ETFO Job Action Targets Ministry of Education

EQAO testing change hits back at province The Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Wed May 13 2015

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced earlier this week a partial withdrawal of services was to begin on May 11.

Teachers have been told not to do prepare students or do anything regarding EQAO, or any type of Ministry of Education initiatives. As well, report cards will simply have marks placed on them with no comments. This is a new strategy from ETFO which represents a gradual phasing of work-to-rule. ETFO has called this strategy ‘Phase 1’. Phase 1’s effectiveness has yet to be determined. It will likely be determined on how annoyed the province will be when EQAO tests are not implemented properly. In the past, the implementation of EQAO has had extremely stringent rules about who can be in the room and what can be done for students. That may change.

ETFO has decided implementing an incremental work to rule is the way to go. Phase 1 will have minimal, if not altogether, no impact on students. However, it does put enormous pressure on the province with regards to the implementation of the standardized test, known as EQAO. With potentially no EQAO testing, what would the province do with no results from this year?

Essentially, negotiations have arrived at this point because the provincial government had already decided teachers would receive a ‘net zero’ contract. In other words, to gain anything, the ETFO would have to concede something within a contract. Before the process even began, the province was not only looking for teachers to make concessions, but expecting them. The starting point was ridiculous and, in fact, was no way to begin collective bargaining.

The province’s excuse has been the $10.9 billion deficit must be reduced. Somehow that has transformed into; teachers and educational workers must become ‘The Austerity Agenda.’ But wait, other public sectors have had raises of up to eight per cent, so why insist on specifically targeting educational workers, including teachers? In essence, the province wants to highlight the fact it is a tough negotiator, not willing to bend to the ETFO’s demands, and through this austerity undertaking, they will ultimately rid themselves of their own self-created deficit.

ETFO decided enough is enough. In a unique twist or turning of the tables, the ETFO has targeted the province and their sacred cow -EQAO testing. Even if the test is somehow administered by principals and others, would the results be valid? Conditions for the test will have changed dramatically, especially when compared with other years, since no classroom or special education teachers will be present inside the testing rooms.

Fundamentally, under Premier Kathleen Wynne, education has turned into an expense, something to reign in. Instead the province’s outlook should be -Education is an investment -not part of a specifically targeted austerity agenda.

After imposing conditions via Bill 115 unilaterally there was no way the ETFO would settle for concessions in this collective agreement. Sadly, the province did have an alternative to choose by increasing corporate taxation by one or two per cent. However, it would appear, they instantly discarded that possibility, despite Ontario corporations already having a ridiculously low tax rate.

Instead of problem solving, which should be the goal of governments, the province of Ontario decided to initiate a conflict.

If the province somehow manages to implement EQAO testing, the ETFO will be forced to consider stronger measures. Simply not doing ministry initiatives only targets the government for now.

That said the government built the crisis; they should be the ones to solve it.

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