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More than 150 Shelburne students stand up for education

April 11, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By MARNI WALSH

“We have come to the point where our children are showing more leadership than our government,” says Centre Dufferin District High School (CDDHS) student Jaxzon Allen, speaking to the Ford government’s announcement that cuts and changes will be made to Ontario’s education system. The grade 12 CDDHS student was one of the organizers of the April 4th student rally in Shelburne that saw over 100,000 students from 700 schools across the province walk out of class in protest of the changes.

In a recent press release, Conservative Education Minister Lisa Thompson says her government is “putting our province on a path back to balance so that we can protect the core services that matter most – like education – while restoring fiscal sustainability to the people of Ontario.” 

     Further, Minister Thompson said, “That’s why it’s so important that these changes received Royal Assent this week. These changes will improve student safety and ensure that every student will have the support they need to be successful in school.”

However, many students, parents and teachers are questioning how the Province’s push to increase class sizes, with a predicted loss of nearly 3500 teaching positions across the province (many School Boards are suggesting it will be much higher according to the Global Mail); a decline in services to vulnerable students such as those with autism; denying funding for much needed school repairs; as well as denying funding for expansion plans for over crowded schools, such as Glenbrooke and Hyland Heights Elementary schools in Shelburne, will help students be successful.

The students are pushing back. “Canada is supposed to be democratic,” says Jaxzon Allen, “but how can that be when children have to fight to be heard?” In reaction to the student walk out, Premier Doug Ford said on Global News Radio 640 last Thursday, that the protest was not about class size, “This is strictly from the union thugs, as I call them,” he said, “the teachers’ union, one of the most powerful unions in the entire country.” 

However, education unions have denied that they were involved in the student walkout. Jaxzon Allen says that Premier Ford’s statement essentially “silences the 100,000 students in opposition to the cuts” by negating their individual will to voice their own opinions.

Forseeably, the Ford government’s demand for a class to have a minimum required number of students in order to be offered to the students – will likely mean the loss of many elective classes and important learning opportunities – such as art or auto classes.  According to the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the cuts have resulted in 54 job losses in Upper Grand schools alone, including autism services. 

Approximately 150 kids walked out of Centre Dufferin District High School last Thursday, as well as about ten students from Hyland Heights Elementary School. The students protested peacefully in front of the high school with signs and a megaphone. Later the secondary students were led through the halls of CDDHS by Jaxon Allen, so that all students could hear their message and sign a petition that read:

“We the students of Centre Dufferin High School, petition the Premier Doug Ford to cancel current plans to make education funding cuts, autism funding cuts, and major plans to harm reconcilation in Ontario.” 

The students are continuing to gather signatures in Shelburne this week before they send their petition to Province.

The student protesters also voiced their concern about cuts to OSAP that could mean the loss of equal opportunity for post secondary education for financially disadvantaged students; the loss of the standard six month grace period for graduating students to begin paying back student loans; and cuts to Autism Ontario. The students also see the Ford government’s plan to ban cell phones in the class room as putting the students at a technological disadvantage to other students across the country. “Schools already have implemented policies that allow students to use cell phones to further their education,” says Jaxzon Allen.

The students’ message is simple: “We need to support and educate all children before it’s too late and they end up needing lifelong support to function in our society- this is a much bigger financial and mental health loss to the Province in the end. We must all speak up, collectively, before it is too late.”



         

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