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Lecce Needs To Figure Himself Out And Return To The Table

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Education Is For The Future


Lecce Needs To Figure Himself Out

Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce, who is currently locked in a battle with not one but four educator unions, has repeatedly argued that educators are striking because of compensation. The unions have apparently repeated requested a cost of living increase of two percent, but the government recently passed legislation that would cap any such increase at one percent - this, in spite of government officials getting a 14 percent raise and a 20 percent increase to their housing allowance. Lecce has claimed repeatedly that the unions don't care about class sizes, or violence in classrooms, or e-learning; he has stood by his argument that the unions are solely after compensation.

That argument shifted when Lecce inexplicably decided to go after Regulation 274, which outlines the fair hiring practices school boards should follow. For the uninitiated, Regulation 274 was put in place to prevent nepotism and hiring someone based on simply knowing the person. Since February 8, 2020, Lecce has posted a couple of times on his very active Twitter feed that teachers should be hired on merit, not seniority.

Unfortunately, this is yet another instance where Lecce needs to improve his understanding of how things work.

I am a high school teacher, and I am blessed to work with extremely talented people. Several have Masters' degrees over and above the years they had to spend going to teachers' college and getting their initial bachelors' degrees. All have multiple additional qualifications in their initial areas of study, which range from Science, to English, to French, to Latin, to Math (among others), and there are those who also have additional qualifications such as Teaching And Learning Through E-Learning and Teaching LGBTQ+ Youth. All have spent a great deal of time getting involved in their school communities and forging those all-important relationships with students and staff.

Do administrators have to look at seniority? To an extent, yes, but that isn't the only thing they look at.

You want to talk merit? There are several teachers across all unions for whom getting a full-time - or even a partial - contract was several years in the making. They had to work their way through the supply list, through to probably several Long Term Occasional contracts before they'd even be considered for a contract position. Over that time, they would have built their skills working with teams of student athletes, advising any one of a number of clubs, and being a member of multiple school committees. It is a process that is years in the making, and it's a stressful one because while you're working your way through this process, you're wondering if you'll continue to have a job, if student numbers will continue to be good, or if you have enough time to take another course to add to your résumé to continue to make yourself highly employable.

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Regulation 274 is there to help teachers who are highly qualified for any one of a number of positions to obtain work and to avoid situations that might suggest nepotism.

But why, after months of Lecce stating teachers are after compensation, and months of Lecce vilifying educators through social media instead of actually working something out with educators, is he switching his talking points?

Is he actually looking at the polls that are suggesting that the public is on the educators' sides and getting nervous?

Perhaps he should actually sit down with the educators and work something out instead of continuing to find other things to complain about in this months-long battle for the future of education in Ontario. When people like Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley, who is notoriously vocal about his support for the conservatives, comes out and says that "Teachers Gain Edge In Battle For Public Opinion" in an article posted February 9, 2020, it is an indicator that perhaps the conservative government is not doing as well in this fight as they might hope.

Parents, and teachers who are parents, are tired of Lecce's ongoing social media blitzes and seeming desire for face time instead of a desire to actually work something out with educator unions. Perhaps Lecce and some of his Conservative colleagues need to actually visit public schools or Catholic schools at all grade levels and realize exactly what kids need instead of hacking and slashing their futures. I want my kids to have e-learning as an option rather than having it shoved down their throats when it may not work for them. I want my kids to feel safe in school. I want my kids to have class sizes that work for them, not have so many kids shoved in a class there's barely room to breathe.

Most of all, I want Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who has no children, was educated at a private high school, and claimed in a Toronto Life interview that he is an "unabashed, unapologetic defender of public education," to do his job and actually defend public education, not tear it apart. He needs to return to the negotiations table and actually listen.

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