Ontario teachers rally against McGuinty budget plans

An elementary teacher in the Ontario system fears for the future of her career and for her students’ education.

The Ontario Federation of Labour staged a protest, yesterday, at Queen’s Park. About 1,000 protesters representing about 90 different groups, participated in the rally, and marched through downtown Toronto.

Caitlyn Wilson, who recently began teaching in Ontario, expressed a common concern among teachers in the protest.

“I always thought education was something not to be messed with,” she said. “Now we’re facing larger class sizes and we don’t even have a say in what’s happening.”

The Ontario budget, currently before the Ontario Legislature, proposes that teachers’ salaries be frozen for two years; it also calls for the optional fifth year of high school to be reduced from eight to four credits and there will also be a push for some schools to be closed.

Also in the protest, Margaret Cuccurullo is a retired teacher who still works as a substitute teacher in Toronto’s west-end.

“I worked at the Catholic school board for 20 years and in the public system for 10. Collective bargaining has always been our right, and now it’s being taken away in a single swoop,” she said.

The rally itself covered the lawn in front of the Legislature. Andrea Horwath, the leader of the Ontario NDP, addressed the demonstrators about the budget proposal to freeze teachers’ wages.

“They (Ontario Liberal Party) admitted legislative wage freezes simply don’t work. They said wage freezes proposed by people like (the Conservatives’) Tim Hudak don’t work. What did they do? They turned around and proposed the exact same idea,” Horwath said.

Cuccurullo said she didn’t get into teaching for monetary reward, but she didn’t think that those educating young people should be near the chopping block.

“My time is over, but I see this as something that could be a repellent for future teachers, “ she said. ”(Teachers) already sacrifice, and what the government is asking us to do is to sacrifice even more.”