time to do. But the cost increases in education between 1971 and, I think you say, 1991 were due to three primary factors: special education legislation which mandated the boards to provide special education, the introduction of mandated smaller class sizes in grades 1 and 2, and the introduction of junior kindergarten. Are those three areas from which you feel some additional cost should be taken out to control the costs of education?
Ms Crane: Truly, I feel that these could be addressed without taking money out of the system. It's just a reallocation of specific funding to the system which will in essence, yes, bring some money out but evenly distribute and still maintain those services with the proper people in place to do so. I feel that you do not lose by this. I think it can be a definite important aspect in our schools, and I think Bill 160 does address the funding availability for those to remain in place.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Crane, for your presentation here today.
ONTARIO ENGLISH CATHOLIC TEACHERS' FEDERATION THUNDER BAY ELEMENTARY UNIT
The Chair: Our next presentation is OECTA, Thunder Bay Elementary Unit. Good afternoon. I would ask you to identify yourselves for the purpose of the record and then proceed with your presentation.
Ms Eleanor Pentick: Good afternoon. My name is Eleanor Pentick, and I am the president of the Thunder Bay Elementary Unit of OECTA. With me today is Margaret Hall, our second vice-president. We represent some 350 teachers who teach in the 19 schools of the Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board from JK to grade 8.
For the record, we would like to thank you for giving us this opportunity, and we would also like to state that we agree with the contents of the submission made by our provincial OECTA. Our intention today is not to elaborate on their presentation but to elaborate, rather, on two prevailing themes that we observe in Bill 160, and those two themes are the lack of substance to the government's touted claims of improvement and the shift of power from local communities to a few politicians housed in Toronto.
We have examined the 262 pages of Bill 160 from cover to cover more than one time, and we were looking for references to the improvements the government leads the public to believe are contained in Bill 160, particularly regarding an improved curriculum, provincial testing and standardized report cards and, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot find them. There is no reference in Bill 160 to curriculum; there is no reference in Bill 160 to provincial testing; there is no reference in Bill 160 to standardized report cards.
We have heard the claims of the previous Minister of Education and of the Premier that Bill 160 will improve class size and provide for more teacher-pupil contact time. We looked for this. Did we find anything? Yes, we found references to class size, planning and prep time, length of the school day and the school year, but those references do not set limits of any kind and they do not guarantee improvements. What they do state is that the Minister of Education will have the power to determine the limits, when and how he or she wants to. Now that's powerful, especially when one takes into account that ministers come and go at a current pace of seven in 10 years.
The shift of power: Bill 104 gave the EIC sweeping power to supervise and monitor the actions and control financial expenditures of the new district school boards until the year 2001. In our presentation last March to the standing committee regarding Bill 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, we, like many others across this province, expressed our concern that the decisions of the commission would be binding. As such, they could not be reviewed or questioned by a court. Our boards, in essence, would be temporarily placed into receivership, without any real autonomy or authority. Bill 160 has not only made these powers of the EIC permanent but extends similar powers to the cabinet and to the Minister of Education over a seemingly unlimited number of areas, including the following: the working conditions of teachers and learning conditions of children, the Teaching Profession Act, the use of non-qualified persons as teachers, the right to strike, closure of school boards, closure of schools -- it seems anything that the minister deems necessary.
By vesting so much power in the hands of so few, input from the diverse regional, cultural and economic groups of Ontario will be limited. This is of critical concern to the teachers and the communities in the north. Because of distance and because of our small numbers, we will be outside the circle of the Golden Horseshoe. What voice will our parents have, what voice will our boards have, and what voice will our teachers have concerning the education of our children? Who will be there to listen? We believe that this seizure of power from local communities is not only undemocratic but will do nothing to improve education in Ontario.
Our association is adamantly opposed to any attacks on the continuity of program and quality of education in Ontario. We believe that the enactment of Bill 160 attacks both. As teachers in Catholic schools, we are both beneficiaries and advocates of a tradition of social justice. Catholic social teaching has consistently spoken in favour of the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable, and proclaimed the priority of people over economic systems. We are proud of our profession and we are proud of the Ontario publicly funded education system which supports these values in our classrooms. We are proud of our profession, which views schools as communities, not as factories, and which views children as persons, not as clients.
We know that further cuts in funding and the loss of local autonomy now held by our school boards in partnership with parents and teachers will do nothing to improve education. Rather, we firmly believe the devastating effects on the children who are entrusted to our care will be felt for years to come. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. You've left --
The Chair: You're just removing time from their presentation and their time. We have one minute per caucus remaining.
Mr Beaubien: Thank you very much for your presentation. On page 3 you mention that there's a critical concern for teachers up north because of distance, because of small numbers. I happen not to live in the Golden Horseshoe myself. However, in your presentation nowhere do you suggest how we could address the difficulty that these boards are experiencing today. I have heard during the past few days that classes are too large, there are improper books, improper supplies, yet in your presentation you have not made one recommendation. Could you recommend something?
Ms Pentick: Yes, I do have a recommendation: Stop taking money out of education and start putting it back in.
Mr Beaubien: Are you telling me that you're equating quality education to the amount of money we're spending?
Ms Pentick: Absolutely. To a large degree, the amount of money that you put into something is going to give you value. If you keep cutting, if you continue --
The Chair: Our time is up. We must move on to the next --
The Chair: Excuse me. I've asked this audience to behave themselves. For the first time in 25 cities that I've visited, I heard disapproval of a speaker. I've never heard that before and I'm embarrassed for you. I will not put up with that behaviour and I'll just keep recessing, which will mean that we will not be able to hear anyone, because we have a plane to catch. I do not want to do that, but that is what I'll have to do if you continue that type of behaviour. Mr Miclash.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Thank you for your presentation. This morning I heard something that was quite disturbing to me. It was in a presentation given to us by the Lakehead principals and vice-principals. They indicated to us that the most serious threat facing our local school system at this time was the demoralization of our teaching staff. I just wonder if you could comment on that as a teacher.
Ms Pentick: I would agree that this has been quite the challenge for our teachers locally. It is very difficult to continue to work with your whole heart in it when your heart has been broken. I would tell you that the hearts of the teachers of this province have been badly wounded. I am amazed and I praise the teachers across this province that they have gone in and acted professionally, continued to do their duty, continued to love their children and provide the care, because it is very difficult to do that when every time you turn on the radio or open a newspaper you see that your own minister, your own government, is saying, "You are not worth the money we spend on you, you are not producing a product" --
The Chair: Thank you, ma'am. We have to move on.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much for your presentation. The exchange between you and my colleague Mr Beaubien reminded me of Oscar Wilde's comment that there are those who know the price of everything but not the value of anything.
Ms Pentick: I agree with you, sir.
Mr Wildman: I'm just wondering if you could tell us why you think taking an additional $700 million out of education over and above the cuts that we've already seen will indeed hurt the quality of education for students in the classroom.
Ms Pentick: In the past few years we have had to make substantial cuts within our own board. Because of lack of funds, we've had to cut our family studies and industrial arts programs, our instrumental music. We are down to the bare bones. Our school budgets have been reduced each year for the last three years by 10%. Teachers are buying pens and pencils for the classroom. We do not have paper. We do not have textbooks. Our textbooks are a disgrace.
Mr Wildman: You mean you don't understand that you can improve the system by taking more money out of it?
Ms Pentick: No, I do not understand that.
Mr Wildman: I see.
The Chair: I thank you both for your presentation here today.
FORT FRANCES-RAINY RIVER WOMEN TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presenters will be the Fort Frances-Rainy River Women Teachers' Association, Ms Sharon Preston. Welcome, Ms Preston.
Ms Sharon Preston: Good afternoon. I'm Sharon Preston, president of the Fort Frances-Rainy River Women Teachers' Association. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this committee.
Before I get into the text of my presentation, I'd like to interject a personal aside. I sit here proudly as the mother of a daughter attending her chosen course of studies at the University of Alberta. She is currently ranked in the top 25 students out of a class of 300 in her program of studies. That puts her in the top 8% of students from across Canada and other nations. The Ontario education system prepared her well.
I have driven for three and a half hours this morning to be granted 10 minutes of your time. I face the same drive home this afternoon. I have undertaken this endeavour as I am passionate in my opposition to Bill 160, as are the teachers and many of the community members from our area.
I am here on behalf of 80 women teachers who work in the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education. It is unfortunate that they cannot be here today, but they are walking picket lines in political protest to Bill 160. Many of these ladies are mothers. Most are lifelong students. They are teachers because children are very special to them. All of them are taxpayers and valued members of their communities. Today I am voicing their collective opposition to Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act.
Most of these ladies, for the first time in their lives, are participating in a political protest. They find this omnibus bill, with its all-encompassing legislation, to be so objectionable that they are compelled to stand up and be counted.
The Ontario Teachers' Federation and the affiliates made a comprehensive submission on Bill 160 to the Honourable David Johnson, Minister of Education and Training, on October 20, 1997. The Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario had submitted a brief to this standing committee on administration of justice on Bill 160 on October 21, 1997. These documents very competently and comprehensively cover our objections and their rationale, as well as recommendations in regard to Bill 160.
As students of history, we are adamantly opposed to Bill 160. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "enfranchise" as being invested with municipal rights, especially that of representation in Parliament. Bill 160 disfranchises every parent, student, teacher, taxpayer and community by denying all of them the right to have input into education changes. Giving the government the right to make changes in cabinet by putting many articles in regulations is a legislative lockout of the public. We are, in effect, disfranchised. The representation and freedoms long fought for and hard won through historical struggles are jeopardized by Bill 160.
We pride ourselves in living in a democratic country. By allowing regulations to override legislation, the democratic process is terminated. It is morally and ethically wrong for this government to believe it has the right to think for us. We are intelligent, educated and experienced people. We want honest and open debate.
We are advocates for children and public education. Quality education is a universal right. Bill 160 erodes that right. Bill 160 will not improve public education. It is a vehicle to destroy it.
There is a very real government-precipitated crisis in our Fort Frances-Rainy River board. Constant cutbacks and total disregard for our board's efficiency have really impacted on our schools.
We have grade 3/4 split classes of 31 or more students. We have grade 8 classes of 32-plus students. We have a waiting list for special education. We don't have a gifted program because the needs of those students with learning difficulties must come first.
We have twinned and grouped schools covered by a single principal. Classroom teachers are accepting more and more responsibilities as principals are pulled between schools. We do not have any vice-principals.
While a principal was at a twinned school 45 minutes away, a student was hurt on the playground. The classroom teacher had to stay with the child out on the playground for an hour while waiting for the ambulance. There was no special education teacher, guidance counsellor or school secretary to take over her class. The students had to stay in the classroom on their own.
Forty-minute lunch-hours are, for the major part, in theory only. Teachers are taking shortened lunch breaks so that the school day will not have to be lengthened. Lengthening the school day means children will get on their buses in the dark and return home in the dark. We have junior kindergarten children who have an hour bus ride one way. To save money, our board instituted full-day alternate day junior and senior kindergarten.
We don't have guidance counsellors, music teachers, physical education teachers and teacher-librarians. We have one 0.5 special education consultant for our entire district of approximately 12,000 square kilometres.
Our school secretaries are part-time. Classroom teachers must answer the phone. Some schools have installed answering machines to take calls so that lessons are not interrupted. This solution certainly inhibits schools being responsive to parents.
Government cuts over the past two years have definitely impacted on our classrooms. Bill 160 is a government-designed vehicle to remove a further $667 million from Ontario's education budget. How is this going to improve education for our children in the Fort Frances-Rainy River board?
Schools will be closed. Bus rides will be even longer for our children in the dark and in harsh weather conditions. Class sizes will increase in classrooms not physically designed to accommodate 30 or more students.
Bill 160 is an enabling act rather than an education improvement act. The bill allows the government to control education so funds can be extracted and diverted to the next phase of the tax cut. We object to children subsidizing a tax rebate.
Now the government is saying that the $667 million is needed to decrease the deficit. It is interesting that while the onus for decreasing the deficit is given to the education sector -- parents, children, teachers and communities -- the rich in particular are reaping the benefits of a 30% provincial tax cut.
This government maintains that its goal is higher student achievement which will be attained by removing $667 million from education through Bill 160. Nonsense. You can't get more for less. A quality education system needs appropriate funding. A high quality education system will not be attained through Bill 160.
In conclusion, I would like to leave this committee with the following questions:
(1) Will you give us a written, point-by-point breakdown as to exactly how Bill 160 will improve the quality of education?
(2) Why hasn't a funding model with a definite dollar amount attached been given to the boards so that informed decisions can be made?
(3) Quebec currently has a centralized education system and is moving towards decentralization. Quebec is saying, "Been there, done that, didn't work." Why has this government introduced, via Bill 160, a centralized education model when Quebec has found through experience that it doesn't work?
Answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much.
The Vice-Chair: Please, audience. You've been asked a couple of times not to demonstrate and we expect you would adhere to that.
We have about 30 seconds per caucus, starting with the Liberal caucus.
Mr Miclash: Sharon, I'd just like to thank you for taking the time to come down. You've certainly given the committee a northern perspective in terms of distance. I think your illustration regarding the principal being at one school and that far away and having to leave those children alone for that period of time is a great illustration of what we certainly face on a regular basis here in northern Ontario. In my 30 seconds, I would just like to thank you for making those illustrations.
Mr Wildman: I'd like to thank you for your presentation. It's been raised by government members a number of times and also in a couple of other presentations that have been made to the committee that one of the arguments for centralizing control over expenditures and allocations of funds has been that we could equalize. In other words, boards like yours that have really cut to the bone would benefit from this because there would be money taken out of places like Toronto and Ottawa and it could be distributed to boards like yours. Why don't you support Bill 160 on that basis?
Ms Preston: I think because we don't know the details.
Mr Wildman: Because you don't have the funding formula?
Ms Preston: That's right, exactly.
Mr Wettlaufer: Ms Preston, I've spoken to a number of groups over the last three weeks, including two teachers' groups, and they agree. High school teachers tell us that elementary school pupils are not adequately trained, adequately prepared for high school. University professors and university administrators tell us that the secondary students are not adequately prepared for university. Employers tell us that students from both are not adequately prepared for the work world. We've heard over the last day and a half that there are fewer resources and textbooks and fewer computers over the last couple of years. What I'd like to know is, over the last --
The Vice-Chair: Mr Wettlaufer, you've exhausted your --
Mr Wettlaufer: That's 30 seconds?
