Education Action: Toronto

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May 2014

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to know how to respond to the current Ontario election’s disappearing act when it comes to education policy. Education issues are hardly visible anywhere.

Nigel Barriffe (who is running, with our support, as an ONDP candidate in Etobicoke North) is trying, however, to keep these issues alive in his part of the part of the world ( Attached are two pieces from Nigel: In the first, he introduces Doug Little’s list of “moderate progressive” reforms that have a realistic chance of implementation. In the second he responds to Kathleen Wynne’s austerity agenda in education and Tim Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, with the biggest bite coming from education. Both pieces are worth reading.

Ontario’s elementary teachers have made a helpful contribution to a province-wide discussion of our school system by producing a full-scale election program for school reform entitled Building Better Schools. ETFO has also produced a short guide to Bill 122, also attached, which should help readers come to grips with the new framework for bargaining among school boards, their employees and the education ministry.

An issue that really ought to be on the table in this election is the destructive impact of EQAO’s standardized testing. The elementary teachers’ union – with solid membership support – and the NDP are beginning to move away from this testing. Both, unfortunately, are still willing to accept random testing as a sop to hardline neo-liberals, even though most teachers and the NDP recognize that random testing is just as mindless as full-scale standardized testing (though not as draconian) and still points teachers in the wrong direction. In this issue, we’re including Ontario secondary teacher Gord Bambridge’s recent analysis of the impact of EQAO’s international partner in standardized testing, PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment). This program strengthens business influence in our schools, undermines local democracy, presses false standards on both teachers and students, and effectively “deskills” both and guts their programs.

Issues of provincial childcare should also be central to this campaign. Martha Friendly here outlines “the dismal state” of child care programs both Canada-wide and here in Ontario. She also points to the failure of the provincial government to implement its program of “full-day early learning.” This has turned into “full-day kindergarten,” still inadequately funded, while child care has been “moved to the back burner.” Friendly calls on all parties in this election to develop “a robust, long-term, evidence-based ECEC policy framework with principles, goals and targets, timetables and sustained financial commitments” and to include child-friendly staff ratios and decent pay for childcare workers.

Another fundamental issue is that of youth unemployment, which is both a federal and a provincial responsibility. On this subject we’re attaching Armine Yalnizyan’s analysis of what the federal government could do, “if it really wanted to reduce youth unemployment.” The next Ontario government would do well take Yalnizyan’s recommendations to heart. Readers should also look over Trish Hennessy’s figures on “the skills gap trope,” especially as they affect younger workers. We now know the federal Tories have been fudging Canada’s “skills gap” figures to promote a low-wage temporary workers’ program, and Hennessy’s figures reveal the complexity of the issue of work skills, particularly the pressures on corporations to deskill their workforce, and the urgency with which we must tackle it, not only in our workplaces but also in our schools.

In dealing with how schools try to produce a corporate workforce – “human capital” as the Education Ministry likes to describe it – we need to recognize that the corporations themselves are not planning any kid-friendly initiatives on this front. On this subject, we offer Erika Shaker’s tongue-in-check reflections on the suggestion that CEOs improve pedagogy and student engagement as part of their general social outreach. We also present Donald Gutstein’s examination of Galen Weston’s adventures in educational do-gooding. We learn how Weston and his family are massively funding the Fraser Institute’s programs to destabilize the public education system and promote school choice and vouchers. Not a happy story.

In these election moments, it’s good to see the emergence of the Campaign for Commercial Free Schools, whose recent update you can find below. It would be valuable, we think, for the CCFS to ask the candidates in this election where they stand on fundraising, naming rights, and advertising policies as they apply to school spaces. So far, there is no mention of the issue from any of the parties.

As a regular part of this Clearing House, we take you south of the border, where so many destructive initiatives in education take place and then migrate northwards, if they aren’t already flourishing here. Matt Bruenig provides a dramatic set of graphs showing the impact of America’s social class structure on its children and their education. Gord Bambrick reviews Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Noam Chomsky writes on the corporatization of the university, with its increasing reliance on cheap labour, large classes, expensive layers of bureaucracy and management, and growing tuition fees. He calls instead for “shared governance,” worker control, and honest discovery in academic work that’s loved by both teachers and students. Finally, from Seattle, Diane Brooks brings us some good news – a teachers’ boycott of standardized testing that sparked a nation-wide movement.

Don’t forget: Back issues of Education Action: Toronto Online Clearing House can be found on our website: And, if you know anyone or any group who might be interested in receiving articles from us, please send us along their emails.

In solidarity,

George Martell, David Clandfield, Faduma Mohamed

Education Action: Toronto


To ensure a healthy democracy we as a society need an educated electorate. A quality public education is the right of every Ontarian. To ensure that all residents of Ontario receive a quality public education that meets their individual needs and serve them well in later life, the following are essential:

1. Funding of school boards must be based on the needs of their students. Presently, Ontario spends the lowest rate in Canada on education.

