06/16/2015 04:53 EDT | Updated 06/16/2016 05:59 EDT

Elementary teachers seek $3.2B in demands, including wage increases: boards

TORONTO - Tensions between Ontario elementary teachers and school boards ramped up Tuesday with the boards putting a $3.2-billion figure on teacher contract demands, which the teachers' union decried as a deflection tactic over report cards.

When contract negotiations began with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, both sides signed ground rules preventing them from discussing bargaining details in public, but in light of an ad campaign and statements in the media by the teachers' union, the school boards say they are speaking out.

"We believe that Ontario parents and students need to know the facts," the Ontario Public School Boards' Association wrote.

The teachers have said the bargaining disputes are not about money. But the school boards said Tuesday that the teachers' initial monetary position is over $3.2 billion, including a three-per-cent wage increase each year for three years plus a cost-of-living allowance.

ETFO president Sam Hammond fired back in a competing statement that his union has not formally tabled any salary positions at the central bargaining table.

"OPSBA's release regarding our supposed monetary demands is a tactic to deflect the pressure its school boards are currently facing to produce report cards, a situation some brought on themselves by refusing to release the marks submitted by teachers," Hammond wrote.

Elementary teachers have been on an administrative strike since last month and have threatened to ramp it up for the next school year if no progress is made in bargaining over the summer.

Little bargaining process has been made so far. The school boards say ETFO has walked away three times and refuses to come back to the table unless the school boards and the province drop all their proposals.

Rhetoric has heated up in recent weeks over report cards. They say teachers are transmitting marks to principals, but the school boards say it's being left to principals to input the marks — which some say is too mammoth a task, with some school boards saying they are unable to send report cards home this year.

ETFO has called on the boards to withdraw their demands about class sizes, teacher preparation time, supervision, ability to exercise professional judgment and fair and equitable hiring practices.

The school boards dispute both the elementary and high school teachers' unions' characterizations of the issue of class sizes. The unions accuse the school boards of wanting to increase class sizes. The boards say their proposal would never see more than three additional students in a class and would not be used to reduce the number of teachers at any school.