Ontario education funding given a boost

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  • June 26, 2020

It’s unclear exactly what Ontario classrooms are going to look like in the fall with the realities of COVID-19, but one certainty for school boards is an extra $736 million in funding from the province.

The province is calling the funding, through the Grants for Student Needs (CSN) program, the “largest investment in public education in Ontario’s history.” It will bring public investment in education up to $25.5 billion for the coming school year, the government announced June 19. That will bring per-student funding to $12,525, an increase of $250.

“We are investing more in our students to ensure they are safe and well prepared to hit the books in September,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “As we review all scenarios related to the COVID-19 outbreak, our government is supporting each and every school board in the province to ensure our students and educators have the resources available for a successful year.”

The overall two-per-cent increase in education funding is welcome news to Ontario’s Catholic school trustees. In recent months they have stressed “the need for increased investment to improve mental health supports for students, reinforce the infrastructure needed for technology, respond to boards’ capital needs and address the shortfalls in special education funding,” said Beverley Eckensweiler, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

“Today’s announcement is a step in that direction,” said Eckensweiler.

The government’s investment will see increased GSN allocations to all 72 publicly funded boards, including those in the Catholic system. Under this funding, $213 million is earmarked for the Supports for Students Fund to support special education, mental health and well-being, language instruction, Indigenous education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming.

The union representing Catholic teachers has been fighting for increased funding since the Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford came to power in June 2018, and sees this as a step forward. But Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association president Liz Stuart said with inflation factored in, “the funding for 2020-21 is effectively below what was provided in 2018-19.”

The province also announced an additional $4 million in funding for cleaning, cleaning protocols and support to hire more custodial staff in September to make sure schools are safe when they re-open. A school safety plan has been released for the resumption of classes in September where boards are being asked to prepare for three scenarios that could be implemented depending on the public health situation at the time.

“This plan takes the best medical advice available from our public health experts to ensure every school board and every school is ready to ensure students continue learning in the safest way possible,” said Ford.

The three scenarios to be considered are:

• A normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols.

• Modified school day routine with smaller class sizes which would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.

• At-home learning for those not wishing to send their children back to class or if the school closure is extended. This would be delivered online and establish minimum expectations for students to have direct contact with teachers.

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