What’s happening to public education?

The unions have completely run amok, and our children and grandchildren suffer increasingly poorer quality, at times harmful instruction. Photo credit: Pexels/Ksenia Chernaya


The horror stories abound. In public schools, themes such as critical race theory, which teaches children that all white persons are oppressors and is terribly divisive of different groups on the basis of race, are being promoted far and wide. Gender ideology, which is increasingly exposing very young children to confusing notions of whether they are a boy or a girl, and keeping information away from parents, is permeating many of our classrooms. 

At the same time as our costly public education system promotes this social justice agenda, students’ achievement in basics such as literacy, numeracy and problem solving continues to decline. 

In Ontario, the ongoing nightmare of negotiations with the teachers’ unions are once again underway. Once again, the unions are focussing on shrinking class size, and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO), who have been running ads in recent weeks talking dishonestly about how the Ford government is cutting education spending, is demanding that 90 per cent of classes have 20 or fewer students, and that no class size should exceed 23 students. 

Although there is no compelling case to be made in terms of learning advantages for class sizes that small, shrinking class sizes means greater demand for more teachers and therefore higher amounts of money going to unions in the form of union dues. There is no reason that the government should give in to this demand. 

As far as wage increases are concerned, the EFTO is asking for the cost of living plus a one per cent increase annually over a four-year contract. They also want an increase in funding to maintain benefits at current levels. The government is proposing a 1.25 per cent increase per year for four years – in other words they are offering the same amount over a four-year period that the union is asking for each year. The government is also saying they will not fund any increases in the very generous benefits teachers already enjoy. Considering how far apart the two sides currently are, yet another school disruption could well be in the offing by September.  

Early in its first mandate, the Ford government promised to undertake an overhaul of Ontario’s public education system, including a Parents’ Bill of Rights. In the intervening years, the government has backed off conducting such a reform and there has been no mention of the Parents’ Bill of Rights in years. Considering the fact many public schools are enabling the “gender transition” of very young students while not informing parents, such a Bill of Rights is clearly needed as well as strict limits defining what school boards and schools themselves are permitted to do without informing parents. 

Some other disturbing developments have occurred recently, such as the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) removing merit as a criterion for acceptance into some specialized schools’ programs. Previously, public schools that specialized in the arts, music, mathematics, science, or some other focus required students to show some affinity for the subject matter before being accepted. Going forward, the TDSB intends to randomly select applicants and give priority to students from underrepresented and under-served communities, regardless of whether or not they have an aptitude for the specialized subjects. 

This is sadly consistent with the union-promoted notion of minimizing the importance of merit in general, which has contributed to the fact that student achievement has consistently declined for years. It’s high time citizens in Ontario and other provinces start to ask themselves – are they OK with unions and their wonky, harmful social theories, effectively running our public education system? 

In my view, there was no reason to have unionized government employees in the first place, considering that the normal private sector checks and balances do not exist in government. But given Canada’s immensely favourable legal treatment of unions, that ship has likely sailed. At this stage, the best defence for sensible governments would be to establish competition to the expensive yet poorly performing public school system via charter schools or vouchers that would permit parents to direct their tax dollars toward the system of their choice. Why Ontario or other provincial governments have not as yet done this is only due to one factor – fear of the teachers’ unions. Seems like we parents, grandparents, and taxpayers – all of us being voters – need to make government more afraid of us. 


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