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Education minister Liz Sandals

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Guelph MPP and new Education Minister Liz Sandals is flanked by Lt.-Gov. David Onley and Premier Kathleen Wynne following Monday’s swearing-in ceremonies at Queen’s Park.

Now Minister Sandals, about funding the two school systems

As if new Education Minister Liz Sandals doesn’t have enough on her plate trying to make peace with the teach-ers’ unions, she’s being urged by an opponent in Guelph to get rid of separate public and Catholic school systems.
Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner, who will be his party’s candidate in Guelph in the next provincial election, issued a news release Monday congratulating Sandals on being appointed education minister.
“I look forward to working with her to address the crisis in education that faces Ontario. Our children, parents and education staff deserve better,” he said.
“The Liberal approach of attacking teachers is not the way to build a world-class education system,” Schreiner said. He noted that Sandals has defended Bill 115, which former education minister Laurel Broten used to impose two-year contracts on thousands of teachers in public elementary and high schools across the province in early January.
“Instead of taking away democratic rights to bargain, a better solution would have been to use the teachers’ wage freeze proposal as the starting point for negotiations,” he said.
“There are many other opportunities to build a stronger education system. I would welcome a conversation with Ms. Sandals on how ending duplication in school boards will improve fairness and equality in our schools, as well as save money,” Schreiner’s release concluded.
The Green Party is alone among the main political parties in Ontario in calling for a single publicly funded education system. Ontario now has four publicly funded systems – English and French public school systems and English and French Catholic school systems, each with its own networks of schools and school boards.
Both of the public teachers’ unions that have been battling the provincial government – the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation – also issued news releases Monday welcoming Sandals to her new post.
“Our hope is that Liz’s experience in public education and her understanding of the importance of the people who work within it will contribute to a process of rebuilding the trust and respect that has been lost because of the actions of her predecessor,” said OSSTF president Ken Coran.
In the past, the OSSTF “has worked hard to create a collaborative environment with the Minister of Education, and it is our hope that Liz Sandals will work with us to find solutions to the current political impasse. We want solutions that work for all sides so that we may move forward together,” Coran said.
“I wish to congratulate Liz Sandals on her appointment and look forward to the opportunity to having progressive and positive discussions on keeping our public education system one of the best in the world,” he said.
In congratulating Sandals, ETFO president Sam Hammond said she “brings important experience to the education portfolio.”
As well as being a former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, Sandals chaired the province’s Safe Schools Action Team initiative, which laid the groundwork for the Keeping Our Kids Safe at School Act enacted in 2009, Hammond noted.
“We look forward to working with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister Sandals to continue building a strong education system in Ontario,” he said.
Sandals inherits an education department challenged by soured relations with these two teachers’ unions. The unions have told their members to withdraw from extracurricular activities, such as coaching teams and organizing clubs, to protest Bill 115, the legislation freezing wages, rolling back benefits and curbing bargaining rights.

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