Fordwatch – Education: an election tool “for the people” to take on the Tories

School Magazine  – 2022-01-13

Last Update January 27, 2022

 

Governments often end up deserving to be defeated; the Ford government needs to be. It swaggered into  the legislature back in June 2018  with a cynical plan to dismantle fundamental services – “for the people”.

The Fords of the world don’t even have passing familiarity with the idea. They are never “for the people”. As much as they may seem populist, down-home and buck-a-beer, their actions show nothing but contempt.

Doug Ford’s government came into office with a smash. It put the kibosh on a minimum wage hike promised by the previous Wynne government. It cut paid emergency leave to workers, restricted access to free prescription drugs to young Ontarians and slapped a hiring freeze on public servants. The Tories were so much “for the people” of Ontario that they cut new mental health funding for the most vulnerable among them, stomping down a little further by putting the brakes on a tiny increase to social assistance and scrapping the basic income pilot programme.

Such concern was already much in evidence as it cut $1 billion from Toronto Public Health, funding for the College of Midwives, more funding for sexual assault centres – even stiffing supervised drug use sites. When faced with the prospect of actually governing during the COVID pandemic, it dithered, unable to make up its collective mind- typically responding too little and too late. Pushed for months to introduce 10 days paid sick leave for workers who couldn’t afford to isolate if they had COVID symptoms, it coughed up three. It still can’t decide whether or not to impose a mandatory COVID vaccination.

This government thought so much of democracy for the people that it cut Toronto City Council in half in the middle of an election. Then it demonstrated its respect for the courts by using the “notwithstanding clause” in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to toss aside a decision by the Ontario’s Superior Court that said it couldn’t limit election donations, while doubling amounts Tory friends could donate to their party.

Doug Ford certainly did his best to house –  some of the people. A few months before he raised housing allowances for MPPs,  the Tories exempted new housing units from rent control, resulting in more evictions in a stressed-out housing market. He cancelled 800 affordable housing units across the GTA and cut $10 million from the Ending Homelessness programme.

Truth and reconciliation? Not part of this government’s vocabulary. It scrapped the Ministry For Indigenous Issues as soon it got to its feet in the legislature. Without warning, it sent home the curriculum writing team set up as one of the agreements of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help Ontario kids learn more about Indigenous history and culture. While Ontario had vowed to get to the bottom of two suspected mercury dumps found near the Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Tories instead allowed a surge of gold mining claims in the area.

And that’s just quick sketch version of the history of this most devoted of neoliberal governments. If re-elected with a majority, the Tories will continue to make the cuts so necessary to reduce the scale and quality of basic services whose failure they will use to call for more privatization. There’s never been any doubt about their agenda.

So, with a provincial election coming up on Thursday June 2, 2022, School Magazine is doing its part to help all the people who want to see the back of the Tories.

Here is FORDWATCH – EDUCATION. It contains headlines and links to all the stories we’ve followed over the past – nearly 4 – years. If you need information about the damage Doug Ford and his cronies have brought upon this one crucial service of government, you’ll find it below. It’s been vetted by 14 friends of the magazine who have kindly suggested edits and other information to include.

Thanks to all of them and particularly to Susan Atkins who has collected most of the information here as well as for all the other areas covered in FORDWATCH.

Please use and pass on this information for your pamphlets, flyers, websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and the other social media you use to get out your messages.

You have School Magazine’s permission to share FORDWATCH- EDUCATION – widely we hope. Here are a few simple requests:

    • If you want to use just portions of this article, please do so.
    • The one thing you don’t have our permission to do is edit or change any of the information contained below – without our approval.
    • Should you decide to republish this article in print or online, we ask that you provide this link to School Magazine  acknowledging the source. Also, if you’re republishing rather than just sharing this article, we ask that you not use any of the pictures here since our agreements with copyright holders don’t extend to republishing.

If you see an error, have a suggestions  or dispute some information, just send us an email at eatomag.18@gmail.com

Please check out the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Ford Tracker for more of the history of this government.

Finally – keep an eye on this page, we’ll keep updating information  as events unfold.

 

Let’s  turf out the the Tories on June 2.

 

 

Fordwatch: Education – The 2022 election edition

 

Curriculum

Used by permission
of Orange Shirt Society

Cancelled writing teams for Indigenous peoples’ curriculum sending elders and educators home at the last minute and contravening Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action #62 and 63.  July 9, 2018    Source: CBC.  Note: there has been some discussion of reconvening some of form of writing team – nothing to date has come of it.

Rolled sexual education curriculum back to 1998  Teachers were no longer permitted to use the 2015 sexual education curriculum due to complaints by social conservatives supporting Ford. A “snitch line” was set up by the government for parents to identify teachers not complying with new rule. It led to lawsuits from Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario over rights of children to be accepted for their gender identity and for teachers to teach.   July 11, 2018  Source: Globe and Mail

    • Introduced the “new” sexual education curriculum pretty much the same as the old one. August 21, 2019 Source: The Conversation
    • Allowed parents to exempt their children from sex-ed curriculum. August 21, 2019  Source: CBC news

Introduced new Math curriculum after criticizing – without basis- the old one for being too discovery oriented, even though there’s no mention of discovery learning in the curriculum. Despite being labelled as “back-to- basics” the new one includes social-emotional learning skills in mathematics, along with number sense algebra, financial literacy among other topics.  June 23, 2020  Source: CBC news

