What Ontario’s chronic underfunding of education looks like

Posted on December 16, 2023 in Education Debates

Source: — Authors:

TheStar.com – Opinion/Contributors
Friday, December 15, 2023.    By Karen Littlewood, Contributor

“School boards across the province are sounding the alarm over their slashed budgets and serious staffing shortages because boards can no longer afford to pay proper living wages to attract and retain staff,” writes Karen Littlewood.

As a teacher, I’ve had many opportunities to read great fiction, often from students looking to advance their skills while finding new and interesting ways to express themselves.

But over the last four years, I’ve been struck by a much more dangerous, yet all too effective kind of fictitious storytelling, courtesy of the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce.

One of Doug Ford’s most visible and trusted cabinet ministers, Lecce has been tasked with selling the merits and values of the Ford government’s disastrous education policies to the Ontario public.

And how unwavering he has been in this task!

Earlier this month, Lecce was the guest speaker at the Empire Club, sharing his vision for the future of Ontario’s public education system. Attendees listened to the minister describe how this corporate-friendly, elitist government is best positioned to improve the public education system through less consultation and centralizing their power.

While nothing he shared was particularly new or revelatory, it was disturbing in an understated kind of way. It reminded me of one of my favourite stories, “The Wizard of Oz,” and how as you don’t look behind the curtain, everything seems to be great, a shining Emerald City.

But as a devoted educator for over 30 years, and the president of a federation that represents more than 60,000 dedicated front-line education workers, it’s my job to pull back the curtain and let the public know what’s really happening in Ontario’s schools.

And let me say unequivocally that when you know the truth, you realize just how far-fetched and misleading the minister’s storytelling has become. The minister loves to say students deserve stability. But what they’re actually attempting to deliver is chaos. Manufactured chaos.

Since taking power in 2018, the Ford government has cut per pupil funding by $1,200 dollars when adjusted for inflation and increased enrolment. What does $1,200 less per student look like? It looks like thousands of dollars missing from every classroom and some schools operating with over a million dollars less in funding than in 2018.

It means that every single day in Ontario, students are going without the essential supports and services they need to reach their full potential.

School boards across the province are sounding the alarm over their slashed budgets and serious staffing shortages because boards can no longer afford to pay proper living wages to attract and retain staff. And it looks like increasing violence in the classroom due to inadequate staffing and a lack of qualified, caring adults in the building.

But every single one of these issues is preventable.

We know how to keep students safe in Ontario. We know how to keep them learning and engaged. And we know how to deliver world class public education for all.

What we are missing are the investments to bring it all to life.

At the Empire Club, Lecce said an educator can have a huge impact on a student’s life. But while Lecce has been spinning his stories, he forgot to check in with the very people who are responsible for making that impact in Ontario’s classrooms and schools.

I invite the minister to come meet with OSSTF/FEESO teachers and education workers, to hear directly from those working on the front lines on how to deliver quality public education for all. Together, we can turn the narrative around, and deliver the happy ending that Ontario students deserve.

Karen Littlewood is president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO)


Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 16th, 2023 at 9:15 pm and is filed under Education Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply