Why not let students sort out Ontario teachers’ spat with government?

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

Everyone involved in the standoff between Ontario's teachers and government knows the brutal game being played has inevitably placed students in the cross hairs.

The Ontario Liberals say they must move forward with Bill 115, which freezes teachers' salaries and cuts benefits, to ensure the health and sustainability of the province's education system.

At the same time, teachers that continue to oppose the legislation also claim to have the students' best interest at heart. Yet the only way they can fight back against the government is job action — work-to-rule campaigns or the ongoing series of one-day strikes that only serve to punish the students.

The government claims the teachers are hurting the students; the teachers claim the government is causing the damage. The only thing the two sides agree on is that the students are the victims.

On Thursday, students stopped being the victims.

[ Related: Hundreds of students protest school labour strife ]

Torstar News Service reports that a group of high school students demanded a sit-down meeting with Education Minister Laurel Broten and two union leaders in a bid to force the two sides to a conclusion.

"We ask for the politicians in whom we instill our trust to find a solution," 17-year-old student leader Kourosh Houshmand said at a news conference.

Give them their meeting. Let them have their say or, at the very least, let them see exactly what they are up against.

Two things could come of it: Trying to explain to teenagers why the two sides can't agree embarrasses government and union leaders to the point that they come to an agreement just to save face, or the students realize there is no hope, drop out of school and learn a trade.

Students have been taking a vested interest in the debate for months, holding school walkouts and demonstrations in pressing for an end.

[ Related: Elementary teachers ask for high school union's support ]

A rally outside Queen's Park on Thursday largely came down on the side of the teachers. But not entirely. Newstalk 1010's Katie Franzios posted an image on Twitter of one demonstrator carrying a sign reading: Only clueless lefty students oppose Bill 115.

Should Houshmand get his meeting, it would be the first time a student's voice was really at the bargaining table. It can't possibly be a bad thing. The voices we have right now don't seem to be working.