The #RedforEd teachers movement has gone international. Elementary public school teachers in Toronto, Canada and other locations in Ontario held walk-in protests at elementary schools throughout the province on Thursday to demonstrate their opposition to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s education budget.
The protests at an estimated 300 elementary schools, organized by the 83,000 member Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) teachers union and its largest local, the 11,000 member Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT), came on the day before Friday’s one year anniversary of Ford’s election as premier, as Toronto City News reported:
Ontario has seen a whirlwind of a year since Doug Ford was swept to power, leaving in his wake a path of dismantled environmental and social programs, a bounty of beer, and a swath of cuts.
Ford’s June 7 victory ushered in a busy political year, with the new Progressive Conservative premier checking off a significant portion of his campaign promises, eager to put his stamp on the province. But it also prompted a spate of protests both outside and inside the legislature.
He has undone many of the Liberals’ signature policies, including a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions and various green programs that were funded by it, worker-friendly labour laws including a planned $15 minimum wage, free tuition, and a basic income pilot project.
In March, local public school teachers who belong to ETT declared their affiliation with the #RedforEd movement and began wearing red to school every Friday. That activism escalated in just more than two months to Thursday’s walk-in protests.
Teachers at more than 50 public elementary schools in the Toronto metropolitan area registered their schools on ETT’s website as walk-in protest sites, joining an estimated 250 additional walk-in protests around the rest of the province of Ontario.
Activists from other union and left wing groups joined the protesting teachers, parents, and students at the local walk-ins.
“Hey Ford, we’re no fools, we won’t let you ruin our schools!” #CutsHurtKids #Red4Ed #ONPoli @fordnation @LisaThompsonMPP Students’ learning conditions are other’s working conditions! Education jobs should be decent jobs! #15andFairness #DecentWork pic.twitter.com/PUkq8vICx7
— $15 & Fairness! (@fairwagesnow) June 6, 2019
“In one year, the Conservative government has created needless chaos in Ontario’s world-class public education system to the detriment of students, families and educators,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement released on Thursday about the walk-ins:
“This government deserves an ‘F’ for its education plan. How are deep funding cuts, larger class sizes, eliminating thousands of teacher and education worker positions, downloading responsibility for children with autism to school boards and reducing front-line supports for children with special needs providing a better future for students?”
The Conservative government’s attempted roll-back of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum has been a real threat to student safety and inclusion in elementary classrooms. The parent ‘snitch’ line was a direct affront to teacher professionalism as is the government’s plan to water down Regulation 274 which enforces fair hiring practices by school boards.
“The Conservative government also gets an ‘F’ for severe cuts to other public services including health care, child care, children and family services, libraries and proposed legislation that would violate the democratic rights of public sector workers to free collective bargaining; all this while offering corporations further tax breaks of $1.4 billion this year,” added Hammond.
— Caitlin Doyle (@mme_doyle) June 6, 2019
The ETT website said the walk-in was an event in which “Parents, education workers, and students, rally, march or gather outside school 30 minutes before the bell to defend and improve public education,” just as the #RedforEd walk-in tactic is used in the United States.
#CutsHurtKids @TDSB_ChurchStPS students and parents standing up for public education bright and early before school @SuzeMorrison @ChrisMoiseTO #WalkInforEducation #ONpoli #onEdu pic.twitter.com/zhre2x9GM1
— Toronto Centre Parents for Public Education (@TCP4PublicEdu) June 6, 2019
Union organizers encouraged elementary school students to participate in the walk-in, and even provided an online organizing guide for students, which began with this statement:
Thank you for your interest in organizing a Walk-in at your school to fight for a fully funded, equitable, strong Public Education system in Ontario! Together we can stop the cuts to Education and build the schools that all of us deserve!
Among the demands the unionized teachers sought assistance from their elementary school students in achieving were:
- Reverse the cuts to Education, the cuts that have already happened and those planned for the future.
- Reverse the harmful changes made – reinstate Indigenous Curriculum writing sessions, reinstate full Health Curriculum.
- No elimination of Education worker Jobs
- A fully-funded public education system that includes low-class caps, excellent needs-support, no mandatory e-learning, and well-maintained buildings.
- Funding that provides equitable enrichment opportunities across the system and reduces the burden on school-based fundraising.
- An inclusive curriculum and respect for the diversity of our students and educators.
Across the GTA today 100s of parents and educators took a united action – a #WalkInForPublicEducation, to tell Ford that education funding cuts hurt kids. How are you marking the PC election on June 7? Send a message that #Fordisfailing Ontario. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/P9eazeWmAR
— Elementary Educators (@ETFOeducators) June 6, 2019
— Sam Hammond (@etfopresident) June 6, 2019
During its first year of operation, the #RedforEd movement, which began in Arizona in March 2018, was confined to the United States and was focused on domestic politics, at both the state and national level.
As Breitbart News reported in February:
This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.
Thursday’s walk-in protests by unionized teachers in Ontario are the first instance in which the left wing political tactics of the #RedforEd have been deployed internationally, but they are not likely to be the last.