Broten says parents 'deserve' to see detailed report cards

A source confirms the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has advised members to write only the bare minimum on student report cards.
Education Minister Laurel Broten has asked Sam Hammond, the president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, to rescind his directive to teachers. (CBC)

Education Minister Laurel Broten says it’s unfair that parents could end up reading fall report cards containing only minimal feedback about their children’s progress as a result of a conflict between teachers and the government.

Ontario parents shouldn't expect a lot of feedback in the next batch of report cards as many teachers are being told to keep it short.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has advised its 76,000 members to write only the bare minimum, such as a single sentence, a source confirmed to The Canadian Press.

It's the latest move by teachers' unions to withdraw voluntary activities in protest of a controversial law that freezes wages, cuts benefits and stop strikes.

But the source said it's just advice and teachers will make their own decisions about whether they want to follow it.

During a wage dispute in British Columbia, teachers refused to perform certain administrative tasks, such as filling out report cards, and staged a three-day walkout.

It's unclear whether teachers in Ontario will follow suit, but some have already withdrawn from other voluntary activities, such as coaching and parent-teacher meetings.

However, Broten still says the proposed tactic involving report cards isn’t fair.  

"Ontario parents deserve to know how their children are doing at school this fall, not to have their learning progress put in the middle of a dispute that does not involve them," Broten told reporters on Thursday.  

Broten said she called ETFO president Sam Hammond earlier in the day and asked him to "rescind his directive to teachers."  

The education minister did not indicate what Hammond’s precise response was, but said that he agreed to meet with her to discuss the situation.  

"We did not reach agreement…on our call, but I want to leave an opportunity to find a way forward with ETFO and I look forward to having a face-to-face conversation early next week," Broten said.

Labour fight is costing kids, opposition says

Kids are paying the price for a labour fight the governing Liberals started, said Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod.

The Tories supported the legislation, but she said her party made it clear to the unions from the start that they wanted an across-the-board wage freeze to fight Ontario's $14.4-billion deficit.

"[The government] promised things that they couldn't deliver and that's why we're in this situation," she said.

"But at the end of the day, nobody should be taking this out on children."

Rattled by the unions' declaration of war following passage of the legislation, the Liberals are trying to mend fences with the labour groups whose financial and organizational support helped get them re-elected over the past nine years.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has bought time for the Liberals to repair that relationship by proroguing the legislature earlier this week and announcing his resignation.

McGuinty said he shut down the legislature to allow for a "cooling off period" that would give them time to negotiate with unions and the opposition parties on a wage freeze for nearly 500,000 public sector workers.

Three weeks ago, the government unveiled proposed legislation that would have frozen wages for civil servants and workers in places like hospitals, colleges and nursing homes. But the Tories wouldn't agree to support it.

But McGuinty's decision to prorogue also wipes out a rare contempt motion over the government's reluctance to produce documents involving the cancellation of two gas plants in Liberal  ridings, as well as another committee's work examining the province's troubled air ambulance service, which is currently under a criminal probe.

With files from CBC News