School's out for 2 Million Kids as Ontario Teachers Plan to Walk Teachers Accuse Government of Seizing Power with New Bill, and Plan a Strike for Today

Article excerpt

A cheer went up from most students when the announcement came over the intercom at Centennial High School. Teachers across the province were going out on strike this morning, in protest against the Ontario government's education reforms. But for other students, the news could not have been worse.

"It really makes me angry," says Sarah Wright, a senior preparing for college. "This is going to ruin my {school} year."

The showdown between teachers' unions and the government in Ontario, Canada's largest province, will keep 2.1 million students out of class starting today. Last minute talks were still going yesterday, with former Chief Justice of Ontario Charles Dubin as referree. The teachers' union, in announcing the strike, said their actions were a 'political protest' as well as a strike. At issue is who will make policy: the cost-cutting Conservative government, or the unions that represent the 126,000 teachers. The teachers oppose education reforms in Bill 60, legislation now before the Ontario Legislature. They say certain sections of the bill cut them out of the decision-making process. "Teachers across this province are concerned about the undemocratic nature of this bill," says Eileen Lennon, president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation. "Schools are put into the shared trust of teachers, parents, communities, and government. We want the parents, teachers, and communities to have some input into school policy." The government wants teachers to spend more time in the classroom, to extend the school year, and to have one standard set of examinations so students across the province are measured uniformly. The government also wants the freedom to make significant spending cuts. …