Thomp­son ‘fa­cil­i­tat­ing tran­si­tion’

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - HEATHER RIVERS The Lon­don Free Press

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 . . .

ED­U­CA­TION FLASH­POINTS

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.

ERNEST DOROSZUK/TORONTO SUN/POST

On­tario Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Lisa Thomp­son

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