People for Education calls for pause on new education policy; leadership from the province for back-to-school planning
For immediate release
TORONTO (July 22, 2020) – People for Education is calling on the province to pause planned changes to the Education Act, and to focus on creating a coherent back-to-school plan.
“Boards are planning in the dark,” says Annie Kidder, People for Education’s Executive Director. “Parents don’t know what might happen in the fall, and many are making plans based on rumours. This is not the time to be making substantial changes to the Education Act. The priority right now should be ensuring that resources are in place so that students, parents, teachers and support staff will be able to navigate a range of possible scenarios in the fall.”
Changes to Director of Education requirements will make Ontario unique in Canada
People for Education is recommending that the province pause before implementing changes to the Education Act that will drop the current requirement that school board directors have education experience. The proposed change will make Ontario an anomaly across the country. Most Canadian jurisdictions require that leaders of their school boards have at least five years of school-based experience, a teaching certificate, and in many cases a master’s degree in education.
This substantial change is being made during a pandemic, within an Omnibus Bill, with no consultation with experts, no input from the Council of Ontario Directors of Education, and little time to respond to the change. It could have far-reaching impacts on the education system.
Funding to support fall planning during a pandemic
People for Education has also analyzed funding announced on June 19th. While there was a small increase in funding for mental health supports, and a small increase for technology, no specific funding has been announced to cover the increased costs that boards will incur to support school re-openings during COVID. These increased costs could be for things like bussing, hiring more teachers, support staff and custodians, and paying for personal protective equipment (PPE).
People for Education is also flagging that under the current funding model, school boards will receive half the per pupil funding for students who completed secondary school online this spring during the pandemic and who wish to come back for another year either to improve their marks or obtain further credits beyond the required 34.
“We know it is impossible to predict what the situation will be in the fall,” says Kidder. “But it is vital that there is contingency funding and planning in place to cover a range of options for school boards. It is also vital that high school students have the support they need if they are required to do any of their learning online. And we must not continue to exacerbate inequities by asking families to provide that support. We need a Task Force to develop a coherent plan and identify what resources will be needed no matter what the situation is in the fall. And we need assurance that no major changes will be made to the education system in this time of instability.”
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