Finance Minister Charles Sousa

Catholic teachers seek lifting of restraints

  • April 4, 2013

TORONTO - Ontario’s Catholic teachers are asking provincial Finance Minister Charles Sousa for freedom — freedom from bureaucrats, freedom from standardized tests, freedom to teach all kinds of students from four-year-olds to special needs kids to adult learners.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Assocation’s 31-page pre-budget brief to Sousa also warns the government away from any temptation to amalgamate school boards or eliminate publicly funded Catholic education.

The union’s biggest beef with government is that money which should be spent in classrooms and on teachers is going to pay for more and more mid-management minders.

“Ontario’s education reform has become top heavy, with a growth of government-assessment initiatives and a proliferation of bureaucrats and administrators at the Ministry (of Education) and school board levels,” reads the OECTA brief.

The teachers claim a 25-per-cent reduction in spending on senior administration would hand the government $150 million a year in savings.

Of all the systems for accountability and oversight, the one that annoys teachers most is the Education Quality and Accountability Office which administers province-wide standardized tests to students in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 with a $33-million annual budget.

If the purpose of EQAO really is to measure how well the education system is doing provincially and board-by-board, the province could get the same results at much less cost by testing a scientifically chosen sample of students, rather than every student in every classroom.

“A random sampling model could produce accurate achievement results while saving the government $6.7 million a year,” the teachers advise Sousa.

Catholic teachers warn the province not to give in to pressure to allow class sizes to drift back upwards, despite arguments that smaller classes haven’t benefitted students all that much.

“Those who say that class size is not a key determinant of student achievement are viewing education in economic terms,” say the teachers. “However, education is not a profit-driven business.”

Teachers and parents know in their gut that smaller classes are better, providing “richer learning environments, better opportunities for meaningful assessment and evaluation and expanded opportunity for professional dialogue and parent communication,” said OECTA.

The union also wants certified teachers in all the full-day junior and senior kindergarten classes.

“Despite challenging economic times, it is critical that Ontario maintain its investment and commitment to full-day learning, taught by certified teachers,” said the teachers’ pre-budget paper.

The teachers also argue for more spending on poverty reduction to help the 38,000 Ontario children living below the poverty line.

Though the Liberal government has reiterated support for Catholic schools, OECTA takes the opportunity to argue for publicly funded Catholic education in its brief.

“The Catholic system aims to develop students’ character, morality and sense of the common good. Catholic schools have contributed to the academic excellence of Ontario’s overall education system,” said the brief.

Pre-budget consultations continue through April. No date has been set for Ontario’s budget.

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