CUPE applauds the Ontario government’s recognition that our education system must address fundamental problems when it comes to meeting the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, but cautions real improvements won’t happen without dealing with systemic barriers.

“We know that students do better when the staff around them are more reflective of the communities they come from. We don’t need to wait for surveys to be completed to begin to address the systemic barriers that prevent this from happening,” says CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.

“From custodians to office staff, education assistants to early childhood educators, the adults working in the school create the learning environment that helps determine how well kids thrive. We need to do more to make sure those workers are actually representative of a school’s student diversity,” Hahn says.

CUPE has been developing a tool for school boards to collaborate with local unions to identify and begin to address barriers that exist in recruitment, promotion and training opportunities.

“We know that in places like Thunder Bay, job postings are usually done online. We also know many within local First Nations and remote communities have limited access to the internet. This is just one example of many barriers that could be fixed now to improve students’ sense of inclusion in their schools,” says Terri Preston, Chair of the School Board Sector of CUPE Ontario.

“Children only get one shot at their education. While beginning to collect data on outcomes is important, today’s students can’t afford for us to wait until all the data has been collected. We need to start making real changes that multiple studies have already proven will help,” Preston says.

“CUPE’s 55,000 education workers are committed to working together with our local school boards to begin this work,” says Preston. “We made a priority of this in our last round of bargaining and will continue to try and push this critical work forward.”