Ontario Teachers Strike

Education is probably the most important resource in our society. The education System
determines our future, by educating the youngest segment of our population. For this reason, it should be
of great concern when there is a problem or an issue like a Teachers\' strike.
The Ontario teachers\' strike that began on Monday October 27 involves 126,000 teachers and
affects 2.1 Million students in the province. This strike is North America\'s largest, right ahead of the 1975
New York City strike when 60,000 teachers walked off the job . The main issue of debate is over Bill 160,
which is all about who holds The Power to set education policy in the province of Ontario. Bill 160
centralizes control of the education system, putting it in the hands of the provincial government. It
eliminates the authority of school boards and teachers\' unions to set classroom and teaching conditions
locally through collective bargaining. The bill allows the government to regulate class sizes, education
property tax rates, teachers\' preparation time, the amount of time teachers and students spend in school and
the use of non-certified instructors. The issue is whether teachers should have a role in educational reform.
The strike is illegal, because most of the te!
achers have existing contracts.
Ontario premier Mike Harris said that reforms are needed to stop a decline in student performance.
Although the same government announced that the bill will allow the education ministry to cut 7,000
teaching jobs and up to $700 million from the $14-billion education budget.

The strike is not a typical one, because it\'s not really a labor issue. It\'s not about teachers fighting
a school board over a collective bargaining agreement. It\'s a strike protesting against the Harris government
and Bill 160. While the teachers want to protest Bill 160, they also have an obligation to teach their
Students. Many teachers are caught in this dilemma; do you go to the classroom, or do you go to the wall
to defend education? Are teachers responsible first and foremost for their students or should they be loyal
to the union? Many teachers in Ontario feel that they should be there for their students, although they\'re
Scared To cross the picket line. Eileen Lennon, president of the Ontario Teachers Federation, has said
that teachers who cross picket lines won\'t be sanctioned. However, they might take heat from individual
co-workers when they get back on the job. The Teachers feel that they have to show solidarity with the
union, or they will be alienate!
d.
"Parents should be on the alert that their schools may be closed in the very near future," Lennon
said. "When we do it, it will be province wide."
Union members met with education minister Dave Johnson over changes to Bill 160, although
nothing was resolved. Johnson said he was discouraged following a one-hour meeting with representatives
of the five major teachers\' unions. He said he would not make changes the unions demanded.
"I was presented with a list of issues to pull out of Bill 160," Johnson said.
"I\'ve been presented with an ultimatum to take these sections out of Bill 160 and further
discussions, according to the Ontario Teachers\' Federation, are not able to take place until those sections
are taken out of the bill."
Union leaders said they asked Johnson to remove some provisions that would allow the
province to use non-certified teachers in classrooms and to regulate class size, teacher preparation time and
the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom. Johnson says the changes are necessary to improve the
quality of education.
The government and the unions have each spent over 1 million dollars in advertising, trying to win
over the support of the people of Ontario. The most recent polls show that the unions have a slight edge
over the government as they prepared for the illegal strike. Though the longer the strike lasts, the opinion
will shift to the government. "The question is: How long will people put up with the inconvenience in light
of the over-arching motives?
"Right now, tone and character become extremely important."
Opinion on the issue is constantly changing, with a shift of two or three percentage points a day over the
last week, most of it going