|Putting Schools at the Centre of the Economic Recovery
The global pandemic created unprecedented challenges for Ontario’s public education system. Many students, particularly those in lower-income households, have fallen behind in their learning. Ontario families deserve a plan that will invest in a Safe September, with in-person learning, smaller class sizes, and programs to catch up for lost learning time.
Plotting a real recovery for our public education system goes hand in hand with Ontario’s economic recovery. When our future generations are able to start life with a world class education, they become a world class workforce, and we all benefit from a stronger economy.
Ontario Liberals have listened to education workers, students and parents. With their input and feedback, we have built an Education Recovery Plan — something our children and families desperately need.
Education Recovery Plan
✅ Smaller class sizes, capped at 20
✅ Stability by prioritizing in-person learning
✅ Support for students to close learning gaps
“After hearing from education workers, students and parents, I’m proud to introduce the Ontario Liberal Education Recovery Plan, to address the unprecedented challenges of the last 15 months.”
— Steven Del Duca
Student well-being and learning are closely linked. We need to ensure publicly funded schools have the tools they need to address the significant learning loss and inequities that have built up over the pandemic, particularly in marginalized and racialized communities. This is particularly important for students with special needs, and those who have fallen between the cracks and disengaged from the system for a variety of reasons.
That is why Ontario Liberals would significantly invest in smaller class sizes, mental health, special education, learning recovery supports, safe schools and a supportive start to the school year. Every dollar invested in education returns $1.30 to our economy. The Ontario Liberal Education Recovery Plan would pay for itself in money returned to our economy, and therefore returned to the province in increased tax revenue.
Students, parents, teachers, education workers, and administrators have overcome so many challenges this year, adapting to revolving closures and changes. Now is the time to provide them with the supports needed for students to recover and continue their learning journey.
Vaccination by End of the Summer
- With a focus on full vaccination by the end of the summer, in-person learning will be prioritized. This is how students learn best. We should require mandatory vaccination for all frontline education workers, while ensuring the mandate adheres to the Ontario Human Rights Code. To complement vaccinations and ensure safety, in-person learning must be accompanied by robust asymptomatic testing, contact tracing and enhanced, high-quality PPE. Ontario Liberals would also make online learning a temporary option for parents not comfortable with sending their kids back yet.
Summer Learning Supports
- Our priority must be to provide every child in Ontario with access to healthy, outdoor programs all summer long to support their learning and well-being with appropriate safety measures.
- $100 million to increase subsidies for at least 100,000 low-income families and children with special needs to access summer camps and programming (on top of $62 million in federal pandemic funding)
- Ontario Liberals are calling for class size caps of 20 across the board to ensure students have the one-on-one attention they need to recover, for at least the next three years.
- $700 million to reduce class sizes in Grades 4-8 from 24.5 to 20 (6,700 additional teachers)
- $400 million to reverse Doug Ford’s cuts and further reduce class sizes in Grades 9-12 from 23 to 20 (3,800 additional teachers)
- To recruit and retain the additional teachers, we would:
- work with the federal government through the Provincial Nominee Program to bring qualified teachers to Ontario
- work to attract some of the 85,000 Ontario certified teachers not currently employed by school boards or private schools back to the teaching profession
- work with Faculties of Education in Ontario to ensure we have enough new teachers, particularly in French language
recruit qualified teachers from other provinces, including those who feel their religious freedoms are being threatened by Quebec’s Bill 21.
Mental Health and Closing Learning Gaps
- The pandemic dealt a devastating blow to the mental health and special needs of children in Ontario. Doug Ford cut planned funding to student mental health in 2019 and still hasn’t permanently reversed their cuts that we called for last summer. He has repeatedly put our most vulnerable students at risk, especially those with disabilities.
- $75 million for 1,000 more mental health professionals to directly support students and staff (about one for every five schools coordinated with community care and youth wellness hubs; on top of $35 million already budgeted by the province)
- $375 million to hire 5,000 special education and student success professionals — more than one for every school — to work with students, reduce wait times and help close learning gaps (on top of $8 million temporarily budgeted by the province)
- $40 million to support free tutoring before- and after-school and weekend programs across the province that provide extra help to students in reading, writing and math (on top of $8 million already budgeted by the province)
- We now know how important better ventilation is to preventing the spread of viruses like COVID-19, in addition to masking, small cohorting, testing, tracing and outdoor learning. Doug Ford consistently failed to deliver on these measures when he had the chance to over the past school year.
