“Following from the 2021 provincial budget, the Ford government’s Grants for Student Needs (GSNs) underfund education with almost $1 billion less for publicly funded schools for the upcoming year.
The Ford government routinely talks about making ‘historic investments’ in our schools during this crisis, but their continued focus is on austerity, not student success. The government is once again playing a shell game. The funding provided in the GSNs does not keep pace with the rate of inflation and projected student enrolment; it is well below the amount the Financial Accountability Officer says is necessary to meet students’ basic needs. Students deserve more than the bare minimum.
And while Minister Lecce trumpets ‘additional funding’ to respond to COVID-19, it should not be lost on anyone that he is providing the same inadequate amount as last year, and is once again downloading responsibility on to school boards and the federal government to do much of the heavy lifting.
Now more than ever, additional resources should be directed to the classroom to ensure schools are safe and help students recover from unprecedented disruption and learning loss. Instead, the government is seeking to cut costs by expanding online learning and directing boards to offer this option while not providing adequate funding. This would leave students without vital supports and in-person opportunities to engage with qualified educators, and could have devastating consequences for student learning and mental health.
To recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this government must proactively reinvest in our schools. We need smaller class sizes, so students can get the individual attention they deserve and to allow for proper physical distancing. We need more professional services and supports, to address learning losses and mental health needs. And we need immediate, substantial investments in school infrastructure and technology, including improved ventilation.
Continued cuts are short-sighted. The Ford government must provide our publicly funded education system with the resources necessary so that every student in Ontario has the opportunity to thrive.”
Liz Stuart, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association