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Catholic teachers plan more strikes

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All four bargaining units representing Ontario's teachers are set for a one-day walk-out on Friday, Feb. 21, if a deal cannot be reached by that time.

The strike will affect all schools in the Rainy River District. Board representatives are urging parents to seek alternative childcare.

At issue are class sizes, violence in the classrooms, and special education funding, according to Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario representative, Monica Armour.

In an interview with the Times on Feb. 4, Armour stressed that the leading issue for local teachers in Special Education funding. She alleges that the province offered negotiators less than half what was previously supplied.

Maintaining the one teacher- one Early Childhood Educator model for Kindergarten is also a local concern. Although the province has been public in its committment to full day Kindergarten, Armour alleges that the negotiators refused to put the staffing committment to writing.

“They work as a team, and it works,” she said of the current model.

Ontario Secondary School Teacher's Federation local president Kent Kowalski agreed, in an interview last week.

“We're here to defend public education,” he said.

He was dismayed by the tact taken by the province, to announce cuts even before negotiations were launched.

“They made the cuts, then said if you want it back, you have to negotiate it back," he said. "We aren't asking for more. We just want them to keep everything the same. Just keep it how it was.”

According to The Associated Press, Ontario's English Catholic teachers are heading back to the bargaining table this week, but are also planning more strikes if they can't reach a deal.

All four of Ontario's teachers' unions have been staging strikes as contract talks with the province have crept forward or stalled.

Negotiations between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the government broke down in January, and since then they have only had one day of discussions.

A mediator has called teh parties back to the table for negotiations on Wednesday.

But OECTA says if no deal is reached, they will stage rotating strikes next week which target each board one day, according to AP.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says in a statement that the government is ready to negotiate a deal that keeps students in class.

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