In the wake of Progressive Conservative cuts to education and the provincial spring budget, a rally is being held at both Parry Sound and Bracebridge MPP Offices.

Public education workers in the Near North will be holding a series of rallies on Thursday, February 7th in front of the offices of Nom Miller and Vic Fedeli.

Glen Hodgson, President of the Near North Ontario Secondary School Teacher’sFederation, District 4 said that the rally is focused on reminding MPP Norman Miller and provincial Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli of the importance of public education in the Near North. Representatives from the education groups have arranged to meet with the two MPP’s to discuss their concerns before the spring provincial budget is finalized. The hope is that they can find a common understanding of the current situation and move forward in a productive way.

“Especially those in Northern and rural areas, really rely on our public education institutions and what they offer to serve our communities and serve the needs of all of our students. We know that Mr Miller and Mr Fidelli are going into budget deliberations soon for their spring budget and we just want to make sure that they don’t forget that public education deserves to be invested in and to be supported. We understand that they are looking for cuts but we don’t have any efficiencies left in our system. We work very hard with what we have but there aren’t any cuts to public education that won’t directly affect our students and our communities,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson said that cuts from one area of education end up costing the province more in the long run in terms of lost opportunities and lost services for students that families end up having to pay for later on. He also mentioned that over the course of his experience in the public education system, new governments that come into power hire more people and coordinators and ministry staff to implement initiatives. He says he’s not sure those initiatives are as meaningful as getting a teacher or a support staff person in a classroom.

“I would suggest they look at the very top and not at our classrooms and our frontline workers. Traditionally when they talk about cutbacks, it seems as though they go after my members, support staff, the secretaries and custodial staff as their first target. I would suggest that those are the people that are the most vital in our public education system and should be the last ones that they would be targeting,” Hodgson said.

Colin Matthew, President of the Near North Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, District 15 says that the rally is being initiated to get the public interested in issues surrounding public education. One of the concerns he has is there have not been specifics given in terms of what cuts the public school boards could see. He says they’re working with promises made from the campaign where four per cent cuts to the education sector could be seen across the board.

“What we have seen recently in the college and university sector was that 10 per cent tuition cuts, on its surface sounds great though was followed up the next day with the government saying that colleges and universities would simply have to find that lost revenue within their institutions. If there was something similar imposed on school boards, be it four or 10 per cent, that would almost certainly lead immediately to job loss and that job loss would have a direct impact on students. There aren’t people in the education system not servicing students,” Matthew said.

Matthew said that many programs are currently not funded in the public education system such as field trips and sports are largely student funded. If the student wants to play football or hockey or if a student wants to go on a field trip to the science centre, parents are expected to pay for those costs and that’s simply not possible for some families. What he sees with different students, are different opportunities and different educational experience and that, he says, seems unfair.

Matthew says that its critical for Ontario to have a fully funded public education system as the fairest way to build a province that he wants to live in.

Hodgson says front-line workers will be reminding Progressive Conservative MPP’s that any cuts to education that are directed at front line workers will have an immediate impact on schools and the learning environment of students.

The Bracebridge rally will begin at 4:15pm to 4:45pm at 165 Manitoba St #1. Bring colleagues, family and friends on February 7 at Norm Miller’s Office in Bracebridge Buses will depart GHS/GPS at 3:45 and HHS at 3:30 and return immediately following.  All are welcome on the bus.  These are family-friendly events and all are welcome.

The Parry Sound rally will begin at 4:30pm at 17 James Street.