“The Liberals have been looking everywhere for ways to cut corners, but to target kids with disabilities is absurd. These schools are addressing systemic barriers so that all children have opportunities when they grow up. How can we deny any kid that basic right?” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President OPSEU
Toronto (10 Aug. 2016) — After months of consultation and the freezing of student enrolment, Ontario's Liberal government has submitted to public pressure demanding that it keep open the province’s Demonstration and Provincial Schools.
“Students with exceptionalities need and deserve tailored instruction,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
Schools provide invaluable service
The Provincial and Demonstration Schools serve English and French students with severe learning disabilities, and who are deaf or deafblind. In a Ministry-funded report, PGF Consultants noted that the residence at French Provincial and Demonstration School Centre Jules-Léger, “makes an enormous difference” in enabling students to develop self-confidence, learn to manage their emotions, develop their autonomy, and learn to manage their time.
Strong opposition to possible closure
When the Liberal government announced in February that admissions would be stalled for a period of “consultations,” parents and community groups believed this was a prelude to total closures. In response, there was a significant backlash among the public. In April, hundreds of parents and allies rallied outside the legislature, demanding the schools stay open. Premier Kathleen Wynne rejected their demands, citing the desire to broaden services for students across the province.
Critics argue the move was motivated more by the $100 million the Liberals stood to save in closing the schools.
An equity issue
“This is about equity,” said Thomas. “The Liberals have been looking everywhere for ways to cut corners, but to target kids with disabilities is absurd. These schools are addressing systemic barriers so that all children have opportunities when they grow up. How can we deny any kid that basic right?”
“When will the Liberals learn how to do something right the first time? If they had consulted earlier on, they wouldn’t have put all of these families and children through hell, nor wasted so much time and money on trying to close these schools. I’m just glad the wait is finally over, and that, together with parents and advocates, we’ve succeeded in convincing the government to keep these necessary schools open.”
OPSEU/NUPGE represents residence counsellors and administrative staff at the Provincial and Demonstration Schools.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE