On the eve of April 4th, hundreds of students across Ontario made posters and rallied support for when they collectively walked out of their classrooms to protest cuts being made to their education. A few weeks ago, Education Minister Lisa Thompson and Premier Doug Ford announced over $1 billion in cuts to our public education.
These cuts will mean 1000 fewer teachers in our classrooms just here in Toronto, class sizes of up to 40 students, inadequate support for children in Special Education programs including those with autism, and 4 compulsory online classes for high school students. Students all over our province will feel the pressure and inadequacy of our public schools as their classroom sizes continue to inflate and their education is used as a means to “balance” the budget.
Minister Thompson justified these cuts by insisting that the lack of resources and help from teachers will make children “more resilien[t].” This argument is neither based in fact nor logic. Students attend school to learn – if teachers do not have the capacity to teach, they will fall through the cracks.
The reality is that parents and private services, like tutoring, will have to fill in these gaps in support. However, this asks: who will have access to help?
Low-income families and parents who do not have the resources nor time to help their children with homework and who cannot afford tutoring services will experience the most inequitable aspects of our education system. Children who recently immigrated and students whose parents are not familiar with the education system or have English as a Second Language will be at a further disadvantage.
Modern Canadian society often identifies education, or access to a good education, as the great equalizer. It is touted as a way for those from marginalized groups to have access to the “middle class.” This dream, or ideal, is getting further and further out of reach.
Over the last couple of decades, subsequent governments have grossly underfunded our education system. Cuts to education under the Conservative Harris Government and the funding freezes of the subsequent 15 years of Liberal government have created the conditions for a perfect storm here in Ontario.
Classroom sizes were already inflated, and funding freezes have led Ontario schools to have over $15 billion in repair backlog. Minister Thompson and Premier Ford are taking a bad situation and making it worse. Instead of investing more into our education, they want to cut over $1 billion from our schools.
What is most disheartening is that some of the same Conservative Caucus members supporting these cuts are the ones who send their children to private schools where the teacher-student ratio is 6:1 – allowing their children to get the help and assistance they need to succeed.
Access to good education should not be reserved for those who can afford $25,000 private school tuition.If we truly believe in a just and equitable society, we need to ensure our public education system is funded so teachers and support staff are well-equipped to help any child succeed.
Make no mistake – cuts to public education hurt all who attend public school. These cuts will further deepen the divide in our city and province across lines of income and race. We must stand up and speak out against the Ontario Government’s cuts.
If you are interested in taking action, please sign Progress Toronto’s petition and send an email to your local MPP, the Minister of Education, and Premier Ford! Check it out here: www.progresstoronto.ca