The Ontario government is now offering an increase in average high school class sizes to 23 — just one student over last year’s levels, down from the 28-student average class the province originally announced.
“We have been negotiating for hundreds and hundreds of days with an impasse,” Lecce said. “The ball is in their court now. We’ve made a significant move that is in the interest of students.”
But as part of the new offer, the government is not budging beyond an offer to increase wages and benefits by one per cent a year, and it wants concessions on a regulation that dictates seniority-based hiring.
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives angered teachers last March when they announced they would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 — which would lead to thousands of fewer teachers in the system — and require high school students to take four e-learning courses to graduate.
The government partly backed off on both issues last year, but the unions had said the concessions didn’t go far enough and continued to ramp up strikes.
Lecce said the government will continue to develop a new online learning system, but an opt-out will be added, so there won’t be any mandatory requirements for graduation.
“We believe that online learning provides a multitude of benefits for students, particularly when it comes to diversifying the course offerings and really embracing 21st century learning,” Lecce said.
All four major teachers’ associations have been engaging in various strikes during this round of bargaining, and Lecce has maintained that the unions’ main objective is higher pay.
The unions have been asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, but the Ontario government has passed legislation capping raises for public sector workers at one per cent for three years.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said Tuesday it would continue challenging that legislation in court as unconstitutional, but it would accept the one per cent increase if the government backed down on class sizes and mandatory e-learning. -CINEWS