Ontario Government Announces “Catch-Up” Plan for K-12 Education
On October 20, one day after a three-day mediation ended with no resolution with the province’s 55,000 education workers represented by the Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU), setting the stage for a province wide strike, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce released the government’s “catch-up plan” for students. It states that the steps are in response to the lower standardized testing results achieved by students in grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 last academic year. The timing of the announcement however, makes it clear that it is also a PR stunt aimed at preparing the ground to make illegal any strike action.
The government’s catch-up plan involves four parts: a $200 per child cash payment to parents for them to use for private tutoring that they must find themselves, online courses and tutoring offered by TVOntario, Math Action Teams deployed to underperforming boards starting next academic year, reading assessments for students in kindergarten to grade 2 that begin next academic year and a standardized system for addressing student absenteeism.
The plan is most cynical because the issue of learning loss as a result of the disruptions to student learning throughout the pandemic is a serious concern for teachers and education workers, parents and students who are trying to figure out how to address this loss amidst a possible further disruption of schools if there is to be a strike. Educators are trying to manage this new reality with more split classes, even less resources and, in high school, with larger class sizes. In other words, they are trying to make a system function that, even before the pandemic, did not adequately serve the needs of the students in their care in a situation that is worse than before. It is untenable and must be changed, which is what education workers are addressing with their demands in negotiations.
What is most important to pay attention to and support are the demands of teachers and education workers about what is required to improve conditions in the schools rather than plans concocted out of thin air with no involvement from those expected to implement them.
For an overview of the Catch-Up Plan, click here.