The Vice-Chair: It is, according to the clock. Thanks for the presentation.
NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO SMALL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
The Vice-Chair: The Northwestern Ontario Small Business Association, Doug Guinn.
Mr Doug Guinn: Mark Lawrence is our treasurer and will be presenting our issues.
Mr Mark Lawrence: Good afternoon. At the outset, I would like to thank the committee for allowing us this time to present our views and recommendations to you and hope the information will assist in the implementation of the proposed changes.
The current situation: Our understanding is the present system must be changed and modified, since as it stands we are not getting good value for our money. The system is overloaded on the management side and the power to increase property taxes cannot remain with the boards of education.
As an example, the Thunder Bay boards of education simply raised local property taxes to offset reductions in provincial grants. There was no attempt to reduce costs further and there was little incentive to cut costs when they are in control of their revenue. In fact, despite cuts on the provincial side, more money was spent on education in Ontario in 1997 than in 1996.
Our association tried to make a presentation to the Lakehead board and encountered no end of procedural roadblocks and limitations. As it turned out, our association was one of only two deputations allowed to address this issue and had little impact on the decision to raise property taxes by 4.8%.
After cutting through the rhetoric, we can see this confrontation is about who will manage education costs: the teachers' unions and boards of education or the government. Given the past performance of boards to control costs, is it any wonder the government must set certain parameters?
The proposed changes; impacts on funding: Our view is that the taxing authority has to be removed from the boards, and with the changes to the property tax system under way, it only makes good managerial sense to consolidate the taxing authority with the government and give school boards the needed restrictions to effect cost-cutting measures. Our association was supportive of the legislation to change the property tax system, since it more fairly allocates all operating costs across the tax base, based on assessed value.
Impact on teachers: We have no illusions about the impact of this legislation on teachers and we understand there will be layoffs and fewer hirings, but quite frankly we cannot continue to staff our institutions with extra bodies when the work can be done with fewer people.
The main issue is not whether teachers will have sufficient prep time; moreover, it is whether there will be paid prep time. In all other aspects of life, whether business or personal, unpaid prep time is part of the job.
On the other hand, the government and the school boards must be fully cognizant of the impact various legislation and programs have on the classroom teacher who must deliver these services. They must be aware that implementation of new regulations must be adequately funded, given sufficient time for orientation and transition, and they must monitor implementation and review its impact. If it can be demonstrated that something isn't working, then it should be changed. Teachers should be on the job to do what they were hired for: teach our children. If something is interfering with this process, it has to be changed. We feel that the changes envisioned will give the teachers the support they need to spend their time in the classroom.
Impact on students: Based on our understanding of the changes, students will benefit over time in that more input will be available from parents through the school advisory councils and more money will actually be available for the classroom and the four-year compressed curriculum will coincide with other jurisdictions, both in Canada and elsewhere. We feel they will benefit from a cooperative inclusion of non-teachers in the classroom, people who have real hands-on experience in a variety of fields and who can answer very specific questions and relate real-life aspects of their life work.
Additional time in school will allow a longer time for students to assimilate the ever-burgeoning level of new information coming at them.
Impact on boards of education: As we envision the changes, the boards will be responsible for the ongoing operations of the school facilities and will continue to collectively bargain with the teachers and the unions. They will now have parameters set out with regard to length of the school year, school day, PD days and some other aspects of their job description.
The board will still address all aspects of the collective agreements such as seniority, salaries, class sizes, discipline etc, save for the items mentioned previously. This is an effort to get the boards to perform as administrators.
Impact on taxes and taxpayers: Our members feel that taxes at all levels cause the most hardship for small and medium-sized businesses; however, property taxes and business taxes are the most burdensome. Many of our members have to borrow money or dip into personal funds in order to pay their property taxes and they just can't increase prices to offset the recurrent increases in taxes. Many are forced to close their doors and most are not operating profitably.
Any attempt to reduce and control costs is, in our opinion, necessary and imperative. Our members have to make these cost-cutting decisions every day and are the least able to exert control over their circumstance.
The Conference Board of Canada says Canada is losing ground in the global race to boost productivity, and we are especially weak in terms of education and training when compared to six other western nations it studied. The US, Japan and Norway are increasing their lead over us, while Germany, Australia and Sweden are catching up.
Business cannot effectively train its people if taxes continue to increase and taxes cannot be lowered if costs such as education cannot be reined in. We feel the interrelation between cost-cutting and reallocation of the education resources that exist is a step in the right direction, given our concerns mentioned previously, and will improve our education system over time.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We have less than a minute per side, and we start with the NDP.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much for your presentation. I noted on page 2 you talked about paid prep time. I looked at other professionals, such as lawyers, and I do think they get paid for their prep time. They bill me, anyway.
Having said that, though, I'd like to deal with your concerns about taxing authority and the centralization of control over the education system within the government -- the minister and the cabinet at Queen's Park. While I might understand and accept your position, because I suspect you're in support of this government's approach with regard to the taxing authority, don't you have any concerns about what a future government might do if it has complete control over the taxing centrally and you don't have any control locally?
Mr Lawrence: Essentially it would be the same situation. If they chose to increase taxes, we would have to live to with it. If they chose to decrease taxes, we'd have to also live with it.
Mr Wildman: But you wouldn't have the same input --
The Vice-Chair: Thank you for that input. To the government side, Mr Wettlaufer, one minute.
Mr Wettlaufer: I'd like to thank you for your presentation. I'm going to continue the question I was going to ask the previous presenter.
We've heard so much that there are fewer resources, fewer textbooks, fewer computers over the last 10 years. We've had a 16% growth in enrolment, we've had a 40% inflation rate, a 39% increase in provincial funding to the school boards, yet we've had a 120% increase in local education taxes. Do you wonder where this money has gone, if it hasn't gone into more resources, textbooks etc?
Mr Lawrence: We have a pretty good idea, since only a few percentage points actually get to the classroom. That aside, I think the per-pupil funding model will probably set aside some of those concerns and bring more money locally, especially in the north.
Mr Gravelle: I'm just curious. There are a number of issues you bring up, but the issue that keeps coming back is, I need to understand better how you feel that taking $667 million out of the system, which is clearly part of what this bill is all about, in fact maybe one of the more major parts of this bill, is going to improve the educational system. I would presume that as small business owners you want the education system to improve, but it's difficult to understand how taking teachers out of the system and taking that amount of money out of the system is going to improve and bring better educated graduates to be working for you.
Mr Lawrence: Based on our understanding, it's a situation where the people we have could be spending their time more productively, given the fact that if they can't be there all the time it requires more bodies. Our understanding is that reducing the bodies and therefore the costs won't have that much of an impact if the people who are remaining are still teaching.
The Vice-Chair: That's our time. Thank you for your presentation.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS' ASSOCIATION, NORTHWESTERN REGION
The Vice-Chair: The next group is OSSSA, northwest region.
Miss Sarah Viehbeck: My name is Sarah Viehbeck and I am the president of the northwestern region of the Ontario Secondary School Students' Association.
It is my understanding that the members of the committee have already received a copy of our provincial report, Ontario Students' Response to Bill 160, from our provincial executive's presentation. In my 10 minutes, I will be touching briefly on the contents of the report, but more specifically on some concerns expressed by the students in my region.
Across the province, students express concerns for the lack of impartial and specific information available with regard to Bill 160 and their anger at being left out. Students felt uninformed, frustrated and confused. There was also a feeling that their needs and opinions were not being considered. For quite some time there had been rumours of a teachers' strike or work stoppage but many students did not truly understand why. Needless to say, Bill 160 was a mystery to students.
In response to this, the OSSSA launched a provincial campaign to inform students of the various viewpoints and to gather their opinions based on the knowledge. The result was our provincial report.
While compiling the results on a regional level, one common thread loomed throughout: There are no specific details to clarify the bill and no regulations to make these things clear. Examples of this are particularly prominent in the issues of limiting class sizes, lengthening the school year, access to specialists and school advisory councils.
Questions arose from students such as: How big will this limited class size be? Will it be bigger than some of our classes are now? How much longer will the school year be? How are high school students supposed to get jobs for the summer to help, in most cases, pay for post-secondary education if we're in school longer? Will these specialists be able to help teach students who have specific learning needs or disabilities? What will the role of these school advisory councils be? Answers must be provided to these questions.
It is the government's responsibility to inform all people about such legislation, not just parents, not just teachers, not only the general population, but specifically students. This legislation affects them dramatically. Students are the consumers of the education system.
This system is much like a large puzzle, each piece being important. Students too are equally an important piece as the others. Without us, the puzzle is simply incomplete.
Education has traditionally been a partnership in Ontario. This partnership must continue to grow to include all stakeholders -- parents, trustees, community members, teachers, non-teaching staff, government members and students -- not shrink to include a few cabinet ministers behind closed doors. That is not the way education in this province has been delivered. Local people, including students, want to be able to have a say about education. The education system cannot be run like an industry, where everyone is provided with the same materials in hopes of arriving at the same end product. Many students have special needs and a variety of learning styles.
Since it seems the accountability will be reduced, what is going to happen if this new, improved quality education system does not meet the needs of students? People have to stop telling and start asking students what they need out of the education system. When asked, I'm sure students will be able to provide a wealth of opinion.
A positive step could be the advisory school councils, but there must be more. Students could feel empowered to make a difference in their own schools and these councils would be an excellent channel for the energy of today's students. Students need the opportunity to take a greater role in every aspect of their education. However, students must be effectively and democratically represented on these councils, should they happen. Do not be fooled. Students are concerned about their education.
On Thursday, October 23, the students of my region organized a silent protest. There was full participation from the Thunder Bay secondary schools, and the Nipigon Red Rock District High School also participated. Students wishing to signed their name to a sheet of paper. The papers were then displayed on the front lawns of the schools, each one representing a student's concern for his or her education. They did not want to walk out, thus sacrificing class time to express their concerns. The object of this protest was not to support the teachers or to go against government but simply to show that students do care about --
Failure of sound system.
The committee recessed from 1450 to 1500.
The Vice-Chair: We'll call the hearings back to order. We now have electricity. Without electricity I guess you can see we're a little bit in the dark. Needless to say, we have approximately three minutes and we're starting off with the government side. You have one minute per side.
Mr Smith: Thanks, Sarah, for your presentation. Quickly, I'm just trying to get a sense of the extent to which you have been consulted or involved by your parent organization provincially. Quite frankly, when I look at the Education Improvement Commission's report, there are some 17 different student groups that were contacted, but very few in the north. Can you give me an idea of how you've shared your information with the Education Improvement Commission, if at all, and how you go about gathering information on northern issues or issues specific to education in general?
Miss Viehbeck: I think the problem is communication. We don't know a lot of what's going on. We have never been invited to give a statement to the Education Improvement Commission. I know the OSSSA provincial has certainly provided some response -- I don't know how much -- to the education improvement document, but in The Road Ahead, the Education Improvement Commission's latest document, no northern students were consulted.
The Vice-Chair: We move now to the Liberal Party.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you, Sarah. That was a great presentation. I think you've brought out some of the details of the bill that aren't there, things that need to be answered or should be answered before it goes into legislation.
I wanted to ask you just one question. Has the OSSSA had regular meetings or some meetings with the Minister of Education in the past? Have they had briefings in the past?
Miss Viehbeck: Yes.
Mr Gravelle: Was Bill 160 ever part of that discussion? Here you have sessions with the minister and one would think there would be an opportunity for the minister to talk about this particular bill and give you an opportunity for consultation. Did that happen?
Miss Viehbeck: Our last meeting with the Minister of Education was just before Bill 160 was introduced and no discussion about Bill 160 was had with our organization. We took up the initiative of writing a report on our own and went based on information from all the different groups and then compiled the common threads.
Mr Gravelle: I'm glad you had a chance to appear.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much for your presentation. I want to say that in these hearings some of the most eloquent interventions have been from students' groups, and I very much appreciate your presentation.
I have one small disagreement with you, which I've indicated to you already, that is, you said students were an important part of the education system. I would say students are the most important part of the education system.
Having said that, though, basically what you're saying is that you believe, as a representative of students, that the government should be expanding the groups involved in deciding the future of education -- students, teachers, parents, trustees -- rather than contracting it and putting it in the hands of a few people in Toronto. Isn't that basically what you're saying?
Miss Viehbeck: Absolutely.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. I'm sorry for the delay.
ONTARIO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION FORT FRANCES-RAINY RIVER DISTRICT
The Vice-Chair: The next group we have is OPSTF, Fort Frances-Rainy River, Allan Holt.
Mr Allan Holt: I'm Allan Holt, president, Fort Frances-Rainy River District, OPSTF. I'm also a parent and, more importantly, I'm a teacher.
Last night, as I sat at home working on this presentation, which you do not have before you because I didn't write one, I said to my wife after numerous attempts at putting down my feelings in words: "I can't do this. I have to speak from the heart." So that's why I'm here. I found it difficult to try and put into words so many different thoughts on what has been happening.
Yesterday as I stood on the picket line with my fellow teachers, I wondered why we were there. Yesterday, at the end of the day, we had a rally in Fort Frances and my daughter was there with me. She's a grade 12 student taking some OAC courses. I said to her afterwards, "Hon, I'm really proud of you that you're out here to support your dad and your teachers." She didn't have to say anything; she just knew.
Where are we going with education? What are we doing to the children? What are we doing to the teachers? I've listened to people give their speeches and they all have valid points. We talk about getting our money's worth. I thought of an analogy as I watched the World Series on Monday night and the money that the Florida Marlins put in to get a winning team. I thought: "Jeez, it would be nice if the government were to spend that kind of money. Think what we could do."
As a teacher, last week I sat in my classroom and during creative writing I prepared my students for a topic of Halloween stories. I read them two different stories. One was called The Foghorn, and I had all the lights blanketed in the classroom with just a little light coming through one of the blinds so I could read the story. I had one of the children pretend he was a foghorn, because basically that was what the story was about. It was about a monster, a dinosaur who lived at the bottom of the ocean, 20 miles deep, and he would come every November to the calling of the foghorn. My students really liked that story.
Then I read them another story. It was called Do You Believe in Ghosts. Again the lights were low. The kids didn't have to make any noises this time; they just listened too intently.
