Protesters of the Ford government’s proposed education cuts staged an impromptu rally off Highway 401 after their bus broke down en route from Whitby to Queen’s Park on Saturday.
They were in one of 13 buses filled with families and union workers who would eventually join thousands of protesters at a rally outside Queen’s Park.
Dressed in red shirts with pins that read “Class Size Matters,” the families were stranded momentarily along Leslie Street between the 401 and York Mills Road. They decided not to spend time sitting on a broken bus when they could be spreading the message they were bringing to the Ontario government.
“You know, you can find enough money to put in for horse racing and yet we’re finding you can’t put enough money into education?” said Chelsea Shields, a teachers’ union worker on her way to the Queen’s Park rally with her family.
“I teach my children to stand up to a bully and think critically. And they know why we’re here. And they articulate it very well, because they understand that a bigger class means less time with the teacher.”
Rallies took place all week at Queen’s Park and across Ontario to protest the Ontario government’s proposed education plan, which includes increasing class sizes for Grades 4 to 12, as well as four mandatory online classes for high school students. Class sizes will rise from an average of up to 22 students to 28.
As a result, more than 3,400 teaching positions will be phased out before the next provincial election. Some special elective courses will also be eliminated. The cuts will bring estimated government savings of $851 million.
“We need to make sure that Mr. Ford understands that it isn’t just teacher jobs he’s cutting when he cuts this money out of the budget,” said Julie Gladman, one of the protesters waiting for another coach bus.
“It’s essential school programs. It’s infrastructure management. It’s going to affect kids very badly.”
While they were waiting for another coach bus to pick them up, they heard supportive honks from passing cars as children raised their signs high along the street. Among the slogans: “Why do you think horses are more important than my education” and “Ford You.”