Why is Ontario celebrating 50 years of the public college system by dropping the word ‘public’?

"The numbers speak for themselves: Ontario provides colleges with the least per-student funding of any province. That’s no way to celebrate a system that has given our province so much.” —  RM Kennedy, Chair of OPSEU's College Academic Division

Toronto (05 April 2017) — The way Ontario’s 24 public Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology are being referred to by the minister has the union representing faculty and staff concerned about the government’s intentions for colleges.

Statement seen as opening doors to further privatization 

The President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union voiced concerns after a recent announcement that the minister’s chosen language may signal a disturbing shift away from public education itself.

“We’ve seen a shift happening for a number of years, as funding has dropped and colleges have been pushed towards privatization,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Just last year, we saw this continue through private partnerships such as the one with McDonald’s, where colleges were directed to accept corporate training as the equivalent to public education."

“Now, when we should be celebrating the key role these public colleges have played in our province’s economic success, the minister has taken to referring to them as merely 'publicly assisted.' The only reason to hide the fact these are public assets is if the government is intending to ramp up efforts to privatize them completely.”

Government focuses on capital investments, but funds that keep colleges functioning are dropping

Support staff and faculty echoed concerns with the language, as well as how the announcement continues a trend of funding one-time capital investments rather than the operating funding needed for student success.

“This is another announcement about capital funding, but year after year our colleges have seen continued declines in the funding we need to actually operate,” said RM Kennedy, chair of OPSEU’s College Academic Division. “The numbers speak for themselves: Ontario provides colleges with the least per-student funding of any province. That’s no way to celebrate a system that has given our province so much.”

Photo ops get money but not services for students

Similarly, Janice Hagan, the chair of OPSEU’s College Support Division, pointed out that “while we keep being told there’s no money for the frontlines, it seems like in the lead-up to an election there’s no shortage of funding for things that come with ribbons for politicians to cut. It’s time to end the photo ops and start getting serious about funding the frontline resources students need.”


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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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

 

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