Over the last 2 years children in Ontario have lost more education time than in any other jurisdiction in North America. This has deprived them of important academic, social, and emotional learning experiences. Virtual schooling, in spite of herculean efforts by education workers, was not a successful experiment for everyone and created additional harm to families and students in far too many cases.
Many mental health issues have already been recognized and more are anticipated when students finally return full time to classrooms.
School boards and education workers, students and families need the resources to return to and remain in the classroom safely and with as little disruption as possible.
The Ministry of Education has recognized gaps in learning for many students by investing in a $176 million tutoring plan. The plan is insufficient because it demands that students make up these gaps by adding longer hours of after school, weekend, and summer instruction. This deprives them of social, cultural, or physical activities which are required to build well rounded, balanced lives. We can accomplish this within current structures when public education is properly funded and provides for well–trained specialists and adults supporting teachers within the school setting.
The underfunding of public education became glaringly evident during the pandemic. Additional changes must be implemented for current students who have already suffered inordinately and for all future students, so we thoroughly mitigate against the risks of this happening again.
We call on the Ministry of Education to invest in at least five years of remediation for this unprecedented educational loss, and to equip students to meet whatever challenges await them, including the following measures:
- Add COVID-19 to the list of designated diseases in Ontario Regulation 261/13 Designated Diseases under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA);
- Renovate buildings and improve ventilation by installing HEPA filters with publicly available air quality metrics and standards as well as adequate internet capability in ALL facilities.
- Support in-person learning as the best model for instruction.
- Recruit sufficient qualified teachers to reduce class sizes and ensure that each student has the support needed to achieve success.
- Funding of specific tools, equipment, and specialized settings to address diverse student needs.
- Provide Funding to provide specifically qualified, medically trained staff, to address the physical needs of children.
- Invest in a staffing system, which includes fair and transparent hiring and retention practices based on the needs of students, not just a specific number of students in each class.
- Sufficient staffing for library, arts, music, health, and phys. ed teachers; counsellors, psychologists, speech and language therapists
- Funding for staff professional development with teaching strategies for students with special needs including enriched student learning.
- Funding for students with special needs including increased mental health supports and opportunities for newcomers.
- Fund inclusive classrooms with specialized culturally appropriate programming and staffing for all students; address systemic inequities with a focus on First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Communities; confront Anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination and oppression.
- Collaborate with school-based education workers to sustain safer, healthier, more accessible schools, addressing workplace health and safety including violence in the learning/working environment.
The Ontario public education system has long been a leader on the global stage. The pandemic has shone a light on the dangers of finding short terms savings on essential aspects of our society like public education. In order to ensure we maintain the level of excellence we all rely on, government and all citizens must collaborate to ensure stability and the opportunity for each student to reach or exceed their potential in our classrooms. We know what a world class public education system costs and how to achieve it, so let’s do it!
Investing in public education is investing in Ontario.