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Hamilton trustee pushes to scrap Bill 115, merge boards

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee wants her colleagues to reaffirm their support for creating one publicly funded school system as part of efforts to convince Queen’s Park to scrap Bill 115.

Alex Johnstone, trustee for wards 11 and 12, said merging Catholic and public boards will produce big savings without creating the hardship and animosity of Bill 115, the focal point of anger for teacher unions.

A resolution she will present for discussion at a special Dec. 3 board meeting argues the legislation unnecessarily undermines human rights, labour law and elected school boards.

It cites one study that estimated a single school system would save up to $1.6 billion per year – more than the $2 billion total the province hopes to achieve through Bill 115’s imposition of a two-year wage freeze and cuts to benefits like sick days.

Her board has reached a tentative contract settlement with its high school teachers that will go to a vote on Nov. 30 but has yet to so at the elementary level.

“The whole point of Bill 115 was the province was looking to save $2 billion. It had nothing to do with improving student well-being or student achievement, it all came down to money,” Johnstone said. “There’s other ways to find that money.”

Johnstone said Newfoundland, Quebec and Alberta have successfully moved away from having both public and Catholic systems, and she believes Ontario can do likewise.

Beyond eliminating duplication, it would allow kids to go to their closest school, regardless of their religion,” she said.

“You can protect Catholicism in the classroom and not at the board level. Other provinces do it,” Johnstone said.

“I find it really upsetting when I see kids being bused past schools,” she said. “It’s about creating an inclusive society. Our children play together. Why can’t they go to school together?”

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