COLIN MACKAY: Support for EAs needed, not reports


By Colin MacKay, Intelligencer Writers Group

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 1:08:52 EST PM

BELLEVILLE – Dressing Hastings Prince Edward educational assistants (EAs) up in protective gear more akin to an NFL linebacker, or SWAT team member, doesn’t really solve the problem of violence in classrooms.

After reading Tim Miller’s excellent report, ‘EA funding formula gets an F,’ most educational personnel expressed that money from special education grants was not being targeted efficiently or effectively, and this trend has been going on for 20 years. Typically, politicians, in positions of power, continue to study incidents and then write reports. EAs do not need yet another stupid time-wasting report to read or continue to fill out incident reports. As a former ETFO member, it’s obvious, EAs need solutions to get classroom violence under control — now.

If ‘Jimmy,’ a four-year-old JK student, throws a tantrum, empties paint on brand new carpets, threatens other students with scissors, and basically destroys a classroom, an EA’s hands are tied during the event. Touching a student is rarely allowed, yet, there are times when it would appear to be warranted. Usually, in a case such as this one, the rest of the class is removed until the unruly child has calmed down and it is safe for the remainder of the class to return. The EA is supposed to patiently let the student run roughshod over the entire classroom, and then attempt to remove the student. Then, according to protocol, will write an incident report within 24 hours that, supposedly, someone reads.

One solution would be to suspend this child for at least a day and return him to the care of his parent(s). In other words, there is a consequence for totally inappropriate behaviour. But, no, not now. Instead, Jimmy may end up in the office with a sucker, with coddling continuing. No doubt Jimmy is just having an off day will be the typical administration response. The trend for the most part, is that, for reason, principals are fearful of implementing any disciplinary measures.

Obviously, an attempt to contact the parent will be made, and the parent will be asked to come in for a chat. Far too often, the parental response is to deflect responsibility. The parent, in some form, will essentially question, “What did the teacher do to set Jimmy off?” Taking responsibility for Jimmy’s actions is whose responsibility? EAs shouldn’t have to take on the role of parenting. There must be consequences for this type of misbehaviour.

Is it the job of the public school system to delve into myriad social issues? If the answer is yes, then a special grant needs to be set up for ‘social issues’ separate from the special education grants. This way, the money is specifically targeted for behavioural specialists. An EA’s main focus should be to help the teacher with scholastic activities, not be society’s interveners for social ills.

Curtailing system-wide EQAO would be one way to fund additional, and apparently required, EA support in schools. Sampling from schools, rather than continuing to have system-wide testing, would free up additional monies, that would be far more useful inside the classroom. Once again, this additional money could be focussed on an EA grant, which would be a change from the current funding formula. Targeting the number of EAs needed within a school board, rather than attaching the money loosely via a special education grant, would be an improvement.

Solutions rather than needless reports are required for EAs in schools to help reduce violence in classrooms. Give principals the ability to suspend, as consequences are needed for unacceptable behaviour. Change the funding formula to target money specifically for EAs. Decide if schools are now responsible for society’s social ills. Solutions do exist.


Is there a problem in our schools?

Without a doubt! We have a broken funding formula and inadequate funding of Special Education which translates into insufficient staffing of Special Education Assistants and a lack of resources, programs, and professionals to provide for the needs of our Special Ed. students. As a result we have chaos in our schools with staff so stretched that most of our students, those with special needs and those without, are not getting what they need.

I’ve come to believe that the only ones who may be able to affect change in our schools are the parents; so please, please, please, contact your MPP and speak out in support of the changes we need to ensure that ALL of our students receive the education that they deserve!

Please read the article below and join in the fight for much needed improvements in Ontario’s education system……

Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148


A brief comment in the news last week caught my eye.  Pat, a retired school teacher, asked Premier Kathleen Wynne about violence in our schools, claiming teachers and students are frightened for their safety.

