Columns

Provincial Update: A love letter to public education

Submitted By Joel Harden, 
MPP Ottawa Centre.
This is a love letter to public education, and to folks who work in our public education system. I see you, and I value you.

In recent weeks, as I’ve visited your picket lines in Ottawa, I’m constantly reminded of the sacrifices you make to keep our schools afloat. I’m also reminded about the inequalities that walk into classrooms every day, and how you see firsthand the ways in which our society falls short.

You see kids who come to school hungry, and help them with breakfast programs.

You see crumbling infrastructure, and work hard to keep our kids safe.

You see kids with disabilities struggle to learn, grow immensely frustrated, and act out.

I remember speaking with an educational assistant, one of three in a school of more than 900 elementary students, who feels like a first responder for crisis behaviour rather than an educator. Once they walked into an evacuated classroom with a child in crisis who had just trashed the class. They approached the child with a mattress to contain the blows as more help arrived.

I’ve been told about how many children in crisis with violent behaviours are kids with disabilities who either aren’t getting diagnosed at all, or who aren’t getting the services and one-on-one attention they need.

And let’s not forget about the parents of these children, who are fearful each and every day their kids go to school. Will their child be triggered? Will they be restrained? Imagine the stress on those parents who are terrified of what happens when their little one leaves for school.

It doesn’t have to be this way. This is a rich province, one where two billionaires have as much wealth as 11 million people. Despite all of Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford’s rhetoric, the money is there to invest more in classrooms instead of raising class sizes and imposing mandatory e-learning.

The money is also there to make sure that kids with learning or developmental disabilities have the in-classroom supports they so desperately need. Every child, no matter their ability or their parents’ income, deserves the best possible start.

I’ve heard from so many parents, including ones who identify as conservative, telling me that the government must reverse the cuts and get back to the bargaining table. The attempts by Ford and Lecce to pit parents and education workers against each other are failing: we will not be divided.

So to all of the teachers and education workers who put their heart and soul into their work every single day, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re fighting for our kids, and together we will win.

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