Queen’s Park promises ‘normal’ school year for Ontario students


Published July 25, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Frank Gunn, Canadian Press

After two years of pandemic disruptions, Ontario launched its Plan to Catch Up for the 2022-23 school year, which is highlighted by more than $26.6 billion in funding – the highest investment in public education in Ontario’s history – and $90 million for “crucial” mental health initiatives and supports for students, a 420 per cent increase from five years ago.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement Monday at Viola Desmond Public School in Ajax, a school named for a civil rights champion and home this summer to the Great Beginning Success Program for Black students.

Lecce, who said at the news conference that education is about “creating opportunities and lifting up students,” emphasized that the government plan starts with students “back on track, back in class and back to normal” this September.

Lecce is promising the “full student experience” this year, including extracurricular activities like band, field trips, sports and graduation ceremonies.

“It starts with them being in class, on time, with all of the experiences students deserve,” he said. “We have a plan for students to catch up, including the largest tutoring program in Ontario’s history, a modernized skills-focused curriculum to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow, and enhanced mental health supports.”

Lecce is also promising “mandated” financial literacy programs.

Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up is squarely focused on the priorities of parents and includes five key components:

  • Getting kids back in classrooms in September, on time, with a full school experience;
  • New tutoring supports to fill gaps in learning;
  • Preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow;
  • Providing more money to build schools and improve education; and
  • Helping students with historic funding for mental health supports.

Lecce, who was joined at the podium by former Ajax school trustee and now MPP Patrice Barnes and Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae, Lecce’s Parliamentary Assistant, said his government has made key investments that students and educators are already benefiting from, including:

  • More than $26.6 billion in funding for the 2022-23 school year
  • $175 million-plus for enhanced tutoring support programs delivered by school boards and community partners, with a focus on reading, writing and math
  • $304 million in time-limited funding to support the hiring of up to 3,000 front line staff, including teachers, early childhood educators, educational assistants, and other education workers
  • $14 billion to build state-of-the-art schools and classrooms and renew and repair existing schools, including $2.1 billion for the 2022-23 school year
  • Allocating $90 million for “crucial” mental health initiatives and supports for students
  • Additional funding to support students with exceptionalities through a $93 million increase in funding for the Special Education Grant and more $9 million in funding to support the new de-streamed grade nine program, with an emphasis on supporting students most at risk, including students from racialized, Black, immigrant, and Indigenous communities

Lecce even paraphrased an old Ronald Reagan campaign promise when he said, “no student shall be left behind.”

As of the beginning of April 2022, ministry-funded tutoring programs were underway across the province and during the last two months of the school year, an average of 49,000 students participated in tutoring programs in Ontario each week, with an average group size of less than five students to provide tailored and focused support.

“With almost 50,000 children benefiting from Ontario’s tutoring investments every week, and summer learning programs underway province-wide, Ontario’s plan is getting students back on track,” added Minister Lecce. “With an emphasis on getting back to basics, our government is focused on strengthening life and job skills in the classroom, so that students graduate as financially literate, technologically savvy, emotionally intelligent leaders, ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”

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