Minister Clark Reacts To Protests And Concerns About the PC's Ed Plan

Minister Steve Clark is responding to a series of protests throughout Leeds-Grenville against the proposed changes to the education system.

"There has been a lot said about these necessary reforms and not all of it accurate," said Clark in a statement on Monday. "I want to set the record straight."

Clark says the government is looking to "eliminate waste" and balance teaching students proper skills.

In August, a report showed only 48 per cent of students met the provincial standard last year.  Clark says the changes to teaching math are important for future financial literacy.

"We're introducing mandatory financial literacy curriculum, something many constituents - including students - have written to me to say is desperately needed," said Clark.

"Kids need the skills to handle their own finances, especially before they head off to careers, college or university."

On Thursday, students at BCI were among the many across the province who walked out of class to protest many of the planned changes, especially to the sex education curriculumIt was part of three days of protests, that culminated to protests outside of Queen's Park on Saturday. 

Clark says the government is looking "protect students at a vulnerable age in their life", and introduce topics at an age-appropriate time.

"From online safety, to the risks of concussions and the importance of self-esteem and healthy body image, we are going to help keep your kids safe," he explains.

Educators, parents, and politicians have also raised concerns about plans to cut thousands of full-time teaching positions over the next four years. A memo sent by Ontario’s Ministry of Education to school board directors last Wednesday said 3,475 teaching positions will be phased out for an estimated saving of $851-million.

In the notice, the government outlines how many staff positions will be lost each year through attrition, such as when teachers retire, find a new job, or move.

Speaking to CTV News Channel, Harvey Bischof, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said he suspects the cuts to teaching jobs will actually be higher than the estimates laid out in the memo.

He says the number could be as high as 10,000, but they won’t know for certain until the government releases documentation with a breakdown of the figures.

On Friday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement that Ontario currently has a much lower student-to-teacher ratio than most of the country. She said teacher hiring has increased by more than 11 per cent in the past 15 years while enrollment has declined by almost one per cent.

Thompson said their attrition-based approach will restore “balance and sustainability” by not filling a total of 3,475 teacher vacancies after educators quit or retire.

"Our class size strategy proposes no change whatsoever from kindergarten to grade 3. One more student per class in grades 4-8. In high school, we're going to align class sizes with other jurisdictions in Canada, but keep them well under 30 kids per class.

Clark echoed that in his own statement.

"Under the Liberals, high school classes got smaller than elementary school classes, simply as a gift to the unions. That's over."

Clark says the Progressive Conservatives’s will continue to work with parents or teachers, but emphasizes that “no one gets a veto over these changes. Not the unions and not the activists.”

 

 

- With Files From CTV News.