January 2002
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Mike Harris' Retirement
By Caitlin Reynolds, Hazel Mccallion Senior Public School , Mississauga, ON

Mike Harris has decided to resign in the middle of his second term as Premier of Ontario. During his six years in office he has brought on a sea of changes. Some of these have been particularly detrimental to the education system in Ontario.

One of the problems in Ontario's floundering education system is funding - or lack thereof. Mike Harris' premiership has completely changed the way our education system is funded, leaving school boards little room to manoeuvre.

These cuts have not gone unnoticed by students. Students at the elementary level – those youngest and most vulnerable – go without full-time librarians, without enough textbooks, and without supervision at lunch on top of increasing class size. A fact that Mike Harris denies is happening throughout the province.

The resounding effects of the new curriculum Mike Harris introduced are now being heard loud and clear by teachers, parents, and the general public. Twenty-four percent of Grade 9 high school students are not passing. That's fifteen percent more than students under the old curriculum. While raising standards of education is not a bad idea, should we not ensure that our children can meet those standards first?

This curriculum was implemented in haste without enough teacher training, or resources in place. Many teachers did not receive textbooks for the course they were teaching until well into the year. This is unacceptable.

Mike Harris has degraded his relationship with teachers to an all-time low. He has forced over-stressed high school teachers to teach .5 more courses a year. On top of that, he has passed a law, making teachers' volunteer work with extra-curricular activities mandatory. This is work they would have enjoyed doing, had they not had to teach more in the first place. As if to purposely reduce the morale among teachers to an unrecognizable low, his government is now implementing required teacher testing that teachers must pay for out of their own pocket.

The premier's undermining of teachers has not been lost on students. Good teachers are essential for student success. Teachers have been stretched so many ways they no longer have the energy to devote to students. More and more teachers are opting for early retirement. This rapid departure of many senior educators has school boards scrambling to fill teaching positions, as many teachers are set to retire in the next five to ten years.

With these mounting problems in our education system, it's no wonder the premier has decided to resign. A common hope among parents, teachers, and students alike is that our next premier will do his or her best to fix the crumbling education system in Ontario. The kids in it, despite the public's opinion to the contrary, are worth saving.

Originally published in McCallum Quest Student Newspaper, Hazel McCallum School, Ontario - http://www.peel.edu.on.ca/hazelm/quest/index.htm