Ford government’s education playbook: manifest a crisis, ignore research, abandon educators

Posted on May 28, 2023 in Education Debates

Source: — Authors: , – Opinion/Contributors
May 26, 2023.    By Steven Reid, Mary Reid, Contributors

The PCs weaponize data and ignore research to push irresponsible and misleading policies, while abandoning educators, students and families.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative (PC) government has the power to value education by investing in their educators. We’ve known for quite some time that educators have the most significant influence on the outcomes of students.

However, since 2019 we’ve witnessed a government that threatens public education. By implementing its education playbook, the PCs weaponize data and ignore research to push irresponsible and misleading policies, while abandoning educators, students, and families to fend for themselves.

Rule No. 1: Manifest a Crisis

Let’s remember that this is not the first time that the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) attempted to create a crisis in education. Back in 1995, Premier Mike Harris and Education Minister John Snobelen were crusading under the Common Sense Revolution. It did not sit well with Ontarians when Snobelen was caught on tape outlining the PC’s mandate to create a crisis in education.

In May 2018, we saw the playbook dusted off and re-enacted by the PCs with Ford promising to scrap the math curriculum. From Ford’s perspective, kids used to learn math by doing things like memorizing a multiplication table, and it worked. After taking office in 2019, the PCs continued to tout their “going back to the basics“ campaign.

During that time the PC’s own agency, Education, Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), published a document based on three years of EQAO results from elementary student results (approximately 745,000 students). Grade 3 and 6 students demonstrated high levels in their fundamental math skills (i.e., basics), however, their ability to apply math knowledge and think critically were areas of challenge. The government ignored the advice of its agency and continued to promote a back to basics mantra.

Rule No. 2: Ignore Research

Instead of valuing educators, Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce required preservice teachers to pass a high stakes math proficiency test (MPT) to be an Ontario certified teacher. Prior to implementing the MPT, EQAO released a literature review on teacher testing and student outcomes (August 2019). The conclusion of the review cautioned that the potential benefits of teacher testing were often not realized. In fact, the MPT policy would likely push marginalized groups out of teaching.

Again, the government ignored EQAO, taking its fight to the courts. In December 2021, the Ontario Superior Court found that the MPT violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it would have a serious impact on racialized candidates entering the field of education. Further, the ruling found that there were other alternatives to the MPT such as more math courses in teacher education programs.

Rule No. 3: Abandon educators to fend for themselves

Historically in Ontario, curriculum documents have been released a year in advance, before implementation, to allow for schools, districts, and faculties of education to develop resources, offer professional learning, and offer crucial time to compare the curriculums. However, the government displayed no respect for its educators by releasing the new elementary mathematics curriculum on June 23, 2020 for immediate implementation.

This last-minute policy change gave educators only two months to prepare during the pandemic, a time when districts, schools, and educators were focused on keeping people alive. Déjà vu for Ontarians as the newly designed Grade 9 curriculum was released in June 2021 for a September 2021 launch. These actions prove once again that the Ontario government devalues publicly funded education and disregards its educators and students.


When we review the PCs policies to “improve” education, it’s clear that the government has very little understanding of learning, research, or general principles of how to motivate educators. With significant efforts on behalf of the government to manifest a crisis, ignore research, and leave educators to fend for themselves, there seems to be an insidious plan to dismantle publicly funded education.

The limited “supports” provided by the government like math tutoring, brings back memories of the Harris PCs announcement of its plans to provide parents with subsides for private education, while positioning the funding as the Equity in Education Tax Credit. Those opposed to this credit warned that this money would primarily support the wealthy, revealing the PC’s vision of a two-tier education system.

The actions of Ford and Lecce clearly demonstrate their lack of respect for Ontario’s public education system. Ontario deserves a government that believes in public education and values its educators, students, families, and communities.

Steven Reid is an assistant professor at Queen’s University and teaches graduate students (master and doctoral) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)/University of TorontoMary Reid is an associate professor, in the department of curriculum, teaching at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

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