It was frankly satisfying to hear that question asked.  You may recall it was five years ago when Lambton Shield first broke the shocking story about the outrageous state of Ontario’s education system HERE. And since that time the subject has been broached by some big names;  CBC News, Global TV, the Toronto Star… heck Kathleen Wynne was even asked a question about it in Question Period last year.

Despite the press, the Ministry of Education has done little except fiddle while our education system burns.

This includes schools right here in our own little corner of utopia,  Sarnia Lambton.

Why has no one done anything?  Why do our Toronto politicians, who caused most of this mess, not have the intestinal fortitude to fix it?

Sigh.  As always, if we want something done, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

The first step is exposing what exactly is going on.  And it ain’t pretty.  Here, have a listen.

“Most people would be stunned at what is happening in our schools,”  a teacher with more than 25 years experience told me.  “Think of what elementary school was like when you were a kid.  It’s nothing like that today,” said another.

Wowza.   If that sounds pretty major, hold on, its about to get worse.

I’ve spoken with close to 100 people; most of them teachers but also principals, school kids, and parents.  I’ve received emails from teachers all over Ontario, probably from every school district in Southwestern Ontario.

And son of a gun, they all tell the same story.

We learned last time that very little “teaching” goes on in Ontario’s elementary schools, it’s mostly babysitting.  Let’s see what teachers are saying about violence in our schools.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the public school system you are sending your children to:

—Teachers are told to “f**k off” and threatened on a daily basis, with little or no punishment given.

—Students steal and destroy things from the teacher’s desk or their fellow students, all with no repercussions.

—Ontario teachers are hit, punched and bit at school, with little, if any, discipline for the assailant. And certainly no apology.

—Teachers have scissors and chairs thrown at them.  SCISSORS!  In any other place in Ontario that would get you arrested, in Ontario schools it gets you returned to the same teacher’s class the very next day.

—Teachers have witnessed innocent kids get punched, hit and slapped by “bad kids”.  One student smashed little girl’s head off the wall so hard it nearly broke her jaw.  Why did he do this?  Because he didn’t like the fact that the teacher opened the window.   That student is still in the same class as that little girl.

More than one teacher has told me they had to lock their classroom door and stand against it while a student was trying to get in, saying he was going to beat up/kill another student in the class.

If a child doesn’t want to come in off the playground after recess, they don’t have to.  Schools have a hands-off policy so no one will be carrying little Billy into the school.  The school could call home but parents were told by the government to butt out of education long ago, so parents now believe their bad child is the school’s problem.  What to do?  The school will assign staff to simply stand and watch them.

What if little Billy decides to run away?  (This is a daily event in some classes)  No one from the school can stop them.  If the student leaves school property, the school calls the police.  (This is a weekly and sometimes daily event in many schools).  Since most schools are located on a street or roadway of sorts, isn’t there a chance a runaway grade one or grade two student might get hit by a car?  Kidnapped?  Lost?  Of course. But apparently that’s not the Ministry of Education’s worry.

What a great system!

Seriously, I want you to tell me if that sounds like a safe place to work?

Is this the kind of school you thought you were sending your kids to?

Oh, and exactly how much learning do you think kids in these schools are getting?

Every school does not have all these elements of course, but teachers were almost unanimous in saying that schools all have at least some of these situations. MANY more than most parents know.

Yes right here in Lambton County.

Still not convinced?

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) just released its Workplace Survey Results, and guess what?   Their findings back up mine 100%.

  • 70% of elementary teachers witnessed violence or have been a victim
  • 79% say the number of violent incidents has risen
  • 75% say the severity has increased
  • 84% of teachers say it has negatively impacted teaching

EVERYTHING we have been saying!

Most people would be stunned at what is happening in their child’s school.

Our dear leader, Kathleen Wynne, said at the Ottawa town hall meeting that any violence at school is “unacceptable.”   Apparently, she isn’t looking very hard.  (Would someone please be a dear and send her a copy of this column?)

If violence is unacceptable why are teachers, students, and educational assistants (EA’s)  across the province experiencing it?