- We call on Doug Ford to cancel Highway 413 once and for all and reinvest the $8 billion in savings into building and repairing schools, so that our children can learn in state of the art facilities measured by publicly-reported standards.
- $525 million at minimum the province needs to match the federal investment in urgent upgrades this summer to improve ventilation and filtration systems, air conditioning and window upgrades that will significantly and permanently improve air safety for COVID-19 and other illnesses.
A Supportive and Smooth Start to the School Year
- The start to this school year has never been more important. Schools and teachers will need the time and support for a gradual return to in-person learning, with the initial days and weeks focused on mental health, reforming relationships and educators assessing the impact of the pandemic on learning and well-being. This transition period will be critical to review the evidence of the pandemic’s impact and plan and deploy appropriate resources to ensure a learning recovery that puts our kids first.
- $20 million to double the province’s current commitment to support counselors and social workers responsible for re-engaging students who have fallen between the cracks and left the school system
- $40 million for school transportation needs, including smaller numbers of students in buses and staffing retention (on top of the $32 million in temporary funding from the province)
- $18 million to double funding for outdoor learning to ensure schools have the necessary resources and access to outdoor education spaces
- After 16 months of disrupted learning, students, parents, and educators need the confidence that they can repeat learning if they need to. The current policy that reduces funding for students returning for a fifth year of high school (after 34 credits) needs to be paused for at least the next three years.
- The Ford government has politicized EQAO and further undermined its relevance by using patronage appointments to choose its leadership. We call on Doug Ford to immediately cancel EQAO assessments this school year, including the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, to ensure students and teachers can focus on the learning recovery. We would work closely with education experts and leaders to develop and implement an assessment strategy to capture the impact of the pandemic and focus on addressing those gaps.
- School boards also need the local flexibility to spend money where it’s most needed to ensure a strong start to the school year. We call on Doug Ford to restore school board financial reserves that he forced boards to spend through the pandemic to ensure they can be invested in our children’s educational recovery.
Online and Hybrid Learning
- The best place for our children to learn is in a safe classroom, receiving top-notch face-to-face instruction from Ontario’s educators.
- The hybrid model that many school boards are being forced to use in September, where a teacher simultaneously teaches students in a classroom and online, is the worst compromise between online and in-person learning, and sets our education system up for failure.
- We want parents to have the peace of mind knowing they have the choice whether or not to send their kids to school in-person in the fall given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic crisis. School boards should have the necessary resources to temporarily offer dedicated virtual classrooms until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, with virtual class sizes capped at 20 to ensure a consistent quality of education across the board.
- $50 million to ensure school boards have the resources they need to support temporary virtual classrooms with more principals and school administration supports, technology, and curriculum resources to ensure a consistent quality of education across the board.
- Doug Ford’s plan to permanently move education online for K-12, outsource its delivery to TVO, and require two mandatory online courses is not supported by any credible research nor by any education expert and is part of its not-so-secret agenda to cut publicly funded education, increase class sizes and save money by shortchanging our children.
- We call on Doug Ford to end mandatory and permanent online learning and research its impacts on our children’s learning and well-being before moving forward, while continuing to invest in high-quality, optional online resources and courses for high school students capped at 20 students with the Ontario curriculum serving as the foundation.
Education Partnership Table
- Doug Ford and his government have failed to keep our schools safe and open by engaging directly in meaningful dialogue with students, parents, school boards, teachers, education workers, principals, and elected trustees. Time and time again, Doug Ford’s government has shown our children’s learning and well-being are not his priority.
- Ontario Liberals call on the Ford government to immediately convene the Education Partnership Table and make it permanent. This government needs to hear from and work together with parents, students, elected trustees and front-line education workers toward a safe return in September. This includes making decisions based on research and evidence: something that Doug Ford has failed to do.
|Class Sizes of 20||$1.1 billion|
|Ventilation Improvements||$525 million|
|Special Education and Learning Recovery||$375 million|
|Summer Learning||$100 million|
|Mental Health||$75 million|
|Temporary Virtual Classrooms||$50 million|
|Free Tutoring||$40 million|
|Student Transportation||$40 million|
|Re-Engaging Students||$20 million|
|Outdoor Learning||$18 million|