Op-Ed: Getting Some Clarity On Education Budget QuestionsPublished on May 15, 2019
Dear Mississauga students, parents and educators,
I wanted to take some time to clarify the myths and misconceptions that have been circulated widely throughout Mississauga regarding our education system and its funding. It is disappointing to see several misinformation campaigns on social media, postal mail outs and via telephone banks that are not based on facts nor on budget numbers.
I know that our hardworking Ontario parents care deeply about their children and their future and have enough on their plate as it is. That is why I would like to be perfectly clear on what our government is doing and what changes our Minister of Education Hon. Lisa Thompson is bringing forward.
Last June, the people of Ontario spoke loud and clear when they elected our government with a definitive mandate to bring Ontario’s fiscal house back on track, while protecting what matters the most - Ontario’s health care and education. I have heard from parents in Mississauga Centre about the need to modernize our curriculum and our classrooms to ensure that Ontario’s graduates have the essential life and academic skills they need to succeed as adults. That is why our government is taking decisive action! Below, I will outline 5 concrete things our government is doing to ensure student success.
1. Our Government is investing $29.8 billion in education this year, compared to $27.3 billion in 2017/18 under the previous Liberal government. This is an increase of over 9%. It includes over $90 million more for special education (for a total of over $3 billion), and $92 million more for student transportation.
2. We are giving our curricula a much-needed upgrade. In order to encourage students to pursue and succeed in careers in high-demand fields, we are implementing traditional methods of learning to strengthen and ensure early exposure in areas like Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Unfortunately the province of Ontario is ranking among the lowest in Canada in terms of student performance in math and literacy, and we are implementing a new curriculum that will change that.
3. In spite of what unions would have you believe, I would like to clarify once and for all: the Ontario government is not firing teachers and class size alterations will not impact student learning negatively. Grades 4-8 students may see an increase of one extra student per class over the next four years. Our mature high school students will see their class size increase to 28 which is standard for other jurisdictions across Canada. By doing this, we are preparing students for the realities of post secondary education and encouraging more independence in our learners.
4. I want to reinforce that any suggestion that teachers are losing their jobs as a result of our changes is absolutely false. Our government is giving school boards a 1.6 billion dollar teachers’ attrition protection fund to ensure not a single teacher loses their job voluntarily due to our changes. In fact, we are hiring more elementary and French language teachers. Layoff notices are a normal occurrence during the school boards’ annual budget planning process, in line with deadlines established in collective agreements. Staff are then recalled over the summer as funding and enrollment projections become available. In fact, my office has received many phone calls from teachers reporting that their redundancy notices have been recalled and that their jobs are guaranteed come September 2019. Suggestions otherwise have caused grief and anxiety to both students and parents.
5. Our government recently announced Grants for Students’ Needs (GSN) funding for all Ontario schools. GSN is the main funding that school boards receive annually. The GSN for the 2019-20 school year in Ontario is projected to be $24.66 billion, an increase of $47 million over the 2018-19 school year. The average per pupil funding across the province will be $12,246.
Our goal is to ensure our children are given the tools for success. In a competing global and job market economy, it is fundamental we ensure they learn useful and appropriate life and employment skills. Financial literacy skills such as budgeting, planning for a mortgage, understanding savings and investments, managing their credit and understanding mental health are crucial to succeeding in today’s world. Our government is committed to working hard on reflecting these priorities in our new curriculum.
Our objective is to produce well-rounded global leaders, and we need to work together with teachers and school boards in order to accomplish these goals. Newly graduated students have to be ready and able to pay their bills, attend and succeed in post secondary or skilled trades apprenticeships, obtain employment and raise their families right here in Mississauga.
While it is a fact that we are increasing our education spending this year by 700 million, we are working hard on improving how those dollars are spent. In this government you have one which respects every single taxpayer dollar and expects accountability and a good return on investment from all of our partners and governmental agencies, including all Ontario school boards. Cutting programs or firing teachers is not the intent, spirit or goal of our proposed changes. I think we can all agree that we do not want to leave our future generations with a legacy and burden of debt and that is why reforming our spending habits and bringing our budget to balance by 2023-2024 is one of our government’s most important priorities. After all… we have witnessed first hand that budgets do not balance themselves. It takes strong leadership and thoughtful policy propositions to reduce our deficit and return our books to balance. Our mission is to ensure every dollar goes towards improving student achievement. When our students succeed, we all succeed, and that is why we are protecting what matters most.