Ontario Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, says no to charter schools

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  • March 22, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s no to an American-style educational overhaul and yes to continued support for Ontario’s publicly funded education system, albeit on a tighter budget, says Kathleen Wynne.

The education minister said Ontario won’t be following U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposals on merit-based teacher salaries or charter schools.

“We don’t want to get into a situation of solving problems that don’t exist,” Wynne told 600 teachers at the annual general meeting of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association March 15.

On the heels of securing tens of billions of dollars in additional education funding in the U.S. economic stimulus package, Obama called for an overhaul of American education on March 11, urging states to lift limits on charter schools. Charter schools receive public money but are freed from some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, set forth in each school’s charter.

In Canada, there are some charter schools in Alberta. They are publicly funded and are open to all, and are required to teach the provincial curriculum.

Wynne said the public education system in Ontario is working well, citing students’ good marks in standardized testing scores in the province. And the working relationship between the Ontario government and its education partners, including the Catholic teachers’ union, is “a good working relationship.”

“Our commitment is to strong, publicly funded education. It’s the cornerstone of what we do as a government,” Wynne said.

But she added that there would be a “slowing down of initiatives” during this economic downturn.

“As a government, we’re not going to back away from education. We’re going to continue to support the education system, but with every ministry, there may be some things that we maybe just won’t be able to do until the economy starts to turn around,” Wynne said.

Wynne said she couldn’t comment on specifics before the budget, which is expected to be released on March 26.

Meanwhile, on March 12 the government introduced a new bill making it mandatory for teachers to report serious incidents like bullying or violence to the school principal. But under the provincial Safe Schools Act, school boards, not principals, have the power to expel students. The original legislation, passed in 2000, introduced a policy of zero tolerance where schools and principals, not school boards, could set mandatory expulsions or suspensions for certain types of conduct.

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