Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis

Goal: $100k

The re-elected Ford government will give Ontario parents cash for tutoring to fill their children’s learning gaps after two and a half years of pandemic disruption — money critics say would be better used to support public education.

The Progressive Conservative government said it would spend $225 million over two years on the plan, without providing further details. The announcement came as part of the provincial government's 2022-23 budget, which was re-tabled Tuesday after Ford's Progressive Conservatives gained seats in the June election.

“We're going to listen to parents, we're going to listen to many people to say, 'What's the best way we can deliver the right type of funding to support parents who know their children best?'” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy told reporters after tabling the updated budget at Queen’s Park.

The budget otherwise changed very little from the one proposed pre-election, which opposition politicians pointed out was before rampant inflation pushed the Bank of Canada to hike borrowing costs and staff shortages forced some hospitals in the province to temporarily close units.

Marit Stiles, the Opposition NDP’s education critic, said she’d spoken with parents across the province and heard their priorities.

“What they would like to see and what would help our students the most [are] smaller class sizes, more educational assistants in our classrooms, more supports for students,” she said. “It was very disappointing today to hear this minister come forward with what seems to be a plan to make a plan to take money out of public education.”

The government’s tutoring cash for parents comes as it negotiates new collective bargaining deals with various education unions, which will also be looking for public support as they try to secure improved working conditions for the province's teachers and education workers and better learning conditions for students.

The last negotiations three years ago featured months of rotating strikes and other job actions by the province's four main teachers' unions fighting sharp proposed cuts, but were quickly wrapped up after the arrival of COVID-19, with some moderation of the government's plans to increase class sizes and fewer mandatory e-learning credits.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is setting up an expectation that classes will reopen with all extracurricular activities on offer in September, but his actions are not matching his words, says Larry Savage, a professor of labour studies at Brock University.

The Ford government will give parents in Ontario cash for tutoring to help students recover from learning lost to more than two years of COVID-19 pandemic disruptions. Critics say they should adequately fund public education instead. #ONpoli

He said the government has only met a few times with teams from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 educational assistants, school library workers, custodians and other school staff, who filed notice to bargain in June. He fears this could prove to be a pattern replicated in other talks.

“This all points to potential strategies of the government with regard to all the unions, which is they are simply going to order them back to work if they decide to strike,” he said.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Keep reading