At the end of the two stories, I said: "Now you're going to work on your own. You're going to have to write a story about Halloween and I want it to be a horror story." I thought how nice it would be to sit back and be able to tell my grade 6 students, "You really don't have to write a horror story because it's already been written." I think you know what I'm referring to.
Last spring I had the opportunity to present a paper in front of our town council and, tongue in cheek, I purposely made reference to Mike Harris and Adolf Hitler. At the end of my presentation, a day or so later, I was soundly criticized by the editor of the paper. I thought, "Jeez, I wonder if he's true blue," and then I thought it really didn't matter because I had my opinion and my degree was in history. I did study history and I think I learned from it.
I thought, "People fought to be able to say what they wanted to say," and it didn't matter whether it ruffled other people's feathers, just like I listened to people here today. What they said I didn't agree with, but I would sure love to be able to sit down with them and talk to them. I would also love them to be able to stand in my shoes in front of the classroom and feel what it's like to be a teacher and to be vilified from a government, actually from my boss, and to feel what it's like to go to work each day and be told that you can't be trusted to deliver a quality education program.
Remembrance Day is coming on, and I think 126,000 teachers are trying to send a message to this government to remember us.
I've rambled, and I've done this purposely. I would like to end my presentation, because I am a teacher, with a visual note. One thing I do like is that, because I am going bald -- I used to have lots of hair when I started teaching -- it enables me to take off my sweater and tell this committee that I made up this T-shirt two years ago when Snobelen's toolkit first came out. The picture that you see on it, if you can see it from where you're sitting, is my caricature of Mike Harris and John Snobelen. The other people will be able to see it shortly, but it says, "Harrisment sucks." I'm rather proud of that.
I would like to leave you with this: I also run a grade 8 trip on which I am proud to take students to Toronto each spring to see our provincial government at work and also to enjoy the sights in Toronto. Approximately one day after, June 5 or June 6, 1995, I believe it was, I was walking down Front Street with my students and one of my students said: "Mr Holt, look. It looks like they're interviewing somebody." I said: "Yes, it does. Maybe we should go see if we could be interviewed."
It was CBC, it was the day after the election, and I said, "Are you interviewing people?" They said: "Yes, we are. Would you like to be interviewed?" I said, "Most definitely." They said, "Where are you from, sir?" "My name is Allan Holt. I'm a grade 6 teacher from Fort Frances-Rainy River, Ontario. I hope you know where that is." They said, "Would you care to comment on the election results?" I said, "I'd love to. Yesterday in Fort Frances I went and voted before I caught a plane to come to Toronto. I'm here with 35 of my students, and this is kind of teaching them what government is all about." They said, "How did you vote?" I said, "Well, I didn't vote for the Conservatives and I didn't vote for the NDP and I didn't vote for the Liberals. In fact, I'm rather ashamed that I purposely destroyed my ballot by putting down on it, 'There's not a party or a person worth voting for.' I feel badly that I did that, because for 30 years, given the opportunity, I had voted. I had voted because it's my democratic right and I had voted because I believed that whoever I voted for would do the best job possible for me, representing me and my children in Toronto."
I want to leave you with this: It is Remembrance Day, and I'm going to leave you with a poppy to remember us. Also, next time I will vote and, you can count on it, I won't be voting for the PCs.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. You've used up your 10 minutes.
ASSOCIATION DES FRANCOPHONES DU NORD-OUEST DE L'ONTARIO
The Vice-Chair: The next group is the association of francophones of northwestern Ontario. If you would give us your name, and please proceed.
Mme Denyse Boulanger-Culligan : Mon nom est Denyse Boulanger-Culligan. Je suis l'agente de développement de l'Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario. Vous avez une copie de notre présentation.
Comme représentante de toute la population francophone de notre territoire, l'Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario adresse ses remarques sur les parties de cette loi qui nous affectent particulièrement comme citoyens et citoyennes à part égale de l'Ontario.
Les services en français : l'Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario appuie les sections du projet de loi 160 qui garantissent les droits de la population francophone de la province. Nous nous référons, entre autres, à l'obtention et à la mise en vigueur des points suivants : la gestion scolaire par et pour les francophones, la représentation de la population étudiante sur les conseils, la mise en place de conseils d'école consultatifs, la répartition plus égale des taxes, et l'identification des contribuables catholiques francophones.
Nous accueillons ces changements qui nous sont favorables dans leur ensemble et nous apprécions le fait que notre population ne soit plus mise à l'écart et soit traitée justement dans le système d'éducation de notre province. Nous sommes cependant très conscients des obstacles à cette loi, obstacles qui affectent l'éducation de nos enfants mais qui toutefois ne devraient pas mettre ce projet de loi en péril.
L'acquisition de nos droits nous dicte d'appuyer la reconnaissance des droits de toutes les personnes, et nous exigeons que les droits du personnel enseignant soient respectés selon la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés et la Charte des droits de la personne de l'Ontario. Il nous est difficile d'envisager un gouvernement en pouvoir qui n'agisse pas selon la loi et qui ne respecte pas les droits fondamentaux de ses citoyens et citoyennes.
Au sujet du financement, le gouvernement de l'Ontario doit maintenant s'assurer de nous distribuer l'argent nécessaire nous permettant d'offrir une éducation de langue française qui soit équitable et sans discrimination pour les francophones, et nous recommandons que le modèle de financement soit mis en vigueur dans les plus brefs délais.
L'argent récupéré par la mise en oeuvre de la réforme du système doit être alloué en sa totalité au nouveau système pour faciliter et accroître l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation de nos enfants. Les coupures budgétaires au système d'éducation doivent cesser.
Enseignement : il faut tenir compte de la diversité des régions et des situations ainsi que des attentes spécifiques qui correspondent à la réalité des constituants de la province. Pour les régions désignées et aussi éloignées que la nôtre, il est des plus importants de conserver une certaine autonomie pour agir en tout temps dans l'intérêt de nos enfants ; c'est un objectif primordial. Les décisions prises par un gouvernement à partir de Toronto ne reflètent que rarement les réalités vécues dans les communautés éloignées et isolées d'un grand centre. Dans le but d'améliorer la qualité de l'éducation de nos enfants, nous croyons que le gouvernement ne doive pas s'approprier la gestion des effectifs en enlevant la responsabilité de cette gestion aux conseillers scolaires locaux, et que les conseillers scolaires locaux doivent conserver la responsabilité de l'embauche du personnel.
Mise en oeuvre de la réforme : les changements que le gouvernement propose sont d'une envergure astronomique. La mise en oeuvre de tels changements demande une période prolongée de réflexion et de planification pour éviter que les résultats à court et à long termes occasionnent un déclin plutôt qu'un rehaussement de la qualité d'éducation que nos enfants reçoivent.
Des prononcés politiques ne sont pas suffisants pour que les constituants puissent prendre des décisions averties sur un sujet aussi important que celui-ci. Puisque les parents devront de plus en plus avoir un rôle actif dans l'éducation de leurs enfants, il est raisonnable que les renseignements qu'ils reçoivent soient de plus en plus détaillés et véridiques. La population francophone du nord-ouest de l'Ontario s'attend à devenir partie prenante du système éducationnel, et pour ce faire, elle devra recevoir l'information complète en français. De plus, les élections des conseillers francophones devront se faire en français partout en province.
Nous sommes intéressés à ce que l'éducation de nos enfants se continue sans délai et dans une atmosphère permettant leur épanouissement. Il en revient donc au gouvernement et aux syndicats de travailler ensemble pour enlever les obstacles et minimiser les impacts sur l'éducation de nos enfants en réglant leurs différends sans les tenir en otage. Les générations futures d'enfants et les gouvernements à venir ne pourront que bénéficier d'un processus réfléchi et impartial.
La prochaine page est le mandat et l'historique de l'AFNOO qui nous permet de parler au nom des francophones du nord-ouest de l'Ontario. Merci.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for that presentation. It gives us a couple of minutes per side to ask some questions. We'll start with the Liberal caucus.
Mme McLeod : «Les coupures budgétaires au système d'éducation doivent cesser.» Pourriez-vous dire que serait l'effet sur les écoles de langue française d'une réduction de 600 $ ou 700 $ millions du budget provincial pour l'éducation ?
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Je m'excuse. Je n'ai pas compris la question. C'est l'impact de 600 $ millions ou de 700 $ millions sur -- d'enlever cet argent ?
Mme McLeod : Oui.
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Cela aurait un impact extraordinaire. Pour commencer, on a des nombres peu élevés. Il n'y a pas beaucoup de jeunes. On a une population minoritaire. Donc, l'effet d'enlever autant de dollars, on peut donner la mort aux services en français.
Mme McLeod : Je ne sais pas comment dire ceci en français : Patrick Daly from the separate school trustees' association -- and the separate school trustees, as you know, are also most concerned, as we all are, to see greater equity in education finance -- said that you cannot achieve equity without adequacy in the financing of education. Je pense que vous êtes d'accord avec ceci ?
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Absolument, oui.
Mr Wildman: Merci beaucoup pour votre présentation. If I could be permitted to ask you a question in English, it seems to me that essentially what you're saying is that you need to know the funding formula so you can assess how the needs of francophone students in the northwest can be properly and adequately met, and that you want the students back in the schools as quickly as possible, which is what I think we all want. Surely it would make sense for us to have the funding formula so we could assess the implications of Bill 160 in a more comprehensive manner. Is that basically your view?
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Well, it would. It would also make sense to give the population in general -- je pourrais parler en français ?
M. Wildman : Oui.
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Ça ferait beaucoup de sens aussi que la population en général ait plus d'information, non seulement au sujet du budget mais au sujet des coupures qui s'en viennent peut-être, ou au sujet de tout ce qui va se passer dans la loi. Ce sont des informations qu'on n'a pas, et on ne peut pas faire des décisions averties sans l'information.
M. Beaubien : Bonjour, madame. Hier après-midi Mme Groulx, qui est la présidente de l'AEFO élémentaire à Sault Sainte-Marie, nous avait attiré l'attention sur le fait que des petites écoles à l'intérieur d'un territoire anglophone avaient beaucoup de difficultés à réaliser leur but, leur vision. Est-ce que vous avez la même difficulté ici dans le nord-ouest de l'Ontario ?
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Je ne fais pas partie du conseil scolaire ou des écoles comme tels. Je reflète seulement ce que la population pense, et c'est très difficile. Nous avons eu beaucoup de difficulté à voir nos acquis, alors c'est encore très difficile de les garder. C'est une bataille constante pour nous, les francophones. Si on n'a pas un gouvernement qui s'occupe de nous et qui nous donne l'argent équitablement et qui nous donne le support, c'est très difficile pour nous de continuer à opérer les écoles.
M. Beaubien : En ce qui concerne l'équipement dans les classes ici dans le nord-ouest de l'Ontario, est-ce que vous êtes au courant si on a beaucoup de difficulté à obtenir un bon niveau pour les livres ou bien pour les ordinateurs ?
Mme Boulanger-Culligan : Je sais qu'au niveau des ordinateurs, nous sommes très pauvres. C'est la pauvreté totale, ce qui veut dire qu'on n'en a presque pas, et ce qu'on a est très vieux. Alors, j'imagine qu'il y a de la difficulté à avoir beaucoup de ressources à ce niveau-là.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We appreciate your presentation.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 29, THUNDER BAY
The Vice-Chair: The next group is OSSTF, District 29, Thunder Bay. Please state your name for Hansard, and you may start.
Ms Arlene Gervis: Arlene Gervis, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Thunder Bay Division.
I guess I have to introduce myself as part of that ilk that my colleague Jim Green was referred to this morning. We as teachers, though, pride ourselves in the fact that we try to teach anyone who comes into our classrooms. I would hope that even some of the Conservative Party members were in those classrooms at one time.
We tried to be very tolerant at first, as we would be with all our students, but in trying to figure out why they have gone to such an extent in Bill 160, we're a bit puzzled.
It seems to me that perhaps once they won the election, they had to sit down and see how they were going to keep their promises. They had to, one by one, take on what they considered the union giants. They took on OPSEU, they made changes to WCB, they took on the health care system and now it's our turn.
I can't help but imagine that at first their motives were real, that they were sincere, but I think they perceived the enemy as greater than it was. When they say that their goal is quality education, we can't refute that; that is our goal too. So why are we at war? Why are the teachers out in the streets? Overkill. Bill 160 is overkill.
There are three main points I want to make in my presentation:
First, the transfer of power from local boards and their trustees, along with the control of funding, to the province that is allowed in this legislation poses a danger to democracy that the citizenry does want it to be.
Second, Bill 160 is more a public relations weapon than judicious legislation, because they have declared war.
Third, the monetary goals inherent in, and the pace set for the passage of, Bill 160 pose threats to students and in particular to special needs students.
First I want to point out how I see the government using the public debate over Bill 160 as a weapon that is undermining confidence in the Ontario education system. In order to achieve its end, the government has trodden into an area heretofore in the history of the human race considered as sacred. As the human species evolved through aeons of history, one trait has remained constant. Those who were of integrity and who could win and maintain the trust of the children and elders became the teachers of the next generation. But in order to give credibility to its agenda, the government has set out to systematically destroy that sacred covenant by strategically forcing the teachers to walk away from their students.
The evidence against the government's policies is damning. Each day more of the diabolical plot is exposed. The pieces of the puzzle are fitting together. Why was there only one copy of Bill 160 available in Thunder Bay, at Brodie Street library, for the parents who have been looking for it?
We know it's true that the Tory leaders wish to create a crisis, to prod the teachers into civil disobedience and then to paint them as opposed to whatever is good for kids. Their million-dollar ads aimed at discrediting the teachers are incredible lies. They imply, for example, that because the government now wants to control class size, the teachers must be in favour of larger classes. Who could ever believe that?
By emphatically saying the government is in favour of more parental involvement, they try to make the public believe that teachers don't want parental involvement. That's the way we succeed with trust in a household.
By advertising the status quo as unacceptable, the government suggests that teachers are against change. Wrong.
By promoting this act as primarily about prep time and length of school year, the government uses the oldest trick of all, the red herring, in an attempt to hide the true agenda.
This kind of ad campaign is sleazy at best and they are attempting to use it as a backdrop in their attempt to pass Bill 160.
Teachers are trained in their craft, and many of us have been practising that craft for a good number of years. Why are we not given the credit by this government for knowing anything about how a classroom works? Must we give pedagogical deference to a government through a bill aimed only at saving money?
