There are some significant issues in education in Ontario – and many other jurisdictions – that are alarming and make me wonder – what is the tipping point? When does the whole thing fall off the rails?
Some people feel we have surpassed that point and now educate their children in privately funded institutions. I understand that motivation: we withdrew one of our children from the public system for two years back in the mid 1990s. I believed then, as I do now, in public education; I had a second child remain within the system. I was concerned solely about the specialized program my son was in and felt unsure that it was meeting his educational needs at that time.
So, yeah, I get it. I understand the motivation to do what you think is best for your children. The difference is where the blame lies.
For many people, especially over the past 5 to 7 years, the blame has sat on the shoulders of the educators. Not the Boards, not the government, but the educators. I disagreed then and I continue to disagree now.
Let’s look at one recent example: the Education Minister for 2013-2016, Liz Sandals, did not appear to respect educators and she made this clear time and time again in the media. Sandals portrayed herself as a politician who was ‘fiscally responsible’ and interested in ‘advocating for children’. By hitting those two talking points again and again for those three years, Sandals framed her actions as stewardship and those who opposed her, those “greedy educators”, as fiscally irresponsible and opposed to doing what’s best for students.
In reality, the provincial government had made significant and costly financial errors (think: AirOrnge, cancelled gas plants, and e-Health for starters).
Many in the public soaked up Sandals diversionary tactic and educators became the cause of woes beyond the educational system – they were responsible for the entire provincial deficit. It was a good tactic only because it worked not because there was any truth to it.
Educators have not lowered their standards of what they expect of themselves when it comes to being front line advocates for students. Educators want to deliver the best education to their students. The Ministry has increased curriculum demands while pulling services. The influx of students with higher needs – including mental health care issues like anxiety or depression – is increasing. The money is not.
Yes, in each negotiation educators ask for more money for salaries; just like every other working person, educators need to keep at or ahead of inflationary costs of items in order to actively contribute to the economy.
More telling, though, is the fact educators are asking for funding for their students. School Board trustees and administrators are asking for more funding. The government says that Boards are given adequate funding and they (the Boards) determine where the money goes.
Again, the Ministey is playing “divert the focus”. Boards cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or create funding for programs with inadequate funds.
Funding to school boards has increased over the years. That does not mean, as the Fraser Institute implies in an 2016 article, that the money is wasted; it means that the system was historically underfunded and the government is playing catch up and not nearly fast enough.
If the adequate money is in the system, where is it? Why is it that in that same period of increased spending, special needs teaching assistants are assigned more students with more significant needs?
Why is there not enough itinerant teachers in the system to support teachers and other educators to deliver education to the students with special needs?
Why is the wait list for psychoeducational testing (the testing that helps to create the road map for educators and families to support people with specialized learning needs) getting longer and longer every year?
Every single corner of the system is cutting back – every employee group is being pinched.
What is the factor will completely hobble education? And why do we need to careen over the edge before real action is taken?