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Thomas hails special-schools reversal, urges caution

Toronto – The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says he’s pleased the Liberal government is now accepting admissions to the province’s special schools for children who are blind, deaf, deafblind, or who have severe learning disabilities.

“Thanks to the activism of parents and staff, the Liberal government saw the writing on the chalkboard,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Even some Liberals told Liz Sandals that shutting down these schools was going too far. They had to back off.”

The sudden decision to keep five provincial and demonstration schools open in 2016-17 came just a day before a massive show of support at Queen’s Park by students, parents, teachers and staff.

“We were galvanized into action as soon as Education Minister Sandals said she was launching a consultation on the schools’ future,” said Daryl O’Grady, president of OPSEU Local 456. “We knew that was code for closure.

“Facebook pages were created and petitions launched. MPPs jumped into the fray. The union organized five busloads of supporters to descend on Queen’s Park on Thursday. We were not going to take this lying down.”

Thomas warmly congratulated parents and OPSEU frontliners for their activism. But he also warned that keeping the schools open could be more of a stay of execution than an acquittal.

“Based on the Liberals’ track record, when faced with opposition, they respond just enough to blunt that opposition but then continue on the same track once things quiet down,” he said.

“I’m putting the Wynne Liberals on notice: We will not rest until the government gives its full and unequivocal endorsement to demonstration and provincial schools. Furthermore, we demand that the government provide the best possible education to all Ontario kids – wherever they are, whatever their needs.

“Gandhi said a country’s greatness is measured on how well it cares for its most vulnerable members – not how much its ruling party rakes in at fundraisers.

“We will accept nothing less of the compassionate society we still enjoy in Ontario.”

For more information: Daryl O’Grady, 613-329-6365