What happened to the Harassment Policy the Ontario government was so proud of a few years ago.  Does it not apply to Teachers or our children?

What about the rule of law?  Is there some sort of invisible boundary line surrounding schools that says normal laws don’t apply here?  Feel free to hit, kick, assault and threaten anyone, no charges laid?

Name me ANYWHERE else in Ontario you could do this?

You can bet you’d be in handcuffs if you treated Kathleen that way.

But our teachers and our children don’t have a group of police officers surrounding them all day.

Many teachers tell me that the EA’s in the classroom bear the brunt of this violence.  They don’t have police escorts either.

So why are we letting this happen?

Several of the teachers I talked to said things really got worse about 10 years ago or so.  I’m not sure what changed, and I’m all for trying out new ideas in our school system, but I think the verdict is in.  The current system is a complete disaster.

Isn’t our Premier all about science?  I would say 10 years of evidence screaming at you seems like it’s a pretty open and shut case that things are failing.  So why isn’t the Premier and the Minister of Education doing something about this?   If they don’t know the health and safety of thousands of students and teachers are being ignored every day, then they are either incompetent or ignoring it.

So what to do?  David Martin from the Durham teachers union was interviewed by Global News a while ago and he hit the nail on the head.  He said nothing will change until the public is aware of what is going on.

Dave is a wise man.

Our teachers and EA’s can’t do it alone.  The union can’t do it alone.  The media, Town Halls and Question Period can’t do it alone. But with a big push from all of us, we can get it done together.

I don’t want my daughter to come home from school tomorrow with a broken jaw.  I don’t want her to see her teacher get stabbed with a pair of scissors.   Let’s make the government hear us.  Here are some practical steps:

Share this article on Facebook (and any others you find, this isn’t just the Matt show.)

Know any teachers or parents with kids in school?  Ask them to share it too.  I know it sounds lame: “Let’s talk about it on social media”—but there’s only one thing the Ministry of Education fears, and it’s a good old-fashioned parental revolt.  An angry social mob of parents demanding change.

“Nothing will change until the public is aware of what is going on.”

—Email your MPP. I’m not sure there’s much they can do at the moment, but we might as well let them know we’re coming so they can get on our side.

Any teachers or school staff who have a story to add to the above, I would love to hear from you.  All emails will be kept confidential.

The real bottom line – students

by Paula Turner

I recently re-tweeted a news article about how the Premier of our province, Kathleen Wynne, criticized Tim Horton’s franchisees for taking away benefits from employees as a cost cutting measure to meet the new minimum wage requirements; she called the owners ‘bullies’. I pointed out that Kathleen Wynne’s government has systematically cut benefits from education and other workers in the province over the last several years. My question was: who is the bully in that situation?

As could be expected, I received a couple of comments telling me that as a public servant, I was overpaid, didn’t know what life is like in the “real world” and had been coddled. I responded with examples of how I didn’t feel I was coddled (being injured, etc.) – and then I stopped. First of all, getting into a war of words on Twitter is as useful as a bathing suit in a snowstorm, and secondly, I feel the discussions about education funding always come back to workers, teachers and others being greedy.

Here’s my bottom line – and the only thing that should matter to everyone when it comes to education: the best interests of students.

When you take money out of the system, students are harmed.

Governments and uninformed people in the public continually circle the issues around education funding back to it being about salaries and benefits. Yes, those are important. Society bases people’s value on income; people need decent wages to live and to contribute to the economy; and, people deserve to be compensated fairly for their contributions.

Good educators are ones who see the importance of a balanced set of priorities. Educators have taken pay cuts in one form or another – usually small or no increases in salaries along with benefit cuts. And still, the students suffer. The governments are saving money on salaries, as they said they needed to. And yet, the cuts continue. Fewer supports, high student to teacher and educational assistant ratios, closing schools and/or classrooms (meaning fewer places for students with specialized needs to receive appropriate care), less professional development opportunities, fewer mental and physical health care specialists – all of these directly impact students.

