Teachers’ union calls on Ontario to merge public, Catholic school systems
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 6:12PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 5, 2013 6:59PM EST
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation wants the province to spend more money on all levels of education, continue to expand early learning programs and eliminate standardized testing.
But it’s a proposal to condense Ontario’s four school systems into two – one English and one French, ending separate systems for Catholic schools – that’s drawing the strongest reaction.
OSSTF president Paul Elliott announced the union’s six-point plan for public education at a Thursday morning news conference in Tornoto.
Eliminating Ontario’s separate English- and French-language Catholic school systems was the last of the six ideas Elliott introduced.
As he did so, he suggested merging the school systems could lead to administrative savings that would then allow for increased spending on classrooms.
“There’s unnecessary duplication of administrative services and facilities,” he said.
Michael Devoy, president of the Waterloo unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, says he isn’t so sure there would be savings at the school board level were the systems to merge.
“I don’t see where amalgamation results in anything other than disruption,” he tells CTV News.
Devoy calls existing administrations “fairly lean”, and questions whether merging the systems would lead to school closures and rebalancings – taking students away from the communities they’re familiar with.
“Changing those boundaries is always very difficult,” he says.
Marino Gazzola, the president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association, tells CTV News he doesn’t think the OSSTF will find much support for the merger proposal – particularly because, he says, all three parties at Queen’s Park have consistently pledged support for the status quo.
“Ontario has one of the best education systems in the world, and a big reason for that is the Catholic component,” he says.
Elliott also called for an end to EQAO testing, which annually measures students across the province at various grade levels in reading, writing and math skills.
“There needs to be far less emphasis on standardized testing, and a realization that the professional judgement of educators is both genuine and authentic,” he said.