In a move that has caught the unions off guard, the Ministry of Education announced the province would be offering up to $60 a day per child to parents whose children would be affected by the closures.
Parents are eligible if their children are 12 years old or younger and are enrolled in a publicly-funded school or a school-based child care centre that will close due to the strike. Also eligible are parents with children up to the age of 21 with special needs who are enrolled in a publicly-funded school.
The details of the compensation are as follows:
• $60 per day for children up to 6 years old who are not yet enrolled in school but attend a school-based child care centre that is required to close on account of a strike
• $40 per day for students in junior or senior kindergarten
• $25 per day for students in Grades 1 to 7
• $40 total per day for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 12 (or aged 21 and under) with special needs
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce told reporters Wednesday morning the offer of compensation was an effort by the province to be “proactive.”
“It is our hope that it will provide some relief to families,” Lecce said.
The cost of this program works out to $48 million a day if all Ontario teachers’ unions walked out at once, Lecce said. According to the ministry, the amount paid in teacher salaries across the province works out to about $60 million a day.
Meanwhile the unhappy Sam Hammond, ETFO president had this to say to reporters in response: “The minister of education in this province blatantly — in a very transparent way — is trying to bribe parents to get their support in this ongoing battle.”
Hammond suggested the province should instead put the money into the system for “today, tomorrow and into the future, rather than trying to bribe parents.”
However, this signals that the government isn’t about to lean over backward in its difficult negotiations with the union.