Yes; I got ticked that the Premier took away my benefits. But, let’s be clear: my biggest priorities, and that of all good educators, are our students and their learning conditions. The fact that those are also our working conditions should not make the picture muddy.

The difficulties educators and students are facing ARE the real world and constitute the real learning environment for thousands of students everyday.

Lack of funding = lack of safety in schools

by Paula Turner

On November 19, 2017, CBC Radio’s Cross Country Check Up discussed Violence in Schools.

There have been several media reports on this topic including an Ottawa teacher, Tony Lamonica, speaking out about his experience of violence on the job. Lamonica’s experience was horrendous and life changing. Violence is not something any person should have to deal with at their place of work.

As I listened to the CBC call in program, I was deeply troubled and I doubt I was alone. The show shed significant light on the consequences of insufficient funding in education. The calls and discussion focused on the issues facing educators, parents, students, and communities when it comes to aggression in schools.

It also highlighted the range of understandings about what constitutes aggression, what should be done about it, which students should/should not be held accountable, and what are the responsibilities of educators, Boards and the government when it comes to solutions.

It is a hot mess.

And, it is a situation that for many staff and students is a daily reality and not ‘new’ news. It is a system wide problem.

Many Educational Assistants have had multiple trips to Emergency rooms in a year; many have to go on sick leave; many have lasting injuries. I have had three trips to the Emergency Room and two other times when I probably should have gone.

I do not hold the students who harmed me responsible for my injuries. I have worked with students identified with special needs wherein aggressive behaviours are one way in which they cope when they have not yet learned the skills to self regulate, or they are unable to learn those skills. In order to teach those skills to a student, I need time to observe what triggers students and try different techniques to help them acquire those skills. That time is rarely available in the system as it is currently funded.

I am not naive: some students, like some people, have control of their behaviours and still harm others. That is one category of alarming behaviour within education systems across the country.

I am looking at this through the lens of special education and I worry that some people are lumping all students into one profile: a purposefully violent person.

Other types of violent incidents are happening on a daily basis for many educators and no one incident can be considered to be representative of the wide range of violence within any one system, or across a province, or certainly across the country.

One caller to the CBC show, Bonnie Dineen, was an Educational Assistant with 20 years of experience. She discussed the issue of not having enough information prior to walking into a classroom.

There is no funding for preplanning meetings for teaching teams. The time needed to get to know the student, their needs and the appropriate supports is not funded in the current model.

A guest on the show, Shelley Hymel, a UBC Education faculty professor, stressed the importance of training and supports that meet the changing needs of students and staff. Hymel stated, “My feeling is that we’re running on an economic model as opposed to a child-focused model”.


This is also, sadly, not news. Education systems have been financially gutted over the past decades to pay for priorities (or errors) of the government. The result is that there are not enough experts or resources or trained professionals to deal with the needs (educational, social, emotional and physical) of students.

There are not enough hands on deck for the number of students with exceptional learning deficits and needs.

The lack of funding means there is a lack of safety in our schools; this has created the crisis for students, educators, families and communities.

We need to listen to people on the front lines and we need to give them the support to effectively do their job and be educators who can support student success, whatever success looks like for individual students. There is no one size fits all model for appropriate supports or ‘success’.

Society and governments owe it to students to create the system where professionals have the time and resources to listen and observe students and create education plans that work for their abilities and needs – not rush from one crisis to another, putting out fires without ever having time to discover the source.

Right now there is insufficient funding in education coupled with outcome expectations which are not meeting the needs of students.

We need to sufficiently fund education systems so that educators can go to work and be safe.

Paula Turner | November 21, 2017 at 9:46 am | Categories: writing | URL:

CUPE applauds Campaign for Public Education’s calls for review and overhaul of funding formula

November 15, 2017

TORONTO – The union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario is applauding the Campaign for Public Education’s (CPE) latest effort to secure a review and overhaul of the province’s outdated funding formula.

