Toronto students, parents, teachers sing in the rain to protest cuts to education

A group of musical protesters gathered in downtown Toronto on Saturday afternoon to rally against cuts to education.

Musical protesters said they were singing in defence of fully-funded public education

A woman sings in downtown Toronto to protest provincial cuts to public education. (Angelina King/CBC)

A group of students, parents and teachers gathered in downtown Toronto on Saturday afternoon to rally in song against cuts to education.

Dozens of musical protestors sang in defence of fully-funded public education, calling for smaller class sizes, no mandatory e-learning and more resources.

The rally by Ontario Education Workers United came in the midst of tense contract talks between the four major teachers' unions and the government. 

"Doug Ford cuts have made a big mess... Fa la la la!" the group sang.

"We're deeply concerned about the increase to class sizes the mandatory e-learning and the fact that the government has not committed to full-day kindergarten funding," said high school teacher Melanie Willson.

The biggest concern, said many, is class sizes.

"It's just really hard to give each child individual attention that they deserve and they need when their classes are so large. Especially grades 4 and up. My son is one of 34 children in his classroom," said elementary school teacher Jennie Boutilier. 

One concession the province says it's made during bargaining is changing the class size increase from 28 down to 25 in four years.

On Friday, the high school teachers' union announced a third one-day strike this Wednesday. Schools in Toronto won't be affected but ones in York and Halton will be. 

In a statement, education minister Stephen Lecce says the job action is all about salaries. saying in part: "We have made a reasonable offer on compensation  a $750 million increase... We are calling on OSSTF to stop job action, accept private mediation and focus on classrooms, not more money for members."

Meanwhile, elementary school teachers ramped up their work-to-rule campaign earlier this week. And Catholic teachers will be in a legal strike position a week from today.

Jessica Lyons, a parent organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network says she's on board with teachers.

"We will stand behind education workers through whatever it takes to get these cuts off the table and get a fair contract settled," she said.

Words were changed in Christmas carols to spread the message that education cuts hurt children. (Angelina King/CBC)
The group of students, parents and teachers said they were singing in defence of fully-funded public education. (Angelina King/CBC)

With files from Angelina King