Statement by Education Minister Laurel Broten On The Proposed Putting Students First Act
"Today our government intends to introduce legislation that, if passed, would protect the gains we have made in education and preserve the classroom experience for Ontario's two million students. The proposed Putting Students First Act is necessary legislation to secure the financial sustainability of our publicly funded education system and to ensure peace and stability in our schools.
Compensation for teachers and support staff represents 85 per cent of education spending. To manage responsibly in these challenging fiscal times, we invited teacher and support unions as well as trustee associations acting on behalf of school boards, to engage in a third Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) three months ago based on clear fiscal parameters. The intent of PDTs were to reach agreements between unions and school boards on issues of provincial significance like compensation and benefits so that local bargaining can take place based on an agreed upon provincial framework.
After six months and over 300 hours of sincere discussions held in good faith, and significant changes to the government's initial fiscal parameters, the government signed memorandums of understanding with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) which served as a roadmap for future memorandums with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens; and the Association of Professional Student Services Personnel.
In addition, trustees at four school boards -- with over 160,000 students -- have taken important steps to protect the classroom experience and to meet their fiscal obligations by passing motions to sign onto the OECTA roadmap memorandum.
These are important agreements and the unions and school boards that have agreed to work within the framework of these memorandums should be commended for acting in the best interest of Ontario's students and our economy.
We've made significant progress, but it is clear there is more to do. Ontario's largest teachers' union walked away from negotiations months ago never to return despite repeated invitations. Other partners similarly walked away and have not come back. As a result, we must take action.
Ontario families need certainty that the school year will start on time and be free from labour disruptions.
Ontario's economy needs certainty that come Sept. 1, a significant number of teachers will not receive an automatic 5.5 per cent pay increase and accumulate an additional two million bankable sick days for payout upon retirement. If the salary increases and sick days simply roll over, it will have significant financial consequences for school boards and the province.
Our government cannot responsibly allow that to happen. That's why today we intend to introduce the Putting Students First Act and are asking our colleagues in the House to pass the proposed legislation in time to take effect Sept. 1.Recognizing the importance of this legislation, our government took the unprecedented step of sharing a draft with our colleagues in the opposition parties, and requested feedback. While only one of the opposition parties provided substantive feedback, we worked quickly with them to determine the best path forward.
In response to the feedback we received, we will be introducing a revised Putting Students First Act that addresses the concerns of the opposition, while still honouring the signed memorandums.
With September just around the corner and teacher contracts about to expire, the time to act is now to ensure stability in our schools and their fiscal sustainability."