One of your Tory supporters, Andrew Horsfield, said this morning that he as well did not want the Conservative Party and this government to make decisions based on money, but on what was good for education.
Can a government be trusted with such broad decision-making powers when they are afraid to deal with funding issues right in the bill? Are they so afraid of the public knowing the truth that they write the bill in such a way that puts the funding model in regulations to appear later? Veronica Lacey's job assignment certainly left that one exposed.
The government has purposely tried to drive wedges between the stakeholders in our children's future by first claiming that the system is broken, when it can be clearly be refuted. The government is tainting its own data, especially when the Premier can brag about our excellent results internationally and then come home to Ontario and chide us about poor results. That was the excuse the government used for creating this weapon known as Bill 160.
It's the last piece of the puzzle. The more we get into the analysis of the strategies, the more the pattern becomes apparent. The goal? The hidden agenda? Money and power. Bill 160 is the weapon to be used on the unsuspecting populace for the purpose of centralizing control of money and power.
In part I of Bill 160, several subparts are written to amend the Education Act. These parts accommodate the power grab by giving the Lieutenant Governor in Council unprecedented power to make regulations allowing the government to grab whatever money and power it thinks it needs. Also unprecedented is setting the act above challenge.
We in the north live too far away from centralization to relinquish that much power to people who have little appreciation for regional differences. This is a theme we keep coming back to, but it's worth repeating.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about centralized power in his treatise on democracy. In essence, he said that those who try to grab power for themselves by centralizing all important decisions eventually render the citizens so dependent on the central power that when the citizenry is given a rare and brief exercise of free choice, important as it may be, the citizens may have "gradually lost the faculties of thinking, feeling and acting for themselves, and thus gradually fall below the level of humanity."
That may seem dramatic if we are only speaking of one aspect of political control, but this government, in its zealous approach to balancing the budget at the same time as promising a tax break, is sacrificing that sacred covenant between a society and its next generation. That sacrifice cannot and should not be measured in dollars.
Not one group representing educational workers, of which we have two bargaining units with OSSTF in Thunder Bay, who deal with special needs children was chosen to present their case at these hearings. In Thunder Bay we have two such employee groups, one with each school board. Only just this morning, after a motion was passed, did they get standing. They will be presenting later.
In the meantime I have prepared a brief comment on their behalf. I would like, as their president as well, to underscore their issues. They have grave concerns about the children who are lost when governments move too fast with such sweeping legislation. Their presentation will be most articulate, but I want to quote a couple of paragraphs from it that are important enough to be heard twice.
Bill 160 provides that there will be "direct impact on those students whose needs are greatest, but provide the biggest challenge to the system.... These students need qualified teachers who have time to prepare with us, the special support people, in order to provide specialized programs; they need qualified co-op teachers who help them take part in community job-seeking to prepare them for the real world of work; they need trained classroom support to help them succeed to the best of their abilities in academic classrooms, and they need qualified music, art and drama teachers to help them find meaning in their lives.
"Funding cuts have already made us close our special vocational schools and close special needs classes where our students could learn basic life skills in an environment that was not threatening to them. We worry about the student who hid in the second-floor washroom for two days because he was mortally embarrassed in a regular class in which he felt stupid and unprepared. We worry about the student who goes hungry all day because he doesn't know how to order lunch in the cafeteria. And we worry about the increase in the number of teens threatening suicide with no one to turn to for help because the supports have been cut.
"Slow down. Don't let these kids fall through the cracks in your haste to provide a tax cut. They have faces. Education is not a commodity -- it's about real people."
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. You have exhausted your time.
The Vice-Chair: The next group we have is the separate school council, Ms Joan Powell. Go ahead.
Ms Joan Powell: Good afternoon. My name is Joan Powell, and I'm here today to speak on behalf of my three children: Max, who is in grade 4; Martha, a grade 3 pupil; and Sam, who is in grade 2. All my children attend Our Lady of Charity School in Thunder Bay. I'm here to talk to you about what I see happening in their school, as a parent and a school council chair. I mention my children by name because I believe it's important to remind all of us that it is their futures we are discussing when we look at education reform. It is their opportunities, their chances to grow and develop. Indeed, it is the very quality of their lives as adults that we are affecting when we propose changes to the education system in Ontario.
I am a parent who is extremely worried about my children's future, given the proposed education reform contained in Bill 160. First of all, let's be honest. The government calls Bill 160 the Education Quality Improvement Act. "Liar, liar," I am tempted to say. This bill says nothing about improvements to the classrooms of Max, Martha and Sam. This bill is about two things: wrenching power from the teachers and trustees of this province, and carving a huge amount of money out of the education budget.
Back when the hearings on Bill 104 were occurring, John Snobelen told the people of Ontario that there was still fat to be found in school systems, but, he said, any moneys removed from the fatty side of education would be rechannelled into the classrooms of our children. "Fine," we responded. "If you can find any excess, take it. Just be sure that the found money goes directly to the education of our children."
Given the cuts of the past four years, which total over $1 billion, increased classroom funds are desperately needed to ensure that top-quality programs and materials are available for Max, Martha and Sam, and their classmates.
Last week we learned that Mike Harris is planning to slice another $700 million or more from our schools. We also learned that the money is not going to be channelled back into our children's classrooms. It's not going into program development or excellence in teacher training either. In fact, it's not going anywhere in education. It will be taken away from the very students this government has promised to put first and funnelled towards something the government finds more important than the future of our children.
Let me tell you what I know of the current situation in the school that Max, Martha and Sam attend, before Premier Harris takes almost $1 billion more away from their education. Our Lady of Charity is a beautiful school, a new school, built only four years ago. At first glance, because it is such a physically lovely building, your perception is of a very prosperous school. First impressions can be deceiving.
My children are required to arrive at school in September with essential supplies in tow. Pencils, pens, crayons, markers, rulers, erasers, scissors, binders -- all these supplies must be provided by the home, and when the child runs out of something, the parent must go and replace it.
At our school, parent volunteers spend endless hours in fund-raising projects, and what do you suppose we are fund-raising for? For the frills of education, the trips to far-off locations or the excursions to pricey arts events? Not at all. At our school, we are fundraising for the fundamentals: for books and for computers and for basic phys-ed equipment.
At Our Lady of Charity School, the teachers themselves fill their classrooms with equipment and supplies they have purchased with funds taken out of their own pockets. When I was at the school the other day, I saw teachers carrying out boxloads of materials. I asked Mrs Horbow, the kindergarten teacher, what was happening. She told me they were taking their personal belongings home in the event of a teacher walkout. "What personal belongings?" I asked. Mrs Horbow's list of things she had purchased herself included science equipment, an aquarium, puppets and costumes, teacher scissors, coloured markers, a glue gun, a three-hole punch, CDs and records, a rocking chair and tables, scores of books and 10 to 12 Tupperware containers filled with learning materials purchased and developed for her current teaching unit.
With her personal things packed up, her JK room was left almost empty, but of course we know the Harris government doesn't care about JK anyway. Funding for JK has been lost under the current regime. Funny how I remember John Snobelen publicly stating that JK was essential to the optimal development of children and should be universally funded.
If, as a result of yesterday's crippling budget cuts, parents are already fund-raising for books and computers, children are already providing their own school supplies, and teachers are already opening their own wallets to supplement dwindling classroom funds, what, I wonder, will the classrooms of Max, Martha and Sam look like tomorrow when another $700 million or more is taken from their education?
Don't tell me that Bill 160 is going to improve the quality of their education. Don't tell me that Our Lady of Charity School is going to provide even better teaching for my children with budgets gutted further still. Don't tell me that Max, Martha and Sam are going to march with confidence and skill into the 21st century without the proper tools or equipment to get them there.
Mike Harris says we can do more with less. As a concerned parent and taxpayer, I'd like to know exactly how much less he thinks our children can do with and exactly how much more our teachers can cope with. This bill does not give us any details. In fact, Bill 160 does the opposite. It tells us that this government is going to give itself unprecedented and unlimited powers to regulate educational change -- without our input, without our consent and even without our knowledge.
Do any of us really trust the Harris government, or any government, to make sweeping changes in education without input or consultation with teachers, administrators, trustees or parents?
Other powers given to the government in Bill 160 include determining class size and teacher preparation time, and introducing differentiated staffing. There's no question in my mind that these measures will save money, but what do they have to do with improving the quality of education? Where is the research to support the notion of unqualified instructors improving the education of our children? Why would unqualified individuals do better with Max, Martha and Sam than the highly trained and remarkably dedicated Ms Bird, Miss Dugard and Mrs Scherban who teach them already? It doesn't make sense, unless your only concern is to provide cheaper education. Since when does cheaper mean better? How can paying $2 billion less for education in Ontario translate into a better education for our children?
Let me say this to taxpayers who see Bill 160 as improving education in our province: Consider that the bill passes and the following scenario occurs in your neighbourhood school next September. Your child is placed in a grade 3/4 class of 35 pupils, six of whom have special needs: One is in a wheelchair, one has autism, two have been diagnosed as having ADHD, and two have learning disabilities. Each of these special pupils requires individualized instruction. The highly experienced grade 3/4 teacher from previous years has been fired without cause and has been replaced by a less expensive faculty of ed graduate who has no teaching experience. Because of the latest budget cuts, there are no special-ed teachers or support personnel left in the school. A local sports hero with no teacher training and no experience working with children has been assigned all the phys-ed classes to plan, instruct and evaluate. He's also required to fill in whenever a classroom teacher is off sick.
The textbooks are worn and outdated and can only be replaced through parent fund-raising, which is also responsible for the purchase of all library books, all computer equipment, all art supplies and notebooks.
You don't like it, you say? Too bad. Too late. Bill 160 will give the Harris government the power to make these and other changes in your child's school, and your local trustees, board administrators, your child's teachers, the school principal and you as a worried parent will have absolutely no recourse.
The Chair: There's only one minute left, Ms Powell.
Ms Powell: Perhaps you think this scenario is too extreme. More extreme than taking $2 billion out of education in five years? More extreme than replacing your child's teacher with an unqualified worker? More extreme than passing legislation that provides the cabinet with powers more recognizable in a dictatorship than a democracy? Think again, I say.
No one is opposed to education reform. Parents certainly aren't, and in my experience neither are teachers. But let's be honest. Bill 160 isn't about improving the quality of instruction in schools. The real objective of Bill 160 is to take control of the education system and to siphon huge amounts of money from the classrooms of our children.
On behalf of Max, Martha and Sam and all their classmates across this province, I urge the members of the Harris government to rethink the contents of Bill 160. Listen long and listen hard to teachers, trustees, parents and students about the real issues involved in improving the quality of education in Ontario. If there are inefficiencies left in education, by all means remove them, but please put the recovered funds where they rightly belong and where they're so desperately needed: in the classrooms of our children. Thank you.
The Chair: I thank you very much.
Our next presentation will be the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council.
The Chair: There will be a 10-minute recess.
The committee recessed from 1548 to 1558.
THUNDER BAY AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL
The Chair: The committee will come to order. Our next presentation will be the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council. Welcome, Ms Pan. Please proceed with your presentation.
Ms Evelina Pan: We welcome the opportunity to make this presentation, speaking for the more than 10,000 members representing some 50 local unions of the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council. We hope the standing committee on administration of justice is really prepared to listen and to act on what we have to say. We are aware that hearings are often held to create the illusion of public consultation. In reality, we know that hearings are often a sham.
We would like to strongly protest the lack of notice given for the hearings in Thunder Bay. It's absolutely frightening to think that the government of the largest province in this country is so incapable of even the simplest planning that it cannot give groups more than a few days' notice of hearings on an issue so important to the future of our province. We would say shameful, but it goes beyond shameful into glaring incompetence. In fact, this is only one of the most obvious flaws of the Harris government. There's no thought given to the negative impacts of government actions on people and on our communities.
Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, is a critically important piece of legislation that will touch the life of every single person in Ontario. This is a bill that is brought to us by a government that doesn't bother to hide its contempt for the men and women who devote their working lives and their volunteer time to improve the quality of life for everyone in the province.
We wish that Bill 160 could assure us that the government is truly interested in improving the quality of education for the children of Ontario, but from what we can tell, the only thing Bill 160 will improve is the health of the purses of Mike Harris's wealthy backers.
Bill 160 is another example of how the Harris government, which was elected by only 40% of Ontarians, thumbs its nasty nose at democracy. Bill 160, along with its companion legislation, Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, has at its core four main purposes: (1) to pay for the Harris government's tax cut for wealthy Ontarians; (2) to prepare for the massive privatization of the public sector, including education and health; (3) to create a downsized, low-wage broader public sector that will function to drag down private sector wages; and (4) to attack the democratic institutions, such as municipal governments, school boards and the union movement, which stand in the way of the government's anti-human policies and which can actively mobilize opposition to these policies.
Bill 160 is a spiteful piece legislation that flies in the face of democracy. If passed, this bill will give the Harris government sweeping dictatorial powers over every aspect of the education system covering school boards, funding, teachers' qualifications, the number of teachers and the time teachers spend with their students. Bill 160 is about transferring education dollars into the Harris tax cut for the rich by eliminating programs, by laying off up to 10,000 teachers, and by replacing teachers who are trained to impart knowledge to others with people who may know their fields of expertise but who aren't qualified to instruct.
This bill targets two areas that stand in the way of the government's assault on education that have absolutely nothing to do with improving the quality of education and everything to do with the Harris attack on democracy. The government wants to take away school board control of a significant part of educational funding and the guarantees negotiated between teachers and the school boards which employ them.
As a labour council, we are extremely concerned about how existing labour practices will be changed by Bill 160, which will severely limit the scope of free collective bargaining. The Harris government wants to use this bill for cabinet appointees, through the so-called Education Improvement Commission, to dictate the outcome of the collective bargaining process.
When the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act was legislated in 1975, teachers and school boards were empowered to negotiate any term or condition of employment. The right to bargain staffing, working conditions and job security provisions has been used wisely by those two parties. Bargaining these fundamental issues has enhanced the quality of learning conditions for students across Ontario. We have to remember that teachers' working conditions are, after all, students' learning conditions.
How about reducing class size for starters? It's only common sense. Fewer students per teacher means more quality time for each pupil. Conversely, the larger class sizes that will result from the passage of Bill 160 will result only in overworked teachers. It's only common sense that when people are overworked, the quality of their work suffers. Is this fair to our children? Is this fair to our future?
