Thompson ‘facilitating transition’
Scrapping a modern sex ed curriculum. Getting tough on teachers’ knowledge of math, and more. There’s been no shortage of things to talk about in Ontario’s education system since Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives swept to power this summer. Heather Rivers put those and other issues to Education Minister Lisa Thompson in the Huron-Bruce MPP’s first one-on-one interview with The Free Press. Highlights:
Q: You have a budget of $29 billion, and backlogged school repairs are about half that ($15 billion). How do you plan to catch up?
A: I am very pleased we addressed this straight out of the gate. I worked with our ministry and we have allocated $1.4 billion to address school board needs in terms of renewal dollars for our local schools.
Q: Your party has pledged to find cost savings. Is it your intention to merge the Catholic and public school systems into one?
A: That’s not even a topic of conversation at this time.
Q: Do you have any strategy to deal with the empty student spaces (55,000 in Southwestern Ontario school boards alone) across the province?
A: Our focus right now is on Bill 48 (Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act), the legislation we introduced (on Oct. 25) . . . we are upholding a moratorium on any school closures until we have an opportunity to reach out to our stakeholders.
Q: Last week you announced math will become mandatory in teachers’ college. What else can we expect in the future?
A: I very much appreciate that the Ontario education system is respected worldwide. But other jurisdictions — this is a key message — have caught up or surpassed us when it comes to the fundamentals of getting back to basics of mathematics. So we want to make sure that Ontario can still lead the way. We’ve already provided a resource guide to teachers to transition from discovery math that they have been teaching over the last number of years to help them to tie in fundamentals and getting back to the basics. And we’ve also provided a fact sheet for parents as well.
Q: How would you describe the consultation process? You’ve had some criticism.
A: I’m very, very pleased with the direction we’re headed. Our first phase that we introduced right out of the gate was an opportunity for people to comment with written submissions on all of our seven themes : jobs skills, life skills, distractions in the classroom, math, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and health and physical education. We just released 10 additional dates for telephone town halls to ensure that people have a chance to participate.
Q: After the consultation ends in mid-December, is that when you will be making announcements?
A: We will be kicking off the next phase, which will be analyzing all of the data that has come in to determine our next steps in defining how to best go forward. Our No. 1 priority will be to ensure our health and physical education curriculum gets it right . . .
A new sex ed curriculum critics say goes backward in time to appease social conservativesGetting tough on teachers’ knowledge of math- Hundreds of half-empty schools, their fate unknown amid a moratorium on school closings imposed by the former Liberal government- A new government, sworn to finding $6 billion in savings even before it took office but now facing a $15-billion hole in its budget - much higher than forecast by the Liberals in their last budget.
WHAT ONE CRITIC SAYS
MPP Marit Stiles, the NDP education critic at Queen’s Park, said it’s been her experience Thompson hasn’t been widely available to either the media – which the minister disputes – or herself.
“I ask questions in the House and she stands up, but she gives me non-answers,” Stiles said. Stiles also is critical of the Tory government’s education consultation, saying her office has received complaints about the written questionnaire, which she describes as “leading.”
“It makes you doubt whether it is a credible consultation and that they are just going to hear what they want to hear,” she said.
Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson