NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Doug Ford shouldn’t just hope it’ll be safe for students to attend school five days a week in the fall — he should make it safe.
The Official Opposition leader was in Brampton Friday, where she acknowledged the pressure parents are coping with, and the solution she believes the premier should be putting in place immediately. “During this pandemic, parents have been doing the superhuman work of juggling parenting, working from home and supporting kids with at-home learning,” said Horwath. “Knowing how incredibly difficult that’s been, I’m shocked that Doug Ford appears not to be taking any action at all to get enough safe, small classrooms ready so every child can go back to school in the fall.”
“If I were premier, I’d be hiring teachers and education workers, sourcing temporary classrooms, and getting extra supports lined up for students with special needs. There’s no time to waste if we’re going to be ready for fall.” Instead, with five weeks left to go before school is supposed to start, Ford has panicked parents by pitching an unworkable hybrid model, which will leave families to hunt for child care, or stop working to stay home multiple days a week. Horwath said there’s no reason to consider the hybrid model except to save the costs associated with temporarily smaller class sizes.
“Mr. Ford is trying to save money on the backs of our children again,” said Horwath. “Giving all students a class to go to every day, instead of just half of them, is an investment not only in kids and their education, but also it’s also an investment in their parents, and in getting our economy moving again.” Ford has been making deep cuts to education, including a plan to slash thousands of teachers and education workers and hike class sizes. By cutting funding for school building and repairs, he’s allowed the backlog of necessary repairs grow to $16.3 billion.
- In 2018-19, planned education infrastructure spending was about $3 billion. Ford cut that to $2.5 billion.
- In 2019-20, Ford cut education infrastructure spending further, to $2.4 billion.
- In 2020-21, in the budget that came in response to COVID-19, Ford lowered it again — to $2.2 billion.
- On top of badly needed new schools, the government is ignoring more than $16.3 billion in necessary repairs to existing schools.
NDP safe return to schools motion
In addition to hiring more staff and funding extra support for students and school upgrades, the NDP and Education critic Marit Stiles have moved a motion for an emergency action plan to get kids back to class. It includes:
- Maintaining job-protected leave and benefits for parents until school and child care are fully up and running again
- Funding to help keep the child care sector afloat
- Funding for more school buses to ensure physical distancing
- Making use of public infrastructure to support the re-opening of schools and daycares
- Ensuring ongoing access to emergency child care for essential workers
- Bringing together students, parents, education workers, unions and schools board in an advisory group to help guide COVID-19 recovery in schools
- Addressing the needs of students from Black, Indigenous and racialized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
- Ensuring all workers have access to paid sick leave
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