Province announces more school funding
ETFO asks why there's still an emphasis on remote learning
Following two years of global learning disruption, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government announced funding of nearly $27 billion for the 2022-23 school year. This funding will support learning recovery and fund mental health supports for students to allow a return to a more normal school year next year, according to a media release.
As part of the announcement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce unveiled Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action Plan – a five-point plan to strengthen learning recovery in reading and math, anchored by investments in tutoring supports, summer learning and mental health.
“These investments will help students in our communities have access to the supports they need to ensure students feel safe and supported at school as they recover from the pandemic disruptions,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
Highlights from Ontario’s record investment in public education include:
- A $683.9 million increase in Grants for Student Needs (GSN) funding, with projected total funding of $26.1 billion. This represents a 2.7 per cent increase from 2021-22
- Average per pupil GSN funding is projected to rise to $13,059, which is an increase of $339 or a 2.7 per cent increase from 2021-22
- Over $500 million in Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF)
- $90 million in total mental health investments, representing a 420 per cent increase in funding since 2017-18
- $15 million to deliver expanded summer learning opportunities
- $92.9 million increase in Special Education Grant funding through the GSN where it is projected to increase to over $3.25 billion, the highest amount ever provided in Special Education Grant funding
- $304 million in time-limited additional staffing supports, through the COVID-19 Learning Recovery Fund as part of the GSN. This funding will go towards the hiring of an estimated 3,000 front line staff – including teachers, early childhood educators, educational assistants, and other education workers to address learning recovery
The government is also continuing to provide $1.4 billion for the repair and renewal of schools for the 2022-23 school year.
The education plan expands proven, high-yield programs and supports, and introduces new initiatives to address critical gaps, with the following five pillars, says the media release:
- Introducing comprehensive tutoring supports for students through school boards that will also include partnerships with community organizations
- Supporting student resilience and mental well being
- Strengthening numeracy and literacy skills
- Modernizing curriculum and programs to emphasize job and life skills
- Resuming EQAO assessments to measure and assess learning levels
As part of its commitment to support student mental health and well-being in 2022-23, Ontario will be investing more than $90 million including $10 million in new funding, of which $5 million is to be used for evidence based mental health programs and resources. This funding will help to retain the existing mental health workers in schools, including the 180 mental health professionals that are providing critical supports directly to students in secondary schools across the province.
In addition, the Ministry of Education, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs. Consultations are expected to start in summer 2022.
The mental health components of the learning recovery plan may include:
- Mandatory professional development on mental health for educators
- Working with the Ministry of Health to consult with stakeholders to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs and the potential of a graduation requirement on resilience and mental well-being
- Continuing to support student resilience and well-being with the following goals:
– mentally healthy classrooms and learning environments
– effective and responsive school mental health and addictions supports
– connections to the broader comprehensive system of mental health care.
The Ontario government also announced $26 million to renew funding for school-focused nurses in public health units, with up to 625 nurses supporting student health and well-being, along with and infection prevention and control plans and other supports to keep schools as safe as possible.
Not everyone is happy with the government’s education plans. A media release from The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), says the announcement that the government is forcing all school boards to implement emergency remote learning for the next school year is irresponsible and makes no sense.
ETFO questions why the government is not planning to get all students back to in-person learning in September.
“The government cannot be allowed to equate remote learning with the instruction that students receive in-person in the public education system,” said ETFO President Karen Brown. “It is the government’s responsibility to create a safe learning environment for all students in schools, but instead of making necessary adjustments, they continue to stretch education resources and put added pressure on school boards, teachers, and education workers by requiring them to provide online learning in the coming school year.”
ETFO firmly believes that in-person learning is the best, most equitable way for students to learn. Instead of extending the reach of online learning in our public schools, ETFO calls on the government to implement the systemic changes required to create safe learning environments inside all Ontario’s schools, including smaller class sizes, adequate supports for students and special education students in particular, ventilation improvements, and a commitment to in-person learning for all students.
Remote learning, implemented as an emergency measure during a global pandemic, should not be a continued option for the future. It does nothing but further exacerbate the inequities that exist across our province, as a result of poor decisions made by this government, says the media release.