Payouts to parents are a sorry replacement for investing in Ontario’s schools

Posted on October 25, 2022 in Education Debates

Source: — Authors: – Opinion/Contributors
Oct. 24, 2022.   By Ricardo Tranjan, Contributor

Test results show students’ alarming decline in math. The government’s response? Hand parents $200 and say “here, try and find a tutor for the kiddo.”

The Ontario Ministry of Education has chosen to spend $365 million in one-time, nontargeted $200 payouts to parents across the province. This money will not address any of the challenges in Ontario’s schools and could be better used for targeted, in-classroom supports proven to be effective.

Thursday’s announcement closely followed the release of test results showing only 59 per cent of Grade 3 students met the province’s math standards. These results are concerning, but not surprising. For some time, experts have warned about the impact of the pandemic on learning, especially for students in families with lower socio-economic status. It was already known.

What is surprising is that all the government can think of doing is to hand parents $200 and say, “here, try and find a tutor for the kiddo.” That would have been a nice gesture coming from a grandparent, but we should expect more from Canada’s largest and wealthiest province.

Back in February, when the writing was already on the wall regarding learning delays, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report with 13 costed recommendations on how to support all students in catching up from the impact of the pandemic.

Regarding Grades 1 to 3 specifically, which have been the focus of the debates on math and literacy delays, our report suggests increasing the number of educators that directly support in-classroom learning. These educators play an enormously important role in assisting children and teachers, but they are stretched way too thin.

With $130 million — just over one-third of the total cost of the announced $200 transfers — the government could:

With the amount above, the province could also adjust the ratio so that there is one teacher-librarian for every 700 students, or roughly one for every two elementary schools — far more than we have now.

It would cost an additional $80 million to also implement those same improvements listed above in kindergartens across the province.

The next $110 million would go into paying early childhood educators a decent wage. This amount would ensure all of them earn at least $25 an hour.

Doing all of this would cost $320 million — less than the $365 million price tag of the nontargeted, one-time transfers preferred by the province.

These would have to be annual investments built into the ministry’s budget. But as every parent and educator knows, children need ongoing support, day after day, month after month, year after year. Showing up once in a while with a gift is not a substitute.

Ricardo Tranjan is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office.

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