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Education minister says Ontario is ‘prepared to invest’ in elementary teachers

Ontario’s Education Minister says the government is “prepared to invest” in front-line teachers in order to retain educators in provincial classrooms, after the government’s offer to a teacher’s union was revealed, exclusively, by Global News.

Key details of confidential contract negotiations between the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ford government were leaked to Global News showing the two sides have a significant gap on issues of compensation, benefits and class sizes.

While ETFO proposed a yearly salary increase of 1.0 per cent plus cost of living, the Ford government countered with a yearly increase of 1.25 per cent — an offer the NDP called “insulting.”

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After initially ducking reporters on Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce briefly spoke to Global News ahead of a cabinet meeting at Queen’s Park about the leaked contract details.

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“I think as you can appreciate, we’re going to get this deal by working confidently with the union at the table, not through the media,” Lecce said. “I’m not going to confirm leaked information. All I can simply say to you is that we’re going to continue to make the case to land a deal that keeps kids in school.”

When pressed about the offer to educators, Lecce said the government currently “pay(s) our teachers among the highest in the country.”

“We’re prepared to invest to retain them,” Lecce said, but he didn’t elaborate on whether the government is prepared to increase its offer to the union in order to strike a deal.

Lecce said the province’s “preference” is to negotiate a new four-year contract before the start of the next school year.

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