KAWARTHA LAKES-The Ontario government introduced The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, if passed would focus on skills like reading, writing and math. The government says the act would also ensure accountability and transparency for parents and families according to the government.
“We are taking action to refocus Ontario’s education system on what really matters: strengthening reading, writing and math skills,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “Our proposed legislation would centre the education system on preparing students to succeed in life and work, putting more highly qualified educators in the classroom while ensuring parents have the information they need at their fingertips to support their kids. These reforms would ensure students graduate with a competitive advantage while learning modern lessons in modern schools, preparing them for the jobs of the future.”
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) represents approximately 83,000 members, including public elementary teachers, occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators, education support personnel, and professional support personnel. Officials say there were not consulted on the changed nor made aware of them in advance.
“It is the second time in two days that ETFO has been caught off-guard by Ministry of Education announcements, demonstrating a clear lack of consideration and respect for education stakeholders.” said ETFO in a press release. “The draft legislation was developed without collaboration or input from ETFO. Today, we were asked to provide input by mid-May. But given their track record, we do not believe the request for feedback is genuine. The voices of ETFO’s 83,000 members, who have a vested interest in better student outcomes, deserve to be heard.”
The government says if passed, The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act would help students and families by:
- Improving accountability and transparency by allowing the Minister of Education to set priorities in important areas on student achievement, like reading and math, and requiring school boards to update parents on progress
- Requiring school boards to publicly post a multi-year Board Improvement Plan that reflects the minister’s priorities for student achievement, creating authority to deploy personnel to support school boards when needed, along with greater oversight over provincially funded tax dollars
- Ensuring new teachers and educators have the skills they need to teach students effectively in math, reading and literacy
- Directing school boards to increase engagement and reporting to parents on student achievement and ensuring parents have easy access to the information they need to meaningfully engage with their children’s education and success
- Building schools faster and implementing measures to utilize current school spaces, ensuring Ontario is getting more classrooms into communities who need them
- Strengthening the requirement for school boards to have a code of conduct for boards of trustees, creating a neutral dispute resolution process and authority to standardize and mandate training requirements for school board leadership
- Building on our progress to establish a leading system of student safety and educator oversight, furthering measures to expedite disciplinary decisions for educators convicted of a criminal offense
- Expanding eligibility for therapy counselling for student victims of sexual abuse through the Ontario College of Teachers
- Providing for more consistent approaches to student learning and well-being, including on student mental health
- Improving processes at the Ontario College of Teachers and College of Early Childhood Educators to enable them to operate more efficiently, including more consistent disciplinary processes.
Currently, school boards set their own education priorities which the province says results in differences across the education system. For example, there are some schools consistently underperforming in EQAO data, including declining reading, writing and math scores.
ETFO says the province is creating a crisis.
“Instead of working in partnership to improve our world-renowned education system, the Ford government is focused on creating a crisis in public education where none exists. In the government’s own materials, they state that ‘Ontario is among the top-performing education systems nationally and internationally.’ So why is an overhaul necessary? What is their agenda? A refocusing of the education system should not include government overreach.”
The province says it takes on average five to 10 years to build a standard school in Ontario and it can take more than 100 days to certify internationally educated teachers.
The province will work with the Ontario College of Teachers and Ontario’s faculties of education to modernize teacher training and certification processes to meet the needs of students in the classrooms, including decreasing times to process applications to certify teachers.
Nearly 2,000 front-line educators will be hired, supported by overall education funding at the highest levels in Ontario history. This includes $693 million more in base Grants for Student Needs (GSN) funding compared to the year prior, or a 2.7 per cent increase. With a focus on supporting students across the province, and building off the approximately 8,000 additional staff hired since 2018, the government will fund:
- Nearly 1,000 specialized math and literacy educators to boost skills
- Over 940 educators to support students from grades 7 to 10 with a seamless transition into high school and in de-streamed courses.
In addition, Ontario’s students are supported with the highest level of per-student base funding in provincial history at $13,125 according to officials. To prepare and support students in the de-streaming of Grade 9, Ontario ways it is investing in nearly 1,000 educators.
“Our mission is simple: drive continuous improvement to Ontario’s education system so that we graduate the brightest, most ambitious, skilled and entrepreneurial students in the country,” said Minister Lecce. “We are sending a signal across the province: we must – and we will – do better to ensure your children get a quality education that leads them to a good-paying job, home ownership and a life of opportunity.”
However, ETFO says the government is underfunding education in Ontario.
“We encourage the public, including families, to pay attention to the changes that are being made without meaningful collaboration and consultation with education stakeholders, including trustees, administrators, educators, and education workers. We urge communities to stand up to this government’s chronic underfunding of public education because that is what will destroy Ontario’s high-quality public education system.”