Ontario teachers settle labour complaint over early reading screening tool

TORONTO — Two Ontario teachers' unions say they have settled unfair labour practice complaints against the government, with the province confirming an early reading screening tool is not mandated for the upcoming school year.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association accused the government two weeks ago of failing to bargain in good faith by issuing the new requirement since it is a topic of discussion in negotiations.

The four major teachers' unions have been in bargaining for a new contract with the government for more than a year, and three say they are planning strike votes this fall.

A new policy announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce earlier this year would have required teachers to use an early reading screening tool in senior kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2.

A joint statement Wednesday from ETFO and OECTA says they reached settlements Tuesday in which the government confirms the early reading screening tool won't be mandatory for the 2023-24 school year and that educators will continue to "use their expertise to identify and address students’ unique individual needs."

The government notes the original memo had language stating that, "Where there is a conflict between the memorandum and a collective agreement, the collective agreement prevails."

"The government remains committed to screening all students between SK and Grade 2 as recommended by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as we work to improve literacy rates in Ontario," a spokesperson for Lecce wrote in a statement.

"We recognize the importance of screening students for reading comprehension and providing teachers the tools they can use to do so, so long as it is compliant with collective agreements, and that remains unchanged following the (Ontario Labour Relations Board) decision."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2023.

The Canadian Press