TORONTO — A strike by educational assistants at the Thames Valley District School Board signals a looming crisis in special education, says the union representing EAs in most of the province’s school districts.
“It’s time for the ministry of education to wake up and realize they have a serious problem on their hands,” said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. “Our members who work as educational assistants spoke out clearly at their April conference about the need for provincial intervention. They need seven hours a day to meet the needs of their students.”
The workers at Thames Valley, located in southwestern Ontario, have been on strike since May 11 over the time they have with students, currently six hours a day. Similar issues are on the negotiating table with the Durham and Upper Canada boards while parents in Niagara have raised fears that the number of EAs there will be cut next year.
“Educational assistants are working for nothing before and after school as well as during their lunch breaks,” Ryan said. “They’re not willing to take it anymore.”
CUPE Ontario spent more than a year with the former minister of education and his staff on this issue but has yet to see any action, he said. In contrast, the minister was willing to sit down with teachers and work out an agreement on preparation time.
“Unfortunately, that agreement only made matters worse for EAs,” Ryan said. “School boards are dealing with teachers’ prep time by downloading extra supervisory duties onto educational assistants and, in some cases, cutting positions altogether. The provincial government must step in.”
For more information, contact:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario, 416-209-0066 (cell)
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications, 416-299-9739 ext 264
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