This week in Queen’s Park – September 6
Member of Provincial Parliament
As we pass Labour Day each year, we are reminded that our summer vacations are behind us, cooler days are ahead, and that it’s time for students, parents, and educators to embrace the hectic schedule of another school year.
This year, there is an air of apprehension as contracts with the five major teacher and support workers’ unions expired at the end of August. Despite an offer from our government to start negotiations early, the process is just getting underway. Let’s hope that the result is better education for our children and grandchildren.
Over my eight years in the provincial government, I have heard from many business people and post-secondary educators that our students are not prepared for life after high school. Provincial EQAO testing results confirm these observations with declining test results in both Grade 3 and Grade 6 mathematics. Grade 9 assessment results, particularly for students enrolled in applied mathematics courses, show the need to improve math performance so that they have the knowledge and skills they need for success.
We cannot accept the status quo, for the future of our youth and our province depends on it. Over the next four years, Ontario is rolling out a revised math curriculum for all students in all grades that will focus on the fundamentals of mathematics and how to apply them. The new $200 million math strategy will support critical programming and resources for students and educators alike.
We campaigned on a promise to listen to parents and provide them with a voice when it came to their child’s education. That’s why we undertook the largest-ever consultation on education in the history of this province, with over 72,000 engagements including parents, students, educators, employers and organizations.
A major area of concern was the increased use of cell phones, which is considered by many to have had a disruptive and negative impact on the classroom. An overwhelming 97 percent of parents, students and teachers who participated in the consultation process told us that cellphone use should be constrained in some way. That’s why we are restricting the use of cellphones and other personal mobile devices in classrooms beginning November 4, 2019. As my colleague, Stephen Lecce the Minister of Education put it, “Students should be focused on their studies, not their social media.”
Exceptions will be made if cellphones are required for health and medical purposes, to support special education needs, or for educational purposes, as directed by an educator.
Last week the Provincial Government announced that changes made in the budgeting process had saved the taxpayer over $153 million over the last year. From day one, our government has been focused on restoring the public’s confidence in Ontario’s finances. We are committed to respecting the hard-earned dollars entrusted to us by you, the taxpayers.
We have worked swiftly and diligently to reign in unnecessary discretionary spending that governments typically see at the end of their fiscal years. Our government remains committed to directing taxpayer dollars to the key programs and services that Ontarians rely on – like our healthcare and education systems. This is part of our government’s ongoing efforts to embed a culture of fiscal discipline across the Ontario government.