Re-elected Ford government will give Ontario parents tutoring money to fill learning gaps for their children after two-and-a-half years of pandemic disruption – critics of the money say it would be better used to support public education.
The Progressive Conservative government said it would spend $225 million over two years on the plan, without providing further details. The announcement was made as part of the provincial government’s 2022-23 budget, which was re-tabled on Tuesday after Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won seats in the June election.
“We’re going to listen to parents, we’re going to listen to a lot of people say, ‘What’s the best way to provide the right kind of funding to support the parents who know their children best?'” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. told reporters after tabling the updated budget at Queen’s Park.
Furthermore, the budget changed very little from the one proposed before the election, something opposition politicians pointed out before rampant inflation prompted the Bank of Canada to raise borrowing costs and Staffing shortages are forcing some hospitals across the province to temporarily close units.
Marit Stiles, NDP education critic, said she’s spoken with parents across the province and heard their priorities.
“What they would like to see and what would help our students the most [are] smaller classes, more teaching assistants in our classrooms, more support for students,” she said. “It was very disappointing today to hear this minister present what appears to be a plan to make a plan to take money out of public education.”
The government’s tutoring money for parents comes as it negotiates new collective bargaining deals with various education unions, who will also seek public support as they seek better working conditions for the province’s teachers and education workers and better learning conditions for students.
Three years ago, the latest negotiations featured months of rotating strikes and other industrial action by the province’s four main teachers’ unions fighting against proposed severe cuts, but were quickly concluded after the arrival of COVID-19, with some moderation from government plans to increase class sizes and fewer mandatory online learning credits.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce expects classes to reopen with all extracurricular activities on offer in September, but his actions do not match his words, says Larry Savage, professor of labor studies at Brock University.
He said the government has only met a few times with teams from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 teacher aides, school library workers, custodians and other school staff, who filed a notice to bargain in June. He fears this will prove to be a pattern replicated in other talks.
The Ford government will give parents across Ontario tutoring money to help students recover from learning lost during more than two years of disruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics say they should instead adequately fund public education. #ONpoli
“All of this points to potential government strategies towards all unions, which is that they will simply order them back to work if they decide to strike,” he said.
Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer of Canada