Province, ETFO agree to 'low' class sizes and 1% compensation increase

Details of the tentative agreement reached yesterday between the province and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) were announced by the education minister Saturday.

Stephen Lecce said the deal includes keeping "class sizes low," increased special education funding for those with "the greatest needs," protecting full day kindergarten, and a "fair" one per cent compensation increase. 

"We believe this deal reflects the priorities of all the parties at the table," he said. 

During negotiations with ETFO, the province remained firm on an offer of a one per cent wage increase, while the union asked for an increase of two per cent and a six per cent on benefits.

"This has been a very prolonged and difficult bargaining process," ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement issued Friday.

"We are very grateful for the support and unwavering solidarity of our members and the public who have continued to stand up for public education and the support that our students and educators need now and in the future."

Talks with the French teachers' union are expected to resume Monday and Tuesday of next week, and with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation in "the coming days," Lecce said, despite ongoing efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.  

"I think what COVID-19 has done is elevated the consciousness of the parties, I think it has elevated the responsibility of all of us within the education sector to work together," Lecce said.

This week, the province also announced resources to help students continue learning online as they wait out school closures at home.

"I'm hoping that in the coming days we'll have more clarity on what the future of education is beyond the two weeks," said Lecce, adding the province will make its decision based on the advice of Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams. 

"I look forward to getting his advice and communicating it transparently and immediately to parents." 

When asked about the possibility of the school year extending into July, Lecce again said they would follow the advice of Dr. Williams.

"At this point it would just be a bit premature to answer that because he's only advised us to close schools for two weeks," said Lecce. "If he recommended extending the closure of schools and then there could be consequences that come with that decision point."

The minister concluded by saying he will be sharing a letter with parents and families in Ontario to outline the province's objectives for the "coming weeks."