Ontario paying parents for missed school days due to strikes; but is it a bribe?

 

The Ontario government may be looking to get into the good graces of parents whose children will be affected by teacher strikes.

Wednesday, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced the government’s plan to offer parents up to $60 per day if strike actions close schools or school-based child care centres.

Our aim has always been to reach a negotiated settlement that keeps kids in class, which we have done successfully with multiple labour partners to date,” said Minister Lecce. “We recognize the impact of union escalation on families is real, and unions expect hard-working families to bear the costs of their cyclical labour action.”

While unions impose hardship on families and students, our government is taking proactive steps to ensure students remain cared for — and families supported — in the event that unions decide to further escalate job action in their fight for enhanced compensation and other demands. The contrast could not be clearer.”

Financial support will be provided to parents for each day of school that a child misses on account of a labour disruption, according to Lecce.

Eligible parents of children up to age 12 (Grade 7), or up to age 21 for children and youth with special needs, in a publicly funded school, qualify for:

  • $60 per day for children aged 0-6 who are not yet enrolled in school but attend a school-based child care centre that is required to close on account of the strike.
  • $40 per day for students in Junior Kindergarten (JK) and Senior Kindergarten (SK).
  • $25 per day for students in Grades 1 up to and including Grade 7.
  • $40 total per day for students in JK up to and including Grade 12 with a special need(s).

There is some cynicism among the public, however. Many took to social media to accuse the Ontario government of “bribing” parents.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) recently began escalating its strike action after months of fraught negotiations with the province.

Public elementary school educators will no longer supervise extra-curricular activities or participate in field trips. 

The union also says that if the government “refuses to address critical issues” in talks by Jan. 17, ETFO members will commence a full withdrawal of services strike on a rotating basis beginning Jan. 20.

The province’s public secondary school teachers and Catholic elementary and secondary school teachers are also on work-to-rule. 

In six months of contract talks, the [Doug] Ford government’s education minister has given his negotiators no mandate to discuss anything other than cuts to education including a $150 million cut to public elementary education,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond in a statement. 

That’s why there has been negligible progress on substantive issues like supports for Special Education, protecting the Kindergarten model, addressing classroom-based violence and compensation that keeps up with the cost of inflation.”

Unions argue that cuts, increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning and lack of support to combat violence in schools are prompting job action. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, has argued that teachers are seeking unreasonable pay increases. 

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has already held rotating, one-day strikes across the province. 

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