“CUPE has been calling for a review and overhaul of the funding formula for years,” said Terri Preston, who chairs CUPE’s education sector in Ontario. “The analysis provided by CPE adds to the growing body of evidence that this is urgent. It’s clear that the current funding formula is inadequate to meet the needs of students, communities, and education workers.”

A funding formula reliant mainly on head counts and based on the notion that schools are just a collection of classrooms will never meet the needs of students. Students and parents live this reality every day, and CUPE’s custodial and maintenance workers have long pointed this out.

“The lack of funding for maintenance and infrastructure repair creates cascading problems,” said Vern Andrus, trades representative for CUPE’s education sector workers, and a head custodian with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. “When we have to close down part of an aging building because we don’t have the funds to maintain or repair it, students get squeezed, and the learning environment suffers. When maintenance and infrastructure budgets are stripped of funds to pay for other vital but underfunded programs – like mandated small class sizes or full-day kindergarten – kids suffer. We know very well that the physical infrastructure of schools contributes to the learning environment of the child.”

“A formula that is averaged out across school boards without regard for differences in geography, demographics and building age can never be responsive to the diverse needs of students in Ontario,” said Preston. “CPE has pointed out that by the end of 2019 the deferred maintenance budget total will have increased yet again. They’ve also pointed out the glaring absence of a provincial standard for building maintenance. It’s just not sustainable. We support in particular CPE’s call for a complete review of the funding formula in every respect, and their call for an increase of the operations and maintenance budget by at least 8.7%, to meet a consistent province-wide standard.”

CUPE represents 55,000 workers in the education sector, across all four school board systems (English and French, Catholic and public), including educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians, tradespeople, school administrators, payroll and IT clerks, library technicians and more.

For more information:

Andrea Addario, CUPE Communications, 416-738-4329


Gilles Bouffard

CUPE – Ontario Regional Office

80 Commerce Valley Drive East

Markham, ON   L3T 0B2

Telephone: 905-739-3999 Ext. 275

Fax: 905-739-4001


What is it going to take before the powers that be listen to what we have been saying for at least the past three years and do what is necessary to make our education system what it needs to be for our children?

“Between 1995-96, when the Harris government was first elected, and 1998-99, the first year of the new education funding formula, the Conservative government cut a total of $1.5 billion from education. In today’s dollars, that amount equals $2.2 billion”.  Although the Liberal government has made some increases to education funding since then, the increased needs in the classroom have well surpassed the funding provided.

“When enrolment, inflation, the cost of new programs and the element of catch-up reflected in education system salaries and benefits are considered, education funding in 2017-2018 is roughly equivalent to the level recommended by the Rozanski Task Force Report on education funding in 2002. While that is a positive sign, it essentially reflects no progress at all in addressing the fundamental funding issues built into the base funding formula introduced for the 1998-99 school year”.  

Those of us who work in the education sector will tell you, the schools of 2002 are not the schools of 2017-2018. The same issues we are seeing in society are magnified in the classroom. Increased numbers of those living in poverty, an increase in mental illness and addictions, an increase in the number of people living with autism, and so on.

The education funding formula and the ‘Tier System’ used by School Boards to determine which students ‘qualify’ for the support of a Special Ed. Assistant needs a complete overhaul. The reality is that a Special Ed. Assistant will be assigned one student who qualifies for support but then are also assigned 5 or 6 additional students who require support but do not meet the criteria for support. These students may have ADHD, learning disabilities, mental health issues, or simply have not yet developed the ability to control their impulses.

Many of our Special Education Assistants divide their day between multiple classrooms. Every minute of their day is scheduled to be supporting students. Coffee breaks and lunch breaks are often missed because there is not enough E.A. staff to cover for them. In some cases, students with special needs are left on their own for periods of time because there is nobody available to support them.