Bill 160 extends the minister's power to dictate by regulation the wide range of teaching and learning conditions. This power will allow cabinet to change all those conditions without consultation, without debate, without discussion. It's a measure of this government's contempt for democracy and the public. Under the pretext of preventing disruption to the education of our children, Bill 160 gives the government the authority to write a regulation taking away the teachers' right to strike without any debate in the House.
Qualified teachers are the foundation of a quality education system. In the 1970s, qualifications for teachers were changed to require at least a bachelor's degree to attend teachers' college. Why would we in the 1990s lower those standards? Why would we entrust the education of future generations to people not qualified to teach?
As the library technician at Churchill High School here in Thunder Bay, I have seen teachers coming back to school at least a week before the official day-after-Labour-Day start date. They already do this because they're concerned about their students and because they're diligent workers. Why force people to do what they already do?
Bill 160 gives the Minister of Education and Training the authority to write regulations controlling almost every aspect of school board governance. Isn't it more democratic to have school boards run by elected trustees rather than have cabinet and the minister make regulations that don't have to be approved by any elected bodies?
School boards should retain the right over local taxation as the means of funding local education. Bill 160 turns school boards into mere collection agencies for the government. With cabinet having the power to write regulations altering any and every aspect of education, the government will be able to squeeze billions of dollars out of the system without anyone being able to do a thing about it.
Bill 160 gives the Ministry of Education incredible authoritative and discretionary powers by centralizing decision-making in the hands of government and away from local school boards.
You know, I'd just like to interrupt my own presentation because you have invited us here to present and there's whispering happening over here. I can't see how they can listen and whisper at the same time. But nevertheless, I'll carry on.
With no local decision-making authority in education --
Mr Beaubien: Excuse me, Mr Chair. On a point of privilege, I think I'm entitled to talk to my fellow colleagues over here. I've been listening to this presenter attentively all afternoon, and for about 30 seconds she catches me talking to my fellow colleague. I think that is a cheap shot on your behalf, for me, for you to point this out.
The Chair: Please continue.
Ms Pan: My pleasure. With no local decision-making authority in education, changes will take place in the education system without any local input or accountability --
Mr Beaubien: That's bullshit.
Ms Pan: I don't appreciate your language. Profane language is not appropriate at any time, in a classroom, in a school or at a public hearing. Amazing.
These discretionary, centralized powers will seriously erode the quality of our education system. Local school boards know best what will work for the children of their communities, not politicians rolling in pension buyouts while they pillage the education system on behalf of the rich.
In closing, we would like to make the point once again that Bill 160 has nothing to do with improving the quality of the education system, but is really an attack on education. It's an attack on the teachers who deliver education to our province's children and on the hopes of future generations of Ontarians.
Real improvement in the quality of the education system has to be based on democracy, on locally elected school boards, and on respect for terms and conditions of employment negotiated through direct and free collective bargaining between school boards and teachers. Real improvement in the quality of the education system has to guarantee that every student in every classroom in Ontario has a qualified, certified teacher. Real improvement in the quality of the education system has to minimize the regulatory control of Queen's Park and its unelected bureaucrats, and reinstate shared decision-making on educational policy so that students and their programs are protected. Real improvement in the quality of the education system has to guarantee that local school boards maintain the financial base required to meet the educational needs of students.
The Thunder Bay and District Labour Council feels that the best thing the Harris government can do for education is to keep its dirty hands away from our children. We urge the government to resign or call an election so that the people of Ontario can restore decency and true common sense to the province of Ontario.
I would just like to draw your attention to the final page of our brief, which is unnumbered. It's a resolution that was passed by our labour council at our general meeting on Thursday of last week, passed unanimously in support of the teachers in their political action and against Bill 160.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Pan, for your presentation here this afternoon.
LAKEHEAD BOARD OF EDUCATION
The Chair: Our next presentation is the Lakehead public school board, Suzan Labine. Welcome. I'd ask you as you speak to identify yourself for the purpose of the record, and please proceed.
Ms Suzan Labine: Good afternoon. My name is Suzan Labine and I am chair of the Lakehead Board of Education. I am joined by Cathy Woodbeck, vice-chair, Jim McCuaig, director of education, and Dave Fredrickson, superintendent of education. Thank you for allowing the Lakehead Board of Education 10 minutes to discuss Bill 160. We hope you take this opportunity to listen, discuss and reflect on our comments.
Although titled the Education Quality Improvement Act, Bill 160 has very little in it that will improve the quality of our children's education. This bill, which we believed was originally intended as legislation to facilitate the smooth transition to new amalgamated school boards, has become a rambling piece of legislation that only deals with half the funding model, interferes with current collective bargaining and attempts to minimize the role of trustees. It has created an unprecedented confrontation with teachers that is mired in distrust and acrimony. It will take years to undo the damage.
In a recent comment to the press, the Premier incorrectly stated that the Lakehead Board of Education negotiated an increase in class sizes to give a pay raise to teachers -- quite a surprise for the Lakehead Board of Education employees who have not had an increase to their salary grids in six years. Obviously our Premier was given some bad information from his advisers, the very people in whom he has placed his trust.
Due to the time constraints imposed on us, we will focus our attention on a few areas of this legislation.
Bill 160 directly interferes with local contracts that have been bargained in good faith. Bill 160 enables cabinet to impose regulations in areas presently negotiated at the local level. The government seems stunned that teachers, through their federations, are taking historic action over this issue. However, the real issue is that teachers, their federations, boards of education, parents and a growing and significant segment of the general population no longer trust the motives behind several major pieces of legislation. Does the government have an agenda of privatization? We would have a real interest in knowing.
Ms Cathy Woodbeck: If we may, we would like to indicate what trust and honesty can actually accomplish. The Lakehead Board of Education has negotiated $5.3 million in annual savings out of its teachers' collective agreements over the past two years. These were intense negotiations. However, they successfully responded to the government cuts and were accomplished because both sides trusted each other to do the very best for our students in a very difficult situation. We are not pleased with these reductions as they negatively impact our classrooms. Increased pupil-teacher ratios, reduced planning time or reduced professional support all impact the quality of learning for children.
Over the past five years the Lakehead Board of Education has had to respond to a 31% or $16.7-million reduction in provincial grants. This board has negotiated costs out of labour contracts, closed and amalgamated schools, reduced costs in all areas through efficiency gains and reduced operating costs by $16.2 million.
Ontarians have voiced very strong disapproval regarding the draconian powers Bill 160 places with the minister and cabinet. As many presenters in public hearings before us have stated, this government has consistently used language offensive to democratic principles. We are very troubled by this centralization of control, especially from a government that talked about smaller, decentralized government as the most effective form of government. Legislation by which the minister can bypass the Legislature is absolutely unacceptable. The Canadian parliamentary system of open debate and public voting on issues must be defended.
In this drive for total control, the government now finds itself befuddled in creating a provincial funding model that accommodates Toronto and, at the same time, Longlac. Finding one corporate-commercial mill rate and a common assessment base in a province as large and diverse as Ontario will be a nightmare. The government's inability to table the funding model and the regulation with this bill fuels our distrust. Will a workable model ever be forthcoming?
Ms Labine: It was the ability of the local school board to establish a suitable local mill rate that made the current system function, imperfectly, but function at any rate. School boards across the province are anxiously awaiting this new funding model. Notwithstanding Bill 160, if the province does not fund preparation time, support teachers and special needs children, our most vulnerable, this province will not have a public education system that provides quality or equity of opportunity to the children of our community.
School boards have held the right to tax the properties in their communities since the early 1840s. This ability is a prerequisite to local education governance, local responsiveness and local accountability. It is essential that the province develop and deliver its funding model before the final decision on taxation is made. Again, this bill deals with only one half of the funding model
To be frank, local trustees, teachers, parents and students are very tired of the politics encircling education. We are tired of politicians paying lip-service to improved educational standards without committing to funding remedial programs for those students who don't meet the provincial standards. We are tired of politicians playing word games to avoid funding appropriate classroom supports. If provincial politicians are sincere, and I hope you are, show us the plans to return savings to our students. We are tired of being threatened and we are tired of being distracted from our classrooms by the politics of crisis.
We must be allowed to focus on children and learning, for, you see, teachers, parents, students and our community have placed their trust in us to do so. This is a trust with the people of Thunder Bay we shall not break.
Mr Wildman: Thank you very much for your presentation. I noticed you said you must have the delivery of the funding model before the final decision on taxation. I certainly agree with that. But wouldn't you also agree that it would make common sense to have the funding model and the total amount the government is prepared to spend on education in the classroom before this bill is passed into law?
Ms Labine: We have grave concerns that we don't have any numbers attached to even any proposed funding models. We were sent a proposed funding model for special education that had absolutely no dollars attached to it. We recognize that those are our most vulnerable students, and if that is not the the very least that can be provided to boards so we can at least allay those fears. I have big problems with that happening.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation. Many of the other public school boards we heard from made specific recommendations on the role of advisory school councils. Could you quickly give me your position on that issue.
Ms Labine: I am so glad you brought up school councils, because I am so very proud of the presentations that were made by both our school councils and the separate board's school councils, and I hope this panel was listening very carefully.
As far as their role and what's going to be happening is concerned, the government will certainly have a large part to play in defining that role and what it should be. I hope the government listens very strongly to the OISE report on school councils and what that indicated and sees that parents do not want governance, do not want to be trustees, but they do want to have a part in improving education within their own school community.
Mrs McLeod: Thank you for telling us the reality of what happened at the local bargaining table between teachers and trustees. Thank you for making it so clear how hard the Lakehead board, with its teachers, has worked to try and deal with the funding cuts you've already had. It has been made absolutely clear by the Premier that the $667 million is not to be reinvested in education. I can only assume, in the balance of my 30 seconds, that if those cuts come, it will be absolutely devastating and you won't find a way of coping the next time.
The Chair: Thank you very much for making a presentation here this afternoon.
MOTHERS FOR EDUCATION
The Chair: Our next presentation is the Mothers for Education. Good afternoon.
Ms Susanne Marquardt: My name is Susanne Marquardt. Beverley Rizzi will also be speaking. Becky Spickett, a student at Westgate Collegiate, joins us as well.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our opinions concerning Bill 160. We understand that many wanted to speak and we feel privileged to be here.
I would like to begin with a letter from another student, Kezia Picard, who is in grade 11 at Hillcrest High School here in Thunder Bay. Kezia writes:
"There are many things I've been noticing at school. The size of my classes is getting larger. There are fewer of our dated textbooks. The computers are obsolete. And I have often encountered math teachers teaching English or phys ed teachers teaching science.
"My school is cold in winter. We do not have enough desks or sports equipment and extracurricular activities are disappearing. I have rarely had a field trip and I have not seen students being taught according to each individual's learning style. It can only be the government who is playing the pivotal role in implementing these changes and all that they continue to do is aggravate these problems.
"An increase in hours will give me, a student, no more time with each teacher. Parent councils could result in a possible two-tiered education system and the end of public education as we know it. I cannot see the merits of standardized testing. How does this help me? Why is money being spent on this excess? This is only what I know of the legislation currently being proposed by the Conservative government.
"I am directly being denied knowledge about the changes and about my education. I will not agree with something I know nothing about and what I do see being done disrupts my learning. I myself have ideas of my own to improve the system, alternatives focusing on learning rather than on finances. To cut back on money is not a reason for change or to jeopardize my education.
"What I see being done is neither progressive nor revolutionary, as the government would have us believe. These acts do not change along with our society but rather move us backwards to a time more archaic. It is my education, yet I was not informed or even consulted. As a student, I demand that my rights are acknowledged.
Ms Beverley Rizzi: Susanne and I are here today as concerned citizens and personally I'm a frightened parent. What is ahead for our children in these unstable times surrounding education? I think that's a fair question.
I would like to express that we are not pro-teacher and we are not pro-administration. We are, however, pro-education and we are pro-children. We've talked to parents, teachers, students and administrators who feel panic and concern over your plans to push through Bill 160 so quickly. Many feel you're not sharing all the necessary information and many feel you're removing democracy. We agree with them.
Your government has suggested that moneys will be redirected, education equalized across Ontario. You haven't kept your election promises. Northwestern Ontario has paid dearly. Still no funding model and it seems almost funny that you want us to trust you.
Mr Harris, why was it that in New York you could turn around and say Ontario kids were number one, and yet in Canada, here in Ontario, we're nothing? That really bothers me.
Quality, well-rounded education is dying here in the northwest. Its causes are obviously linked to your reforms. If my presentation seems angry, it is because we are angry. When parents wrote you for help, you ignored them. When students cried out, you turned a deaf ear. When board officials tried to communicate errors, you slandered them, and you did. When educators wanted to negotiate, you made negotiations impossible. It is funny that you want us to trust you now.
At Bill 104 your panel appeared bored with our presentation, definitely not interested, and we, as Mothers for Education, were insulted. We're hoping you're listening now.
You must know that we have children in rural areas who travel four or more hours daily just for the privilege of attending high school. You must know that these children are being asked to walk a mile or more to pickup points and overcrowded buses doubled up to save money in 40-below weather and 10-foot snowbanks. Predators such as timber wolves have been known to come into our rural backyards and prey on household pets and yet you condone this when you say our children can walk. I may add, in winter months it's dark when they leave for school and dark when they arrive home.
You claim things are being mismanaged, yet you will not define what mismanagement is. I'm curious to know how much your government has spent on lies and innuendoes with no clear definition of mismanagement. Will you share that information with us today?
Just how many of our tax dollars have been spent in your government's efforts to discredit our current education system? I saw two full-page ads in the newspaper. Even with these hearings alone, you stay in the best hotels, you use the best equipment and still not everyone gets a chance to speak. Don't think it goes unnoticed.
Toronto has no concept of the diversities or the geographics of this area. Toronto is a 16-hour drive from Thunder Bay non-stop. The point being made here is that Toronto did not have 17 feet of snow to move and in Thunder Bay we did. I wonder what our ministry would have said if the Lakehead board had failed to shovel school rooftops and they had caved in? Would you have labelled them irresponsible or commended them for saving money? The Lakehead board faces a similar crisis this year with our current south ward water problem. Your government ignores these extra costs such as bringing in bottled water and further insults them with accusations of spending too much, too freely, and yet you want us to trust you.
