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Thousands of students are showing their dissatisfaction with the Fordgovernment’s cuts to education today by walking out of class.

At around 1:15 p.m., thousands of students marched out of class,chanting slogans and carrying placards.

Dubbed the “#StudentsSayNo Walkout,” organizers said they expected200,000 students at hundreds of elementary and high schools across the provinceto take part.

Organizing group “March for Our Education” said this is the fourthwalkout protest they are holding to protest cuts.   

The group said the walkouts are being held to protest changes such asmandatory online courses for all students, cuts to Ontario’s autism programs,banning of cell phones from classrooms, the planned elimination of thousands ofteaching positions across the province and larger average class sizes.

“The message that we’re trying to get across to the Ford government isthat students across Ontario will not stand and just watch as they rip apartour education system,” March for Our Education Co-Executive Director and Grade12 student Frank Hong told CP24. “We started this only two weeks ago and wehave reached almost every single student across the province. We have walkoutsplanned in North Bay to Windsor to Ottawa to Toronto. This is a province-widemovement and through this we hope the Ford government listens to us and cancelsthe education cuts.”

Responding to the planned walkouts, Education Minister Lisa Thompsonsaid she thinks roundtables and consultations are better ways to give feedbackthan walkouts.

“We want to listen in a constructive way so we can gather all the datatogether so that we can effect change in a positive manner,” Thompson said.

She said it’s difficult for the government to respond to messages sentin a walkout.

“We’re seeing the en masse, but we’re not hearing their voice in amanner that we can work with,” Thompson said. “But you know what’s reallyimportant; I understand that the system is broken.”

She said her government inherited an education system that was“crumbling” under the previous government and has undertaken consultations toimprove the system.

“We listened to parents, we listened to teachers and we listened tostudents last fall and because of that, we’ve landed in a very strong spot,”Thompson said. “We’re focusing on math, we’re focusing on the topics andsubjects in school that will prepare kids for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Hong said that beyond Thursday’s walkouts, students “are thinkingabout next steps” to make sure they keep the government’s attention.

He said a campaign urging students and their parents to write lettersto their MPPs will likely be the next step.

“MPPs listen to parents because parents are voters. If parents startexpressing their anger, MPPs will listen and eventually the Ford governmentwill have to listen too,” Hong said.  

The walkout is slated to happen at 1:15 p.m.  

Hong said students at each school will gather in front of or behindthe buildings and hear speeches from student leaders, invited guests andpoliticians. Students will then return to class about an hour later.

“Walkouts do work. We amplify the student voice and the province and the world can hear us,” Hong said. - cp24

April 6, 2019

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