I recently wrote to the Premier, the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals and my MPP, Charles Sousa, (who happens to be the Minister of Finance). The letter is below.
Charles Sousa’s office told me that I needed to contact his office as Minister of Education. I wrote back and said I was writing to my MPP. I have not heard back.
Premier Wynne responded today, with a form letter basically. The response is below my original letter. I am frustrated but certainly not finished in my attempts to get some level of understanding within our government that things need to change. My peers within the Boards are getting worn down by the lack of support for themselves and our students.
Premier Wynne, Ministers Sandals and Sousa:
Special Education and Early Childhood Education funding in the province of Ontario is in need of increased financial supports. The reduced funding in the past several years for special education has not kept pace with increased demands on the various systems and specifically on front line workers, like Educational or Teaching Assistants and Child and Youth Workers. In the Peel Board, where I worked for the past 13 years as an Educational Resource Facilitator, injuries and mental health concerns are on the rise for members as they try to keep pace with the needs of students and families with less support for both themselves and their students. Although funding has been increased for Early Learning programs in order to expand the programs, the demands on Designated Early Childhood Educators are as significant as their partners, teachers, and yet their salaries are not in line.
As negotiations are ongoing in education at present, please keep in mind that our economic system says that the rewards that are felt by education workers need to translate into dollars and cents, not just the satisfaction of doing a job well.
As important as concrete economic changes for education workers is the acknowledgement by your government for the exemplary and life changing work provided to the youngest students, as well as students with behavioural, physical or intellectual disabilities or other learning challenges, those students often marginalized within the school system and society overall.
In the last round of negotiations, teachers, specifically, but all education workers by extension, were vilified by your government and made to appear as only interested in money. This public relations ploy has had long-lasting effects not only on public perceptions but also on the sense of worth of the education workers that were targeted. This needs to change in order to restore the health of our education system in Ontario.
What early childhood educators and special needs/behaviour teaching assistants do within the school boards should be acknowledged and celebrated, not demeaned by public institutions and leaders. Additionally, funding for education programs within which we work need to be supported and money specifically targeted to bringing our wages in line to be commiserate with the value we bring not only to education and the lives of the students we support, but to the civil society in which we live, one that proclaims that supporting the most vulnerable members is a pillar on which that same society is built.
Response from Premier Wynne:
Thank you very much for your email regarding services for students with special needs. I appreciate the time you took to share your situation with me.
Education and inclusion continue to be priorities for our government. A fair society is one that helps ensure that all children and youth have access to high-quality education to learn, grow and contribute to their community. Our government will continue working to ensure that young people are equipped with the appropriate tools, so that they are able to pursue the paths of their choosing and are prepared for the challenges ahead.
I note that you have also sent correspondence to my colleague the Honourable Liz Sandals, Minister of Education. I trust that she too will give your concerns her consideration.
Once again, thank you for writing. Please accept my best wishes.
Premier of Ontario
c: The Honourable Liz Sandals