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Stephen Lecce and a Likely $48 Million Daily Boondoggle

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.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

Stephen Lecce's Study in Bad Timing

I've been wondering who could have possibly so wounded Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford, Ontario's current education minister and prime minister respectively, so badly that they can think of nothing better than to attack educators.

To be fair, it's largely been Lecce thus far who has gone out of his way to vilify teachers. He has held more than a few press conferences in which he has openly accused teachers—forgetting that members of OSSTF include educational assistants, who aren't as well paid, as well as teachers—of digging in on their position simply due to the desire for a pay raise.

The OSSTF said, in their last offer to the province about returning to the bargaining table, that they would return to the table if the government would return to the staffing levels of March 2019, just prior to the initial class size change proposed by the Ford government of 28 students to 1 teacher. Sure, the government has since said that they would drop to 25 to 1, but that's a provincial average; some classes in larger schools could balloon while those in smaller towns might just fade from existence. In that last offer, there was no mention made about e-learning, which the Ontario government wants to make mandatory for all students, and there was no mention made about a cost of living increase, both of which are issues for which the OSSTF is taking a stand on. That's all been publicized through various sources.

Lecce has said repeatedly that the teachers' union is all about the money. If that were the case, would educators give up the equivalent of that cost of living increase and walk out of a job they are passionate about?

He's thrown numbers around suggesting the costs that a raise would cost the province, and some of these numbers are simply unrealistic. He's gone as high as $1.5 billion, as far as this proposed cost of living increase goes. Every time, he has said, in effect, that the government does not have the money to give teachers a cost of living increase, let alone continue with class sizes the way they are.

Today (January 15, 2020), Lecce announced a plan to subsidize parents with school-aged children for days already missed due to job action and for potential future job action. It's estimated that this plan will cost $48 million a day.

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So let's look at this. Educators have already walked two days total in various school boards. That's just for OSSTF. OECTA (the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association), ETFO (the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario), and AEFO (l'association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens) all start escalated job action January 20, with several boards going on strike January 20 and 21. That's 4 days total. I realize not everyone who is involved in education has children, but just for loose math, let's realize that 48 times 4 is 192.

That's $192 million that Lecce is already willing to throw around like confetti.

I realize that Lecce and Ford are probably at the point where they're like that small child who is absolutely determined to have things their way and only their way. I don't understand, however, why Lecce will sit there and claim the government has no money and then tell parents they'll be compensated to the tune of $48 million a day - if they sign up.

Also, child care costs far more than what Lecce is suggesting. I paid just over $1000 a month for my two children for childcare, and that was roughly six years ago. In fact, I got a letter that year saying the federal government was auditing my childcare expenses because I think the top claimable amount was something like $12,000 annually. I would be shocked if it was less money to pay for childcare now. My kids are also not special needs—child care for such kids costs even more. What Lecce is offering is barely the tip of the iceberg as far as childcare expenses go.

I don't get how he can tell educator unions that there's no money to support what they're looking for and then somehow come up with $48 million a day to subsidize parents for child care. That's like kicking someone in the shin and acting really surprised when they're hurt.

It's my sincerest hope that the Ford government pulls its collective act together before Ontario can't recover from the disaster it's creating. I'm not saying cuts don't need to occur in various areas, but education shouldn't be one of them—particularly when the education minister is now attempting to bribe parents while educators are trying to continue negotiating.

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