Going back to school is a stressful time for parents and kids. It’s a time of new challenges and new relationships, excitement, and some jitters.
Parents have a lot on their minds, getting their kids back into a routine and buying back-to-school supplies. Kids are worried about who they’ll sit next to at lunch at a new school or if they’re wearing the right outfit.
Unfortunately, in Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario, back-to-school means more than coloured pencils and textbooks. It means another year of challenges that are robbing our students of the quality, world-class education they deserve.
Ontario students should all attend excellent schools. Excellent schools must have teachers and all the tools they need to help our students succeed.
However, what Ontario’s teachers can do for students is increasingly limited by what they are given to work with. Our children’s potential can’t be unlimited if their schools continue to receive only a limited commitment from our provincial government.
For nearly a decade, a deeply-flawed education funding formula has stood in the way of our children’s unlimited potential. There simply has been no action by the McGuinty government to fix the school funding shortfall or protect our students from classroom cuts that deny them the top-notch public education they deserve.
As a result of the chronic underfunding, school boards are left with no choice but to make cuts to librarians, educational assistants, English as a second language programs, special education, textbooks, and even much-needed school renovations.
And as our students struggle to learn with less of these essentials, many do so in classrooms that are overcrowded. Across Ontario, teachers in Grades 4-8 continue to report class sizes of almost 40 students. This puts tremendous pressure on teachers who are unable to spend quality one-on-one time with students who may need that extra support to succeed.
It’s students from low-income families who feel this squeeze the most. The challenges they face were compounded this year by the McGuinty Liberals’ decision to scrap the back-to-school and winter clothing allowance.
Ontario’s neediest families are being forced to make do with as much as $600 less per year in government assistance. They and their kids are left in the lurch.
Getting children back-to-school is an expensive task for parents faced with buying new clothes, books, and supplies. Low-income families struggle mightily to make ends meet while the province claws back the money which has been allocated for their children’s school supplies.
New Democrats are committed to fairness in our education system. We believe all kids should have an equal start and receive the quality education they deserve. We believe every child in Ontario has a right to an excellent school, properly staffed with the programs they need.
The first step in achieving this objective is to overhaul the unfair and badly-flawed education funding formula that leads to cutbacks and outright school closures. Secondly, the provincial government must immediately reinstate the back-to-school allowance so children from low-income families can get the basic school supplies they need.
All in all, the McGuinty government has created a carefully-constructed facade around the education system. It is very disappointing that after all the promising rhetoric before this government was first elected in 2003, so many of our students’ needs continue to go unmet.
So, while summer has ended and another school year has begun, Ontario’s education system needs remedial help. Like a struggling student, it requires extra support and inspiration to realize its full potential.
Without it, we are doomed to condemn too many of our children to a future of missed opportunities and unrealized potential.
Ontarians are making the roll call—Dalton McGuinty, why are you absent?