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Q&A: Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte candidates address education

BarrieToday contacted Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte candidates to hear what they have to say on a series of topics ahead of Thursday's provincial election
2022-05-11 Students
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Editor's note: BarrieToday contacted all of the candidates in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte (BSOM) riding to hear what they have to say on a series of topics ahead of Thursday's provincial election. Each candidate was asked to provide a 150-word response. Here is what they had to say about the province's education system. 

Jeff Lehman, Liberal:

Our education system has seen devastating cuts to funding over the last four years – affecting our kids’ ability to learn and causing harm to our educators’ ability to teach.

Understanding the impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to focus on investing in, and supporting learning recovery through smaller class sizes, implementing a fully funded optional Grade 13, and investing in repairing and building new schools.

We’ll do this by scrapping the wasteful Highway 413 and investing the $10 billion into ensuring our schools provide a safe learning environment for our kids.

We’ll also cap class sizes at 20 across the board, end mandatory online learning and hire 5,000 more education support workers and an additional 10,000 educators to help our kids prepare for their future.

Beverley Patchell, NDP:

Schools are at the heart of our community and after decades of cuts, now there has to be investments. 

We need to fix the broken education funding formulas, as under Liberal and Conservative governments, per-student funding has declined since 2011 and the model hasn’t been updated to reflect the needs of today’s students and communities.  

We will base special education funding on actual needs with timely assessments. There is a whopping $15.8-billion backlog of repairs that was allowed under the Liberal government. Students suffered enormous losses during the pandemic, to provide supports to those in need, we will create a new position at school boards to assess and improve the delivery of mental health care within schools and hire more mental health workers and child and youth workers to meet the identified need.

An NDP government will respect education workers and the right to fair collective bargaining.

Doug Downey, Progressive Conservative:

Since 2018, our PC government has invested over $2 billion in capital projects in education, including 100 new schools, 88 additions and renovations to existing facilities and 6,410 new licensed child-care spaces.

And we are moving forward on a plan to invest more than $14 billion over 10 years to build schools and provide the next generation with the skills to succeed in the workforce.

This historic funding will support school construction, repair, and renewal. We are also increasing investment in public education by $683.9 million to $26.6 billion in 2022-23.

We are ensuring that students have modern learning environments that support their success and well-being, including the introduction of an anti-bullying framework for all school boards to adopt in the province.

Our government is directing $6.4 million to protect against discrimination in schools and to better support all students.

Gerry Auger, Ontario Party:

‚ÄčOur education system is the best in the world. However, we have serious concerns about the amount of indoctrination being thrust on our children and families.

We are not educating our children in the practicalities of objective truth, such as the ingenuity of the entrepreneurial spirit to overcome adversity and difficulty. It may be time to look at other funding models than the current model to ensure parents are able to access the best education resources and expertise available to them.

Hayden Hughes, New Blue:

New Blue aims to offer an alternative schooling tax credit so that parents have more options when it comes to their child’s education. The goal is to provide parents with the flexibility to choose an education system other than the public school system, if this is what they believe would best suit their child’s needs.

Additionally, returning to the bachelor of education (consecutive) program being a one year program would help address the teacher and staffing shortages we are currently seeing in our area.

Elyse Robinson, Green:

Improving education starts with eliminating the EQAO standardized testing and updating the elementary curriculum to reduce prescribed student outcomes.

It also includes capping grades 4 to 8 class sizes at 24 students at most and kindergarten at 26 students at most.

Additionally, we need to allocate funds to ensure schools are able to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and provide funding for schools to make energy efficiency and ventilation improvements.

We also need to increase funding for enhanced outdoor education, green space in school yards, enhanced curriculum content on critical environmental topics such as food literacy and climate change, and implement a province-wide nutritious school lunch program.

Regarding post-secondary education, we need to immediately reverse the Ford government’s cuts to OSAP and convert loans to grants for low and middle-income post-secondary students, and immediately eliminate interest charges on student debt for everyone going forward.