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Public Funded Education In a Pandemic

In the weeks leading up to Labour Day and the annual return to school, Canadian media outlets have provided ample coverage of the unprecedented stresses and challenges the COVID-19 pandemic have created for politicians and educators.

On September 1, 2020, CBC reported that Ontario’s school boards will need to ‘collapse’ some classes, trustees group says. It appears that school boards are coping with a dramatic increase in online learning in response to the pandemic. School boards and media covering Ontario’s education system have focused-on class sizes as a key element of funding agreements with the province.

On August 31, 2020 The Globe and Mail published an article stating that Ontario‚Äôs education unions file labour board challenge over school pandemic plans. The upshot is that Ontario’s four education unions are challening the provincial government’s approach to the coming school year….with a focus on smaller class sizes.

Back in July, The Toronto Star reported that Opening Ontario schools safely amid COVID could require up to $3.2 billion funding for staff, cleaning supplies, say Liberals, staff union.

What is absent from all of this discourse? Any evidence that educators, politicians or the media have recognized how fundamentally-flawed, ill-prepared and out-dated the design of Ontario’s education system is.

Who does seem to have recognized this issue? Administrators. CBC reported on September 2, 2020 that Ontario school boards lose 20% of education directors as daunting pandemic year looms, even quoting Alana Murray, a retiring Director in the Bluewater District that “I guess my timing was pretty good.”

The timing to recognize that Ontario’s publicly-funded education system is terribly outdated and badly in need of reform isn’t just “pretty good” – it is critical.

Federal and provincial governments are tripping over themselves, and each other, in hurried efforts to distribute supplies, maintain social distancing, fulfill online learning needs, negotiate with educate unions and sort our their funding agreements. How it will all be paid for is anyone’s guess. Or isn’t it everyone’s certainty that the costs of COVID-19, whether within the domain of education spending or across the whole public sector, will be paid via taxes?

Ontario’s government, whether anybody wants to admit it or not, is faced with a critical problem to redesign and modernize Ontario’s publicly-funded education system. No small part of that will be recognizing and addressing one of Ontario’s most expensive anachronisms – the ongoing public funding of separate Catholic schools. After COVID-19, we can’t afford it any longer.


Citations and References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-classrooms-collapse-trustees-ontario-1.5708005
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/ontario-school-board-director-leaving-1.5708110
  3. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontarios-education-unions-file-labour-board-challenge-over-school/
  4. https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2020/07/27/opening-ontario-schools-safely-amid-covid-could-require-up-to-32-billion-funding-for-staff-cleaning-supplies-say-liberals-staff-union.html
  5. https://www.chroniclejournal.com/prairies/bc/alberta-to-dole-out-federal-funds-for-covid-safe-schools-on-per-student-basis/article_54bca2ee-a8b8-54c4-8ceb-bcad9d7e5d76.html

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Featured Photo courtesy of Dr. Richard Thain