I would like to point out that Bill 160 gives your government total government control, not surprising at all, no local input, and a cabinet that will be accountable to no one. I challenge a government that will allow itself to have such sweeping powers over education. You can change the curriculum, you can change the school day and you can even change the Education Act on a whim. This worries us, especially as now it's publicly known that you're prepared to ignore the recommendations of your own Education Improvement Commission. Even they recommended that you should not take any more money out of education. I do believe I heard $667 million to come out, on the radio.
That's not the point I'm trying to make here. No government should have this type of power. We could equate you to the days of Julius Caesar: "So let it be written, so let it be done." But that's still not my point.
Imagine, if you will, next election day and you're not re-elected. Bill 160 has already passed. It gives the same power to the next government, allowing them to restructure education again and, let me remind you, with no accountability. Will the future of education consist of total restructuring every few years? It is a fair question and it could happen.
I repeat, no government should have this type of power. I thought we lived in a democracy. Education must be seen as an investment in our future and you, the Tory cabinet, need to be reminded that you get what you pay for. Education needs to be stable and secure. This is hurting our kids now. Your Bill 160 puts our kids at risk and at the total mercy of any government which could give or take at a moment's notice. Anyone in your cabinet who has not considered that fact is a little foolhardy. You must see the serious consequences involved here.
I would also like to point out that this government is about to remove the only tax solely dedicated to children and I really have to ask, when you take this action, what are you saying to the children of Ontario? What are you saying to them?
I'm quick to point out that classrooms are overcrowded in the district of Thunder Bay and they're overcrowded because of a cooperative effort by our board and our teachers to try and keep the necessary programming -- not luxuries but necessities. Luxuries like shop, grades 7 and 8 music, home ec, various arts programs, dance and drama, they're gone. Teacher-librarians, they're gone. JK is at risk. Administration was reduced by 40% here and teachers by 5% and you're still willing to claim mismanagement.
Why don't you publicly share your real intentions for special needs children? Tell the families about how you're removing choices. Share your plan to send your specialists up to Thunder Bay and how you expect these children and their caregivers to travel here from all our outlying areas with no mention of who will cover the expenses. You want us to believe you will include these families in critical decisions regarding their children's future. I don't think so.
It is interesting that in Bill 160, school councils will be mandatory. Their role will be established through regulations and still no details.
I assume this will be left up to your unaccountable cabinet. One is left with a distinct impression that this government is looking for free labour in education. How many raffle tickets and candy bars are parents going to have to sell to continue to provide quality public education in Ontario? Parents volunteer their time generously, but now I think you're asking too much. Some parent councils have already been putting in 30 hours a week and in Calgary they're working for desks and books. We don't want this here in Ontario; we don't want it at all.
We've enclosed constructive points to education because you've been quick to point out to parent groups that they haven't. So take note of them, please.
I would also like to disclose our intentions to ask every parent, grandparent, teacher, student and administrator who is in protest of your Bill 160 to deliver a broken pencil in an envelope with their names and addresses attached to Premier Mike Harris or to their nearest MPP office. This pencil is to symbolize an education system that is at risk and soon to be broken. So there's no mistaking our intentions, this action is in total protest of Bill 160.
The Chair: I thank you very much for your presentation here today.
ONTARIO ENGLISH CATHOLIC TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION, THUNDER BAY SECONDARY UNIT
The Chair: Our next presentation is Don Cattani. Welcome, sir.
Mr Don Cattani: I'd like to being by thanking the committee and members of all parties for coming to Thunder Bay to hear us and also for giving OECTA secondary, which I represent, one of the open spots and particularly, Mr Chairman, I'd like to thank you for that decision made first thing in the morning.
OECTA secondary represents 170 teachers in Thunder Bay teaching at two composite high school and five section 27 sites. We teach approximately 2,550 students. We are proud employees of the Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
To address Bill 160 in its entirety would be impossible I think in 10 hours, let alone 10 minutes. So we've chosen a few areas to discuss with you. We're going to try to discuss them in as non-partisan way as we can.
The issue of class size: I've been in a lot of discussions over the years about class size. You would expect the following to be in that discussion: class size maxima, class size minima; allowable percentages above and below those numbers; single-class, school, system-wide averages, which one do you choose; allowable differences in different streams, whether that be advanced, general, basic; special classes -- congregated classes, modified basic, gifted, split grades, perhaps a weighted count for exceptional students; even local anomalies -- different communities have different needs.
You would expect all of those issues to be a part of any cogent discussion about class size. Section 81 of Bill 160 discusses absolutely none of them. It simply states the minister will have the regulatory power to resolve both class sizes and the method of their determination; later stated in subsection 170.1(1) that school boards must comply with those regulated class size requirements.
To state over and over again, as you do publicly, that this bill deals in any meaningful way with the subject of class size is simply not supportable by the facts. This legislation not only avoids any meaningful discussion of that topic, it precludes local, elected school board officials from the decision-making process of the child's class size.
We would secondly like to discuss the use of non-qualified instructors. The minister would have new regulatory powers under Bill 160, section 81 and section 118, and the Education Act, section 170.1, subsection 262(2) as follows, and I'm going to read them both in the language of the bill and I'll try to simplify them:
(a) The minister can designate any non-teaching positions and prescribe duties and qualifications inherent to these positions. So the minister could say, "These areas will have non-qualified instruction."
(b) The minister can decide that any other teaching position not determined in (a) can be filled by a non-qualified instructor.
What that says is, "Just in case we missed you in (a), it doesn't mean you're going to be a teacher in the rest." The question needs to be asked, why on earth do you need (a)? Save some ink. You only need (b).
The argument that some non-qualified experts would be suitable teacher replacements is not, we believe, a tenable argument. We have heard it said that an expert such as Wayne Gretzky could teach phys ed. We think it equally likely that Clifford Olson could teach criminal justice. As well, Mr Gretzky probably wouldn't accept a base salary of $30,000 a year for the next 35 years.
How can this government continue to argue that Bill 160 addresses quality, and you do and there's a lot of money spent arguing that, while at the same time seeking to lessen professional standards of the people who teach our kids? How can this government, which introduced the College of Teachers to establish higher professional standards for teachers, award teaching positions to those who don't meet the standards? Could this legislation simply be about the extraction of money from public education rather than about quality education? I leave you with that question.
I'd like to address as well the King Henry VIII clause, a very shocking clause. This clause in Bill 160, section 32, and the Education Act, subsection 58.3(3), provides as follows: The regulation will prevail in the event of a conflict between that regulation and any statute, any law.
In the normal course of a free society laws are proposed and passed by an elected Legislature and then commented upon by a judiciary. We teach this. Bill 160 bypasses both of these normal, democratic procedures. There is one sole Canadian precedent for this kind of a bill and that would be the federal War Measures Act.
This clause of course is the essence of Bill 160. Indeed, I would say you could tear up the rest and just keep this and it would do everything you want it to do. It's all that you need to perpetrate any condition on the lives and futures of any of our children.
This section of the act is especially repugnant at a time of year when we honour those who gave their lives to defend our tradition of freedom and the rule of law. Any citizen of Ontario who wears a poppy and supports this section of Bill 160 is shaming the memory of those who fought for our laws and freedoms.
One would expect to see language of this type put forward by a dictatorship or a junta, not duly elected members of a western democratic government. This language is shocking and it demands in and of itself civil disobedience.
The Chair: Excuse me. This audience behaviour has already put in jeopardy the three last speakers, including the OSSTF, Lakehead separate school board and Don Watson. We are supposed to stop at 5 o'clock; we have a plane to catch. You keep applauding and you keep ignoring it. That's up to you, but you are responsible and I'll leave it to you. You have three minutes more, sir.
Mr Cattani: In closing, I would like to say, particularly to the members of the Conservative caucus -- and by the way, you guys are taking all the hits for all of them down there and I at least salute you for showing up and listening to us. Teachers, school boards, parent councils and clergy are almost universally united in their opposition to Bill 160 and it's clear, no matter which poll you read, that about half the citizens of Ontario are supportive of the present protest action. Are they all wrong and are we all just acting in self-interest?
It was the Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker who introduced Canada's first bill of rights and he was a lifelong Conservative. Leslie Frost, John Robarts and Bill Davis, former premiers of this province, combined their conservative beliefs with a true understanding and love of the democratic process. You are part of a proud and honourable tradition in the history of this province, in the history of this country. To defend this legislation and to use little children to justify that defence diminishes you and your beliefs. Will none of you stand up and be counted and will none of you finally say, "Enough"?
Mrs McLeod: Don, I want to take your King Henry VIII clause language and perhaps see if you would accept a rephrasing in even more direct language. Would you say that clause allows the cabinet of this province, with sanction, to break any law it chooses to break?
Mr Cattani: It would appear that it would. Certainly, our lawyers believe it does. In fact, even Conservative lawyers were quite shocked by it.
Mr Wildman: I think anybody who is interested in civil liberties and in the democratic process would be shocked by that language. To allow in a piece of legislation a regulation that would override, not only this legislation but any legislation without any public input or debate, is unacceptable in a democratic society. I agree with your characterization of it completely. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr Cattani: Thank you very much, Mr Wildman. I can't say enough how shocking it is to be at this point in my life in a province and country I love and to see our simple civil liberties being threatened by a duly elected government. Surely these guys would learn.
Mr Smith: Thank you very much for your presentation. Your comments on differentiated staffing: I certainly got the point that you presented.
We've had the Royal Commission on Learning, which was established by the previous government. We've established the Education Improvement Commission that made recommendations around supporting such. Recognizing your comments and your position, is there no room to address this issue?
Mr Cattani: Mr Smith, that's a really interesting point. I'd like to answer it in this fashion. Oftentimes when you try to save money provincially, you really do the opposite locally. For instance, if you lengthen the school day, you would kill the triple-routing of busing that happens in Thunder Bay, and our board has saved considerably on that.
Let's say my answer would be to put it all into local control. In some jurisdictions you see technicians in certain areas. Locally we can work that out, and I think that's really the essence of what I would have to say to you. Much like the Lakehead board said earlier, you'll make tough decisions locally to preserve the system you have and to preserve the education for the children. I think that to do it by cabinet fiat is going to create more chaos and, oddly enough, I think it will end up costing more money.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, sir.
ASSOCIATION DES ENSEIGNANTES ET DES ENSEIGNANTS FRANCO-ONTARIENS, LAKEHEAD ÉLÉMENTAIRE
The Chair: Our next presenter is the AEFO, Lakehead elementary, Linda Houston. Welcome. Please proceed with your presentation.
Mme Linda Houston : Chers membres du comité, je suis ici aujourd'hui comme représentante d'une petite unité francophone. L'AEFO Lakehead élémentaire compte 15 membres. Nous ne sommes cependant pas les plus minoritaires à Thunder Bay, car la section AEFO Lakehead secondaire n'a que six membres.
J'aimerais vous présenter le scénario que nous vivrons si le projet de loi 160 entre en vigueur sans modifications. N'oubliez pas que nous, les francophones, sommes minoritaires ici dans le nord-ouest de l'Ontario, mais nous ne sommes pas les seuls dans cette situation en province. N'importe quelle petite école, francophone ou anglophone, de l'Ontario qui est dans une situation semblable vivra des scénarios semblables.
La loi prévoit remplacer certains membres du personnel enseignant par des gens qui n'auront pas de brevet d'enseignement. Dans une situation minoritaire, ce sont ces programmes, tels que l'éducation physique, la musique et autres, qui font que nous gardons nos effectifs dans nos écoles. Sans ces programmes aménagés par des enseignants qualifiés, nous perdrons des élèves aux autres écoles, celles des sections majoritaires. C'est un fait réel avec lequel nous vivons chaque jour. Les parents exigent une éducation de qualité pour leurs enfants, et nous, comme enseignants, sommes fiers de produire cette éducation de qualité dans notre travail. Si nous ne pouvons plus offrir cette éducation de la plus haute qualité à cause des coupures budgétaires et du projet de loi 160, beaucoup de parents iront chercher ailleurs.
Dans un milieu comme Thunder Bay, il y a peu de professionnels francophones qui oeuvrent dans les domaines que la Loi 160 s'attend à remplacer avec du personnel non qualifié. La plupart de ces gens sont déjà des enseignants. Est-ce que le ministre s'attend à ce que ces personnes travaillent à un salaire réduit parce que leur poste ne sera plus considéré comme celui d'enseignant qualifié, tandis que l'Ordre des enseignants continuera à les reconnaître comme enseignants ? La possibilité réelle, c'est qu'il n'y aura pas de francophones pour se charger de ces matières. Est-ce que ce sera alors des anglophones qui seront chargés des cours d'éducation physique, de musique, de bibliothèque et de tous les autres domaines dans nos écoles dans le budget desquels le ministre décidera qu'il voudra couper encore plus d'argent en éducation ? Est-ce que ces programmes deviendront non existants ?
Les enseignants de salle de classe devront se faire de la traduction. Ça prend beaucoup de nos énergies pour offrir des programmes de qualité en français, et nous en sommes fiers. Les enseignants dans notre école et au secondaire ne veulent pas compromettre l'éducation francophone de qualité. Avec cette loi en vigueur, il ne sera plus possible d'offrir une programmation variée et de haut calibre. Avec un tel scénario, il est garanti que nous perdrons des effectifs.
Dans notre petite unité qui dessert la seule et unique école francophone élémentaire, comptant environ 250 élèves à Thunder Bay, la perte de personnel qualifié veut dire une perte de cinq postes à temps plein ; c'est-à-dire la maternelle, le jardin, que nous offrons à temps plein, l'éducation physique, que nous offrons à chaque jour, la bibliothèque et les arts -- arts visuels, arts dramatiques, musique. Le ministre appelle ça une éducation de qualité, quand les élèves perdront probablement tout ça ? C'est une prise de contrôle par un gouvernement qui ne veut pas se compromettre, qui se fiche de l'input local des parents, des conseils d'école, des conseils scolaires et des enseignants. C'est aussi une façon facile d'éliminer des postes d'enseignants et atteindre un objectif irréalisable : couper 650 $ millions du budget du ministère de l'Éducation et de la Formation, et dire que l'éducation de nos enfants sera meilleure ?