2. Decisions made on educational spending must come from a locally elected school board that is directly responsive to the electorate. These trustees should be responsible for transparent policy, budget, human resources and bargaining decisions. Local education taxation powers should be reinstated to trustees.

3. Access to education must be equitable and affordable from early childhood through programming for older adults and designed to improve the educational outcomes of students having disproportionately lower educational outcomes than their peers including indigenous/first nations students, African Canadian, Black, Caribbean, Portuguese, Spanish-speaking and LGBTI queer and two-spirited students.

4. Students should be ensured local well – maintained schools that are the hubs of their communities. Services such as health centres , social services , seniors programmes and nutrition should be provided within these school settings. Funding for adequate staff and the capital to maintain safe, well maintained schools is essential.

5. Constructing new schools as population warrants is prudent. They should include community facilities. New development in an area should contribute to both the renewal of existing schools and the building of potential new schools. Utilization rates should include the implementation of community hubs.

6. Caps on class size and class composition should be determined with the interest of the students in mind. Small – scale delivery is supported in research. Small schools, small classes, small teacher/pupil ratios are needed.

7. Ensure that learning takes place within a safe environment that fosters a sense of social identity and social skills.

8. Sufficient staffing and resources should be guaranteed to meet the needs of all special needs students and their families. ESL courses should be provided for those in need. Guidance councillors are a necessity.

9. Funding for classroom resources must meet the needs of a quality education.

10. Restore a well – rounded and inclusive curriculum that includes the arts, trades, physical/health education, libraries, languages, nutrition education, science and the environment taught by trained/ certified staff.

11. Recognize that students need access to up-to-date technology in the classroom but that it should not replace the real life social interactions that students need with both teachers and each other.

12. Ensure teaching of the “whole child” and student by replacing standardized testing with teaching skills such as critical thinking that lead to life-long learning.

13. Uphold ‘Access Without Fear’ policies that enable all students, irrespective of immigration status and age to access schooling with no form of discrimination (including fee discrimination) so students feel welcome and safe.

14. Provide a fully funded and robust adult education system that includes credit secondary school courses plus non- credit courses including English as a Second Language, LINC, Literacy and Basic Skills, Native Languages, Citizenship, Parenting and Family Literacy programs, affordable and accessible seniors and General Interest programs.

15. Education for democracy means practicing democratic values throughout the system. The practice of top down, unresponsive and authoritarian educational administration undermines innovative practices, teacher initiative and school morale. The role of administration should be to support and respond to needs in an inclusive and cooperative manner.

contact: f: Campaign for Public Education t: cpe_TO

Jane Finch Action Against Poverty
Toronto and York Region Labour Council
Elementary Teachers of Toronto
Toronto Education Workers CUPE 4400
Fix Our Schools
Black Lives Matter – Toronto
OSSTF Toronto
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto
No One Is Illegal
Ontario Common Front
TCDSB clerical workers CUPE 1328
Muslim Educational Network, Training and Outreach Network MENTORS
Ontario Common Front
ACORN Canada
Advocacy Centre for Tenants – Ontario
Alliance of Seniors
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)
Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA)
Barrio Nuevo
Barrie Labour Council
Brampton-Mississauga District Labour Council
Brantford and District Labour Council
Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)
Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario
Ontario Federation of Union Retirees
Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE)
COPE Local 26
COPE Local 343
COPE Local 454
Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA)
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario
CUPE Local 4400
Chatham-Kent Labour Council
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) (Ontario)
Collingwood and District Labour Council
Colour of Poverty
Committee in Support of Workers’ Struggles Iran-Canada
Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)
Cornwall and District Labour Council
Centre for Social Innovation
Durham Region Labour Council
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
Equal Pay Coalition
Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly
Grey-Bruce Labour Council
Guelph and District Labour Council
Hamilton and District Labour Council
Huron and District Labour Council
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO)
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC)
International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
International Socialists
Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA)
Latin American Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
Latin American Trade Unionists Coalition
Lindsay and District Labour Council
London and District Labour Council
Mayworks Festival of Working People & the Arts
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Niagara Regional Labour Council
North Bay and District Labour Council
North Simcoe, Muskoka & District Labour Council
Oakville and District Labour Council
Occupy Toronto
Older Women’s Network (OWN)
Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses (OAITH)
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics (OCAC)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC)
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Action Coalition
Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association (OECTA)
Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA)
Ontario Network of Injured Workers Group (ONIWG)
Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF)
Ontario Universities and Colleges Coalition
OPSEU Greater Toronto Area Council
Ottawa District Labour Council
Poverty Makes Us Sick – Kitchener-Waterloo
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
Our Times Magazine
Queer Ontario
St. Thomas & District Labour Council
Social Planning Network of Ontario
Socialist Party of Ontario
Socialist Project
Step It Up Campaign
Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU)
Toronto Women’s City Alliance
United Food and Commercial Workers
United Steelworkers (USW)
Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Windsor and District Labour Council
Workers United Canada
Youth in Solidarity


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