Many students, some with special needs and some without, are erupting violently because their needs are not being met. But violence in the classroom is just a symptom of the bigger issue: inadequate funding for Special Ed. Assistant staffing, inadequate funding for smaller class sizes, and inadequate funding for the professional development and specialized training of educators and support staff.


Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148



Quotes on the funding formula were taken from the ETFO document titled ‘ETFO: 7 Recommendations to Fix Ontario’s Education Funding Formula’

Every Child Matters: September 30 is Orange Shirt Day


September 30 is Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day acknowledges the harm that Canada’s residential school system has done to generations of indigenous families and their communities. It affirms our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Orange Shirt Day opens a conversation about the legacies of the residential schools — a conversation all Canadians must have. It is a day for survivors to know that they matter. It is a day to acknowledge the past and commit to a more inclusive future.

Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s own experience at residential school. On the first day of school, her shiny new orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken away from her. Phyllis organized the first Orange Shirt Day in 2013.

The Aboriginal Council of CUPE Ontario urges CUPE members to show support and encourage participation in Orange Shirt Day this September 30. Participation is very easy: wear an orange shirt, and tell people why.

On minimum wage debate, analysts are missing the forest for the trees



SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

Investment analysts need to ask some hard questions when business groups say the planned increase in Ontario’s minimum wage may force companies to raise prices on consumer goods and slash jobs.

In recent analyst calls held by Metro Inc. and Loblaw Cos. Ltd., executives indicated that planned minimum-wage increases in Alberta and Ontario would add significantly to labour expenses and put pressure on the industry in 2018. Both companies are committed to mitigating those impacts by accelerating efficiencies and achieving cost reductions, but the take-away for analysts was that the retail industry is facing a significant cost increase in the short term.

Unfortunately, that echoes the prevailing view among many on Bay Street and in executive suites across the country – that workers are exclusively a cost to the business. That may be why investment analysts walk away from these quarterly calls only having heard – and only having asked, for that matter – about the cost side of the equation.

The other side of the equation warrants much more attention: how paying higher wages and improving workplace practices can be an investment in the business.

There is strong evidence that paying workers more, offering meaningful training and promotion opportunities and providing predictable schedules and hours – in short, the type of labour-law reforms now on the table in Ontario – can result in better business outcomes. Businesses that implement a decent work strategy can benefit from more loyal, hard-working and productive employees. They can realize productivity gains, higher retention and lower turnover, and ultimately better financial performance.

For example, research conducted by MIT professor Zeynep Ton found that companies that nurture their employees and pursued a good jobs strategy achieved improved operational execution, ultimately resulting in higher sales and profits in the retail stores that she studied.

Similarly, a study by the Boston Consulting Group found that over a 10-year period, companies that appeared at least three times on the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list outperformed the S&P 500 by 99 percentage points.

In Ontario, a recently formed group of businesses provide living proof that decent work can pay off. The Better Way to Build the Economy Alliance (BWA) is a group of employers that support decent work and are benefiting from greater productivity and profitability for their businesses while at the same time improving job and income security for their workers. These employers will be coming together to share their experiences on Sept. 12 in Toronto at a conference hosted by the Centre for Labour Management Relations and the Better Way Alliance.

We will be there to provide a perspective from the growing number of investors in Canada and around the world that are recognizing the business benefits associated with decent work. We’ll be speaking about why investors and investment analysts need to start seeing the forest and not just the trees when considering the implications of labour-law reforms.

To do that, on the next round of quarterly analyst calls, let’s ask how companies intend to take advantage of the positive opportunities afforded by Ontario’s Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act. How will they capture increases in consumer spending as a result of the boost to the minimum wage? How will they seek to deploy their employees in ways that will improve their customer-service scores? How will they invest in their workers to improve internal promotion and retention rates? How will they manage the short-term increases in labour expenses to make them more competitive in the long run?

These kinds of questions will give us a much more accurate picture of how companies are productively and successfully managing their work forces. They will also help to communicate to corporate executives that investors support innovative strategies that build long-term value and that we understand the benefits of fairer workplaces and a more equitable economy.