Les parents vont plutôt s'attendre au contraire. À nul part est-ce qu'il y a une indication que la qualité d'éducation pour les francophones à Thunder Bay et à travers l'Ontario améliorera si tous ces postes disparaîtront. Les indicateurs visent plutôt une détérioration de la haute qualité de l'éducation offerte aux étudiants.
Aux tests provinciaux de la troisième année, les élèves dans notre école ont eu un rendement supérieur à la moyenne de la province. Avec une telle réduction de programmes et d'enseignants, il sera presque impossible d'atteindre ces rendements supérieurs.
La Loi 160 donnera l'autorité au gouvernement d'indiquer les tailles de classes. Rien dit que ces tailles diminueront pour les grandes classes. Rien indique que les petites classes n'augmenteront pas. Avec une perte d'enseignants telle qu'envisagée, les chances sont que les tailles de classes dans notre école augmenteront. C'est la seule manière de garder beaucoup des cours que la Loi 160 entrevoit éliminer. Ce sera aussi l'occasion de perdre encore plus d'effectifs dans une école minoritaire, car les parents iront chercher ailleurs pour une meilleure éducation pour leurs enfants. Ceci est le scénario à l'élémentaire seulement.
L'effet domino fera qu'au secondaire, ce sera la perte d'enseignants et d'étudiants. En perdant un enseignant sur six, il y aura beaucoup de coupures au choix de la programmation et tous les programmes perdus envisageront des pertes supplémentaires d'effectifs. Une perte d'effectif envisagera encore plus de pertes de programmes et d'enseignants, ce qui pourrait facilement devenir la perte d'une école, soit élémentaire, soit secondaire. Est-ce cela une éducation de qualité ?
Pour nous, ces pertes possibles d'étudiants et de programmes sont une réalité que nous vivons, et vivrons toujours. Les programmes déjà de très haute qualité et variés qui sont enseignés par des enseignants qualifiés font que nous sommes des écoles de haute qualité qui, avec leurs besoins uniques, répondent aux besoins des francophones de notre région isolée. Ça, c'est l'éducation de qualité à laquelle les parents s'attendent à ce que leurs enfants auront accès.
La loi prévoit allonger la journée scolaire. Je crois que ce serait un temps important pour que les membres du comité regardent l'heure du lever et du coucher du soleil dans cette région. Ils devraient aussi prendre le temps de voyager les distances que certains de nos élèves voyagent à chaque jour pour jouir d'une éducation de qualité en français. Il y a des élèves de la maternelle et du jardin, ainsi que d'autres niveaux, qui vivent à plus d'une heure d'autobus de l'école. Commencer plus tôt le matin et finir plus tard en après-midi n'améliorera certainement pas l'éducation de ces élèves.
Leur demander de s'inscrire à une école plus rapprochée n'est pas une option acceptable, car les autres écoles francophones sont à trois heures à l'ouest, c'est-à-dire à Ignace, ou trois heures à l'est : à Geraldton ou à Terrace Bay. Pendant toute l'année, et surtout en hiver, les chemins sont dangereux. On a des animaux de toute sorte sur nos chemins et les conditions de voyage peuvent changer plusieurs fois dans moins d'un kilomètre. Le voyage anticipé par ces élèves aura à se faire encore plus tôt et plus tard à chaque jour que maintenant, et encore en pleine noirceur, aller et retour, pendant plus de huit mois. Expliquez-moi comment cela améliorera la qualité de l'éducation de nos enfants.
La loi prévoit aussi assigner des activités parascolaires à tous les enseignants, en tout cas à ceux qui auront encore un poste en éducation. Le ministre n'a pas pensé aux écoles qui sont presque exclusivement remplies d'étudiants arrivant en autobus. Dans notre école de 244 élèves, nous avons deux élèves qui ne prennent pas l'autobus. Tous les autres arrivent à l'école en autobus, ce qui est un fait pour beaucoup de petites écoles, et encore plus pour les écoles francophones. Alors, est-ce que ceci voudra dire que les étudiants seront obligés de rester après les classes, qui termineront plus tard en après-midi, et que les parents de ces étudiants deviendront des chauffeurs ? Ou bien, est-ce que les compagnies d'autobus assigneront leurs autobus à partir plus tard ? Encore une fois, la loi n'a pas de considération pour les conditions des écoles minoritaires et des écoles isolées.
Ne dites pas, «Faites ces activités à l'heure du dîner,» à moins que vous ne vouliez pas que les élèves et les enseignants dînent. Dans notre école, le dîner est de 45 minutes pour accommoder le système de partenariat des autobus avec d'autres écoles. C'est une économie mise en place depuis plusieurs années à cause de coupures budgétaires, et aussi pour assurer que les enfants arrivent à la maison à une heure raisonnable. Je n'expliquerai pas les désavantages du parascolaire avant les heures de classes.
Nos enseignants contribuent déjà beaucoup d'heures supplémentaires pour le parascolaire sans être forcés à le faire. C'est du volontaire qui est beaucoup apprécié par les élèves qui veulent participer et par leurs parents. Pourquoi détruire un système qui fonctionne bien et le remplacer par une main de fer qui ne plie pas ?
Chers membres du comité, l'impact de la Loi 160 est extrême pour les écoles élémentaires et secondaires francophones, ainsi que pour n'importe quelle petite école dans une région isolée. Notre survie, surtout dans les milieux minoritaires, est en danger. Sans certaines modifications à cette loi, les chances de survie sont minimes. Je vous prie de prendre en considération l'envergure des changements et des impacts négatifs que ces changements auront sur les écoles francophones. Je vous prie de prendre en considération l'impact négatif que cette loi aura sur la qualité de l'éducation, qui sera érodée à cause des décisions prises par un gouvernement qui travaille dans le vide et sans une vraie consultation avec les autres membres qui prennent l'éducation des élèves à coeur.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Houston, for your presentation.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, SESP UNIT, DISTRICT 29, THUNDER BAY
The Chair: Our next presentation will be Sue Smith. Welcome. We have 10 minutes. I would ask you to proceed.
Mrs Sue Smith: My name is Sue Smith. I'm a special education support person. I have brought with me Lynda Kitzen, who is also a special-ed support person; Barb Kucherka, who is a continuing education instructor; and Maureen Wasky, who is a student support person.
On behalf of the special education support staff unit of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, District 29, Thunder Bay, and all other educational workers across the province, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share our views with you on Bill 160.
I would like to take a few minutes to tell you about the employees who are part of the support staff bargaining unit. These members are employed by the Lakehead Board of Education to provide a number of special programs and services in our elementary and secondary schools. We are certified educational workers who work with teachers to provide a wide range of support services to the most vulnerable students in our school system.
The role of the special-ed support person is to be a resource to the teacher and to meet the identified educational needs of the student through modification and delivery of programs to students with exceptionalities. This includes programs that incorporate self-help skills to enable the student to become more socially independent. It is part of the role of a SESP to be responsible for procedures such as the administration of a prescribed medication and to clean catheterization to allow a student to attend school. Integration is also an important role of the SESP, where we help the special needs student cope in different learning environments, both inside and outside the school setting.
SESPs also help other students and school personnel to understand and accept the individuality of students with exceptionalities. The combined expertise brought to our classrooms by teachers and educational support staff such as ours is what results in the quality and safety of our classrooms. As part of a professional team, the teachers and support workers help the most needy students reach their maximum potential.
I can talk about how Bill 160 is going to affect educational workers, but what worries me is how it will affect the students I work with every day. After 20 years in the role of support worker, I feel like the students have become the last focus of attention, and my efforts on their behalf are stretched to the point that they are no longer effective. The past year has seen significant changes in funding that have led to the deterioration of the services we were able to provide. Bill 160 will further erode these services.
There are many issues at stake in Bill 160, but the ones I want to focus on today as being especially detrimental to our special needs students are the issues of reduced funding, lack of local ability to raise taxes for specific needs, the removal of certified teachers from some classrooms, professional development and preparation time.
Less funding will directly impact those students whose needs are greatest but who provide the biggest challenge to the system. Local boards need to be able to raise funds to develop local programs to meet student needs to ensure resources for assessment, early intervention and sufficient staffing. An essential component of successful integration of special needs students is the teamworking relationship that develops between teacher, administration and support staff. Skilled, consistent employees are essential in those positions. To these children, the development of positive, consistent relationships is critical to success in the school. These may also be the only positive relationships the child may experience in his life.
Students need a safe, caring, responsive and empowering environment to grow and learn. Students need to develop a sense of belonging and ownership. Creation of this environment is the responsibility of all stakeholders, including the community.
Students require an inclusive curriculum that is responsive to a diversity of needs. The instructional and extracurricular program must ensure that there is equity in terms of access, opportunity and outcome. To develop such a curriculum, teachers require prep time. This time is needed by experienced staff who modify programs so that inclusion is successful. These programs will not be developed without adequate funding to maintain this time.
In the past few years, we have been asked to work with three or more students who had previously been provided with one-to-one support. This change was not made because the students were ready for less support. They didn't suddenly outgrow their disability; it was made because of less funding. Safety, continuity and consistency have to be major factors in any funding model.
In our role as special-ed supports we deal with a wide range of at-risk students. As strong advocates for our students we are very concerned with a system geared to academic scores, grade performance levels and curriculum expectations where our students could quickly become the forgotten students without adequate proactive programs and support services.
Many of the students with general learning difficulties or disabilities and behavioural difficulties can achieve success in school if they are identified early and provided with the necessary supports. These students include those who at any given time are: students, adults and children, who are new Canadians; students who witness or are victims of any form of abuse at home -- verbal, physical and/or sexual; students who witness or are substance abusers; students from poor socioeconomic environments; students from single-parent homes or reconstituted homes; students who are learning-disabled; students who have low self-esteem; students who have physical needs; students who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing; students who have ADHD; students who suffered from low birth weight or foetal alcohol syndrome; students whose basic needs are neglected at home -- shelter, food, sleep etc, and the list goes on.
We believe it is essential that the new funding model for education provide boards with substantial funding for these students. These students are a reality in every classroom in Ontario. Meeting their needs while providing a quality education for all is a daily reality for every teacher. If the government is truly committed to a quality education system for all, they must address the needs of our at-risk students by providing funding assessment, counselling, proactive programs and educational workers such as SESPs working in conjunction with the teacher to do so. Included in this is the need for adequate professional development time for both teacher and SESP to receive training in new methodology and ideas from both education professionals and community groups.
Certified teachers are essential to the success of the inclusion of the special needs student. Classroom management is critical, whether the subject is English or computers. The potential destruction of costly technology through inexperience would be inexcusable. Again, safety is an issue where a specially skilled individual may bring knowledge to the gym, but the inability to manage a class could lead to endangering the special needs student.
I worry about the loss of self-esteem of some of my students who will never be able to achieve those skills. It is critical that the public understands that the government's proposal to replace certified teachers with uncertified teachers has nothing to do with quality; it's about money, contracting out jobs and providing the cheapest system possible.
I worry about my students who take part in co-op programs in the community and require support for success. Failure in a job placement means failure when the opportunity arrives for real work in the real world. As mentioned earlier in the presentation by the OSSTF Thunder Bay Division president, it was a student with special needs from my school who hid in a second-floor washroom for two days, being afraid to take part in classes he felt unprepared for.
I worry about students who, because of the forced closure of occupational schools, no longer receive life skills training that was part and parcel of regular classes, such as cosmetology. I worry about the student who goes hungry because he doesn't know how to order lunch in the cafeteria. I worry about the increase in the number of teens threatening suicide, with no one to turn to for help.
The students of Ontario would be better served if the government rededicated itself to making changes to the education system in consultation with the educational community, slowing the process down to ensure adequate time for consultation and implementation and changing the legislation to ensure that local boards continue to have the power to be effective advocates for the students in their communities. If this is not done, we fear the government intends to create conditions that will lead to the privatization of public education in Ontario and, at the very least, to an education system that is not responsive to the specific needs of its community.
Revisions to Bill 160 must assure the public that this government is truly committed to quality education for all students in Ontario. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Donald Watson. Welcome, Mr Watson.
Mr Donald Watson: Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am retired. When I worked I was involved with computers and change. Although I talk funny, I've been a proud citizen of Thunder Bay for 30 years. In that time, I have never been a member of a union and I'm not a strong supporter of unions. I'm too old to have children in the system, but I have 10 grandchildren. That's why I'm here. My comments are general. Since I was the last person to get an opportunity to speak, I don't have any handout.
The education system must change and I commend the government for trying. I believe, as the government states, that it will eventually be possible to cut costs and improve education at the same time. I would rejoice if I came here today to congratulate the government on how well Bill 160 has addressed those issues I'm talking about, but unfortunately not. Although I can give you an A for effort, I have to give you an F minus for execution.
I'd like to talk about a number of critical success factors for change, fairly simple ones, straightforward, and they're in common with some of the things that have been discussed today.
It is very well proven that you cannot cut costs and provide better service at the same time unless you have radical change. You have to have change to the fundamental system processes. You have to have creativity and imagination. You have to have research. It's very hard. Unfortunately, these bill's changes are only incremental. I have heard of nothing that I see as imaginative, creative or original, and since it's centred in cost reduction, it hasn't an ice cube in hell's chance of improving the education system.
What happens when companies cut costs only? They lose customers and eventually they fail. But in the market system, that's fine, because they get replaced by another, healthier company. If our educational system fails, yes, we can have private schools, the rich can be well educated, but there is a reason for public education. There is not enough talent within the children of the rich to manage the future of Ontario. We cannot afford to throw away the talent and the abilities of the rest of the system. You're looking at the economic destruction of Ontario.
Another success factor in change is decentralization. Big companies are breaking into independent units. Small is beautiful. They want to use the imagination of small groups and individuals. Is that what you're doing? You're centralizing control. I'd like to suggest that perhaps this government is as much socialist as Conservative. It wants to nationalize education. You only have to look at Russia to see the long-term devastation of centralization of power.
I'd like to give you a few words and phrases: trust, respect for employees, teamwork, consultation, honesty. All of those things are critical in today's change. If you know what happens to an employee when he's listened to, you will see it is an amazing motivation for good productivity and performance. Is the government listening? Can teachers trust it? Has it consulted with teachers on Bill 160? Does the government show respect for its teachers? I don't think there is anybody in the room who could say anything but no to those questions.
