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TVDSB trustees wade into teachers' labour dispute

Thames Valley District School Board Trustees will draft a letter to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, calling on the province get back to the bargaining table and keep a lid on class sizes.

Letter calls on province to keep lid on class sizes, stop bargaining through the media

In a letter they intend to send to Ontario's education minister, Thames Valley District School Board trustees are calling on the province to keep a lid on class sizes and stop bargaining through the media. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Thames Valley District School Board trustees have waded into the province's labour dispute, sending a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce that asks him to hold the line on class sizes, among other demands.

An ongoing labour dispute between the province and teacher unions has brought rolling one-day strikes to Ontario schools this winter. 

In a motion at the TVDSB's board meeting this week, TVDSB trustees voted to draft a letter to send to Lecce calling on the Doug Ford government to:

  • Hold high-school class sizes to 22 students. The province had wanted to increase funded class sizes to 28, but last fall scaled that back to 25
  • Express their disapproval of mandatory e-learning as a broad-based policy. The province announced last year that it would require high school students to take four online courses in order to graduate. After considerable blowback, Lecce scaled that number back to two. The issue has become a sticking point in labour talks with teachers. 

  • Demand the province start paying for "underfunded liabilities." These are extra costs the school board has to pick up that aren't covered by the money the board gets from the province. Many of these are related to special education. 

The letter will also call on the province to stop the public mud-slinging with teacher unions and instead return to the bargaining table. 

Rolling teacher strikes have been a reality this winter, with both sides dug in on key issues, including compensation. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The motion to draft the letter was moved by trustee Corrine Rahman and seconded by trustee Jake Skinner. It passed by a 7-4 vote with trustees Joyce Bennett, Sean Hunt, Bill McKinnon and Megan Ruddock voting against and board chair Arlene Morell abstaining. 

Rahman said she pushed for the letter in response to concerns she's hearing from members of the public. 

"We really wanted to focus on positive dispute resolution, and bargaining at the table instead of in the media," said Rahman. "It's important that we look at this from the perspective of who's watching and who's learning about dispute resolution and that's kids."  

Ontario's public elementary teachers are threatening more job action in two weeks — and they aren't ruling out a full strike.

Elementary teachers say their key issues include guaranteeing the future of full-day kindergarten, securing more funding to hire special education teachers and maintaining seniority hiring rules. All of the teachers' unions are also asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, while the government won't budge beyond offering a one per cent raise.

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