An open letter to the Hon. David Johnson, minister of Education and Training, re: Bill 160—a bill to defraud the students of Ontario of their right to a quality education; a bill designed to concentrate fiscal and decision-making power in the hands of one man based in Toronto.
As you can see, I do not support the farce that is your government’s “answer" to the "crisis” in education in Ontario. I believe that Bill 160 is a poorly-conceived attempt to strip power away from locally-elected school boards and concentrate it in one person’s hands. When this bill is passed into law, the minister of education in the Province of Ontario will have virtually unrestrained power to transform the classroom—and all of the factors impacting it—at his or her whim.
In the short term, I have no doubt that Bill 160 will effectively allow this government to achieve its fiscal targets and deliver significant tax relief to the wealthy. My concern is how long does the strike need to last to achieve significant savings? How many students in a classroom before fiscal targets are reached? Which services and programs will be eliminated or contracted out? Will our children have access to trained professionals?
There are many more questions like these that deserve reasoned and careful consideration because the long-term implications of Bill 160 are, quite frankly, frightening.
Ontario’s crisis in education will not be solved by forcing Bill 160 into law. Bill 160 will ensure that education will remain in the political arena as a convenient area to achieve maximum impact. Each four to five years, our children will be forced to endure the political manipulation of the public education system to reach fiscal targets, implement “new” standards, and impose these changes without public consultation at the ministerial level.
This represents a gross violation of democratic process, and resembles a typical fascist centralization of power and control.
Our children deserve to be treated with respect and consideration. They are our hope for the future, and are worth the investment of our time and money to seize the moment. I ask, on behalf of all the children who are and will be enrolled in public education, that Bill 160 be suspended and province-wide consultations be held to determine if Bill 160, as it stands, represents an improvement to the quality of education in the Province of Ontario.
I ask you, Mr. Johnson, to take advantage of the crisis that your government has precipitated and enter into meaningful dialogue with the people of Ontario, and work toward public consensus on the direction and focus of public education.
If the present government of Ontario truly believes that Bill 160 represents a positive long-term solution, you, as the minister responsible, should welcome the opportunity to present and substantiate this claim in an open forum.
If the bill does not pass public scrutiny, you must have the courage to do what is right and work to amend the legislative framework to create a bill which will reflect the long-term commitment of the Province of Ontario to provide quality publicly-funded education to its residents, and remove for all time the threat of politically-motivated interference in education.
Yours in opposition to Bill 160,