I'd like to give you an analogy. Many of our young couples both work and they put their children in some kind of babysitting service. Imagine them going along to the babysitter and insulting her, making working conditions more difficult, not listening to anything the babysitter says and then perhaps finally taking legal action. Does anyone in this room believe that the babysitter will do a better job of looking after the child? Yet this government believes that its strategies can force teachers to do a better job. That is naïve.
I think that is my major comment about this bill and what I've heard about this bill, that it appears to be embarrassingly naïve. It yearns for bygone days when things were simpler. In the 19th century, little changed in 20 years. A teacher could be fired for not going to church on Sunday. But I have to tell you that world went a long time ago. Life is incredibly complex. The solutions are hard to find in the system. We need to prepare our system not for the 19th century but for the 21st century.
Please put Bill 160 aside. Start working with the teachers, not against them. Look for real solutions. If you do, you will have successes before the next election. People like me will support you. If you don't, people like me will be fighting to stop you doing further damage. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, sir, for a very interesting presentation here today.
LAKEHEAD DISTRICT ROMAN CATHOLIC SEPARATE SCHOOL BOARD
The Chair: Our next presentation is the Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board. Good afternoon. It's been a long day and a long wait for yourselves, so I would ask you to proceed when you're comfortable.
Mr Kevin Debnam: Thank you, Mr Chair. My name is Kevin Debnam. I'm the director of education for the Lakehead Catholic school board. To my left is Joleene Kemp, who is the chair of our school board. We have a third member here but she is not here in person. She will come to life within the context of our script.
Jenny is a four-year old. She is a junior kindergarten student in one of our schools. Jenny gets on the bus at 7:50 in the morning. Her bus ride is now longer in the morning and after school because busing has been twinned with another school as a result of cuts to transportation. The bus is full and there is barely room for the packsacks that all the children bring to school.
When she arrives at school, she is in a class of 28 students. The program Jenny takes is offered in a full-day, alternate-day format. The decision was made to save programs in the face of cuts to educational funding. No extra money is available to replace the learning materials which are worn out and depleted due to more frequent use by the children.
When Jenny arrives at school, she quickly enters the gymnasium, where she takes part in the school breakfast program. The program, sponsored by the school in conjunction with a public volunteer group, provides milk and cereal for children who are in need of breakfast each morning.
Jenny is a four-year-old. The children in Jenny's class stay at school over the lunch hour. Unlike many day care centres, the classroom is not really equipped for rest time. The children are under the care of lunch supervisors for an hour and a half each day. Incidentally, the pupil-teacher ratio in Jenny's class is 28 to 1. The pupil-teacher ratio of a day care centre is 8 to 1.
Funds for the purchase of mats or extra activities for the lunch-hour are scarce. Jenny finds the full-day program tiring and, when combined with longer bus rides, comes home fatigued. Some of the children, including Jenny, are bused to day care centres after school. Jenny's day, which begins at 7:30 in the morning, does not end until 5:30 or 6 o'clock in the evening. Jenny is a four-year-old.
Jenny's alternate-day schedule sometimes results in her having long blocks of time with no formal schooling. The concepts introduced one day may not be revisited or reinforced for a period of four to seven days. It is often more difficult for teachers to establish routines and expectations for children.
Jenny's parents must now pay for transportation and other fees associated with extracurricular activities; for example, visits to a local farm or museum. Her school does not have the funds to do so. In today's economic climate, some families find these extra fees to be a burden, particularly as the costs of such activities rise from year to year.
Jenny's parents tell us that changes to education in this province, the new Ontario, have resulted in larger class sizes, longer bus rides to and from school, less individual teacher attention for Jenny, learning situations which inhibit the daily reinforcement of skills and concepts and additional fees for learning activities and supplies. Jenny is a four-year-old and Bill 160 directly impacts her life.
Ms Joleene Kemp: The Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board would like to take this opportunity to thank the standing committee on administration of justice for the time to make comments with respect to the proposed Bill 160.
Our board has always operated as an agent of change and, under the visionary leadership of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association, provided quality Catholic education for the students of Thunder Bay. This has been evidenced by receipt of a letter from the EIC that your government has put into place that commends our board for the diligence and the fiscal responsibility we have shown in working in a consultative manner with all our staff in order to keep the envelope from growing, but rather to help the envelope become even smaller.
Our board and our schools expect Catholic school graduates to be able to evaluate society with a critical and, even more important, cross-cultural eye. We expect and we demand of our graduates that they develop positive attitudes which motivate them to contribute to the common good of society, a society that cares about the rights and wellbeing of individuals whatever their race, colour, sex or creed. As our Catholic community dictates, we believe that respect for the person as created in God's image is essential for school and for society if we are to succeed.
We direct our remarks to you this afternoon to support the position that has been articulated by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association, of which you have already received a copy, as they did their presentation in Chatham. More specifically we are focusing on three very specific areas because of the very special students we serve.
Mr Debnam: Early childhood education: Our board has long been convinced that a successful start in the early years provides Jenny with a solid foundation upon which to build her educational career. This conviction has led our board to maintain junior kindergarten even in the face of funding cuts. For this reason, we forward the following position:
The board strongly recommends that any money saved through the educational reform package of this government be reinvested through the gradual introduction of early childhood education.
Ms Kemp: It has been, and continues to be, our position that under no circumstances can we support any government reform that unilaterally strips away the rights of the citizens of Ontario. Whether those rights were secured through the legislated framework of the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act, an act that lays down fair and workable ground rules for orderly collective bargaining between boards and teachers and lays the foundation for successful negotiations by reasonable people bargaining in good faith, it is in point of fact legislation based on rights, reason and responsibility.
In addition, our board has stated publicly on more than one occasion that it would not support reforms that strip rights entrenched in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, rights secured to protect Catholic and French first-language education in this province. We continue our unwavering stand on this particular issue. Therefore we would like this government to remember, in crafting educational reforms, that it do so in a manner that both recognizes and respects constitutional rights. We respectfully request and suggest that it apply the same considerations to those who have secured rights through other legislated frameworks such as the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act.
Mr Debnam: As a result, the Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board takes the following positions relative to rights: the deletion from Bill 160 of regulatory powers which would give the minister authority to determine class size; that relative to differentiated staffing, local school boards continue to determine what is beneficial in their areas. It is our contention that it is they who can more effectively negotiate this matter with the local teacher unit, not Mr Harris. We do not agree that preparation time is best determined by regulation at the provincial level. To us, this goes too far. We believe that within the context of the new funding model, school boards can better deal with this matter at the local level.
Ms Kemp: The role of school councils is very near and dear to our board. School councils in the western educational world have a relatively recent origin and, to date, there is little research to indicate their impact upon education. It is our hope, however, that ultimately they will provide an effective vehicle for encouraging further parental involvement in education and thereby provide further benefit to all our children.
For this reason, we support them as an advisory board and we will continue to work through the annual review policy which our board has to ensure their successful evolution. We believe that it is essential for trustees and school advisory councils to work cooperatively to ensure a balanced view and approach to both local and system needs.
Mr Debnam: Finally, regarding further cuts to education, we strongly recommend that there be no further cuts made to education funding in this province; and further, we recommend that the implementation of the funding model, one that guarantees fulfilment of the minister's promise that Ontario will have no second-class students, proceed without delay.
Ms Kemp: We believe the recommendations we have made today are being reiterated throughout this province. These are the same recommendations that will help our board continue its deep and unshakeable commitment, in this case to our 9,000 students, those students we serve each and every day. It is then, and only then, that Ontario education will be punctuated by excellence and marked by a concern for all the Jennys in everyone's classroom.
The Chair: I thank you both very much for your presentation here today to the committee.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, FORT FRANCES-RAINY RIVER
The Chair: Our last presentation is OSSTF, Fort Frances-Rainy River Division. Good afternoon, sir. If you'll identify yourself, you may proceed with your presentation.
Mr Andrew Hallikas: My name is Andrew Hallikas. I'm the president of the Fort Frances-Rainy River division of OSSTF. I drove four hours to get here and I thank you for the 10 minutes you're granting me. Then I'll turn around and drive four hours back.
I'd like to speak to you today not as an OSSTF president but as a classroom teacher, which is what I am in my heart. I have been a full-time classroom teacher for the past 24 years, and teaching, to me, is so much more than just an occupation. When things are going well in a lesson, there is a magic that occurs in the interaction between student and teacher that can't be described. The relationship based on mutual trust and caring that develops between a student and a teacher is unique and it's special to all of us in education. This relationship can last a lifetime. I still look forward every day to meeting my students and I give thanks on a daily basis for the great privilege I have been granted in being allowed to teach.
We who teach work with children. You cannot use words that are normally used to describe a factory or a business to describe the diversity and richness of a process that takes place inside a school, words such as "product," "consumer," "user," "client," yet these are exactly the words and this is the type of terminology I keep hearing from this Conservative government in their attempts to reform public education.
In the schools of Ontario we deal with children and we deal in hope and opportunity, inclusion and enlightenment, skills, values, excellence and much, much more. The public school system of Ontario is working; it's not broken. Ontario has the highest secondary graduation rate in Canada and it leads the nation in college and university enrolment. The teachers and trustees of Ontario can be trusted to deliver and do deliver quality education.
I completely agree with Premier Harris when he says that our education system is top-rate, as he describes it to prospective European investors, and I wonder why he is not saying this now when he appears on TV. This is not to say that there's not room for improvement. Of course our system can be improved. Teachers are not afraid of change. Teachers have volunteered to sit on ministry expert panels on high school reform. Teachers have volunteered their expertise for curriculum development. Perhaps this incorporated a firm hired by the government to analyse the public responses to the government's proposals on secondary reform, which indicated that the government's plans were out of touch with the public. At best, only 19% of the responses indicated unconditional support for any proposal, and at worst, 6%.
We believe there will be many changes to schools in future years. OSSTF supports many of these changes, and we have written a detailed document, called Ten Steps to Renewal, as our suggestions for the basis of renewal for our secondary schools. Teachers will support change that is educationally driven and intended to improve conditions for our students, but we will continue to reject politically driven changes that are intended to destabilize the system in order to concentrate money and power in Queen's Park.
As a teacher, I am totally committed to my students. I care deeply about them as individuals and I care about their performance. In fact, I measure my success by their success. Teaching is one of the caregiving professions. Teachers put their students first. We are not spoiled and incompetent, as Mike Harris is now referring to teachers. We are caring, dedicated, hardworking professionals.
All teachers would rather be in their classrooms with their students than out on a cold picket line, and while we recognize that in the short term any interruption in a child's learning has potential negative effects, we also realize that if Bill 160 passes in its present form, then the negative effect on our students will be far greater and permanent.
To cause 126,000 dedicated teachers to leave their classrooms en masse is a formidable task, yet that is what Conservative government has done. In an unprecedented political protest, every teacher in Ontario, regardless of affiliation, has walked away from their classrooms. Never before in the education history of Canada have teachers been so united in a common cause, and you have to ask yourself why.
Gerald Caplan, co-chair of the Royal Commission on Learning, stated in a letter recently, "Teachers have been scapegoated, insulted, undermined, scorned and badmouthed by John Snobelen and Mike Harris for two long years now." Caplan goes on to say, "Most teachers I know are shocked to find themselves ready to contemplate strike action, but feel they've been left no alternative." I concur with that.
It's very tempting to agree unequivocably with Mr Caplan, but in fact of late teachers, thanks to the Conservative propaganda machine, have developed pretty thick skins. We are out of our classrooms because we care about our kids.
Bill 160, the inappropriately named the Education Quality Improvement Act, is neither about quality of education nor about improving education. It is about taking power away from local, democratically elected school boards and concentrating it in the cabinet. It's about taking money out of the education system and using it to finance the Conservative government tax cut. Most of the measures in Bill 160 do little or nothing to improve schools.
Since Mr Harris was forced to reveal that the government secretly planned another, I think it was close to, $700 million in tax cuts in the next year, thanks to the leak of Veronica Lacey's performance contract, people across the province have become aware that this bill is purely and simply a mechanism to give the cabinet the control that is necessary to cut more money from the education budget, and I resent that. These cuts will mean less time and less individual attention for my students. These cuts mean there will be 6,000 or 10,000 fewer teachers. These cuts mean that in order to make the cuts, the government plans on replacing experienced classroom teachers with unqualified people.
Bill 160 changes the traditional balance of power, the necessary balance of power that's provided by school boards, teachers and parents through their local trustee. This bill completely centralizes the education system. Local boards no longer have any power. This bill covers all facets of the education system, and in an omnibus bill like this, usually the legislation is spelled out in specifics. In this bill there are no details. The bill puts the laws into place first, but it doesn't spell out specifically what a minister can do within these laws. It just says changes will be made afterwards through regulations.
Essentially, the government is saying: "Give us all the power now and we'll give you the details later. Just trust us." Well, we don't. We all know that changes made this way will be done behind closed doors. There will be no legislation for the public or the media to react to, no hearings, no laws passed for the democratic process. The net effect of this is that the minister gains total control over the entire education system. We're talking about education here. Why does the Minister of Education need to have such draconian power?
Class size: Contrary to government rhetoric, teachers have never negotiated larger class sizes. I'm a negotiator myself. I can tell you that never once did we negotiate with our board to increase class size. The premise is absurd.
The Common Sense Revolution promised that funding intended for the classroom would be exempt from cuts. After cuts of over $800 million, the then Minister of Education, John Snobelen, was forced to admit that classroom education was affected. Class size has gone up, and this is certainly not the fault of local boards but rather a direct result of the government's slashing of the education budget and the loss of 6,000 teachers to the system.
Although the government persists in saying that class size must be reduced, and we agree with that, by the way, Bill 160 certainly gives the minister the power to make regulations governing class size, but it does not say in the bill that class size will necessarily be lowered or even capped. It just says that the minister can lower class sizes. It says that the minister can set class size at any level he likes, and if the minister does lower class size, it doesn't say that the minister will necessarily cover the costs. It just could mean cuts elsewhere.
The Royal Commission on Education in 1994 said that teachers are our heroes, but the Harris government has chosen to make them out as villains. The royal commission stated: "For education reform, the enthusiastic cooperation of the classroom teacher is absolutely critical. No policies can be implemented effectively under any other circumstances." Does it look to you like you have the enthusiastic support of teachers? Thank you.
The Chair: I thank you very much for your presentation here today, sir.
This committee is adjourned to 10 o'clock, October 29, 1997, which is tomorrow, at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.
The committee adjourned at 1729.