    • Also includes memorizing times tables, learning about finances, simple coding, changing some of the major themes in Math November 26, 2020 Source:The Conversation
    • Removed the section of the Math curriculum that acknowledged its use to bolster racism:  “mathematics has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of no-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges… “ July 14, 2021 Source: Global News
    • Ford government did nothing to equip teachers with the technology needed to teach the coding portion of the new Math curriculum January 3, 2021, Source Fix Our Schools

 

Online learning

Brought in e-learning with 4 mandatory credits in high school before teens can graduate. The Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson said it was so kids could put “their best foot forward.” March 25, 2019  Source: Toronto Star. See also School Magazine

    • Later, backed down to mandate just 2 courses online. November 21, 2019 Source: Toronto Star
    • The idea was that the Ministry would set up a an “entity” to create and deliver online courses and push school boards to offer more of them.

Ontario could make online learning a permanent part of school. The presidents of OSSTF and ETFO both confirmed that they had staff attend a meeting with the ministry where the idea was discussed. Harvey Bischoff, OSSTF’s president, told Global News the creation of a standalone infrastructure by TVO for secondary school online courses was also brought up. Bischoff also pointed to a leaked document from the ministry last year which spoke of maximizing revenue generation from the provincial school system. ETFO called the idea an ‘attack on public education.’ March 25, 2021   Source: Global News 

 

Buildings

Cut $ 100 million funding from Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for school repairs to improve energy efficiency Schools across Ontario face a $15.9 billion backlog in repairs. July 10, 2018  Source: CBC News

    • Cut was reversed soon after

Schools across the province face major repair costs due to long term underfunding.. October 2, 2018

 Source: School Magazine

Government offers to spend $13 billion over next decade to repair schools. Repair costs for schools are about $16.3 billion. July 22, 2019  Source: CBC News and see School Magazine

    • Throughout this time the Ford government has refused to be transparent about the state of disrepair in Ontario schools – data collected with taxpayers’ dollars July 8, 2021  Source: Fix Our Schools
    • Wynne’s Liberals tried to hide the size of the maintenance backlog for years. It was uncovered by Krista Wylie of Fix our Schools in about 2015 who did some financial sleuthing to uncover the $15 B school repair backlog that the Liberals were hiding. A report that Hugh Mackenzie wrote in November 2017 showed the Liberals had allowed that backlog to grow from $5.6 B to $15.9 B between 2003 and 2018. See Krista Wylie’s article in School Magazine February 2019

 

Cuts

Pulled $500 000 from Toronto after-school music project for 275 at-risk youth – August 23, 2018   Source: Toronto Star

Paused the Parents Reaching Out Program (PRO– Programme provided grants for local parent councils to hold meetings and run community events like Math nights October 22, 2018  Source: CBC

Cancelled over $300 million in funding for expansion of university and college campuses in Brampton, Milton and Markham – October 23, 2018  Source: CBC

Cut $25 million from the Education Programs- Other fund which provided program money for students at risk like paying older students to tutor younger ones – December 16, 2018  Source: Global News

Began the 2019-20 budget discussions with a call for $1 billion cut from $24 billion education budget December 17, 2018  Source: School Magazine

      • Went on to cut Local Priorities Fund worth $325.4 million as well as Cost Adjustment fund to supplement costs of education workers ($63.6 million) along with Human Resource Transition Supplement  to assist with staffing changes($10 million)

TDSB faced $67.9 million in cuts for the 2019-21 budget and took bites out of equity, international languages, school budgets, student support and cut 310 jobs  – September 5, 2019 Source: School Magazine

With revenues up and deficit down Ford government continued its austerity plans November 6, 2019  Source CCPA

Ontario government memo hinted at thousands of teachers and education workers’ layoffs for the 2021-2022 school year. Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor’s memo, dated February 26, 2021, told school boards not to count on the $1.6 billion “one-time” funding for COVID-19 support that was provided for 2020-2021. March 6, 2021  Source: CityNews

Budget confirmed $1 billion in cuts to education, Ontario school boards say. The 2021 budget included almost no new education spending, with reported increases likely to be below the rate of inflation. March 24, 2021   Source: Press Progress

Grants for students needs have been falling comparatively since 2011-12. If you compare figures for basic schools funding translating numbers to 2021 dollars. May 14, 2021  Source: School Magazine

Ford government spent $2.6 billion less than planned in the first quarter of 2021  September 16, 2021  Source: Fix Our Schools

With November economic update, Ford cut half a billion dollars from Ontario schools November 4, 2021  Source: Press Progress.  This is in spite of increased revenues for the province. November 29, 2021  Source School Magazine- CCPA

 

Early years

Proposed to change child care rules to increase the number of children allowed in home daycares. December 7, 2021 Source: Global News

Cut child care across the province by over $80 millionMay 1 2019. Source:Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care

    • Cut fund that helped keep low income parents’ fees down June 3, 2019 Source: Hamilton Spectator
    • Cut child care funding to Toronto child care centres $15 million then reduced to $5 million October 26, 2019 Source: CBC
    • Thousands of planned child care spaces were put in limbo by these cuts – 51 projects in Toronto alone
    • Announced $234.6 million funding for safer child care centres during COVID-19, but it was really Federal money it was using.  August 6, 2020  Source: NOW Magazine

Ford said he wouldn’t guarantee full day kindergarten beyond 2019 January 30, 2019  Source: CBC

    • Minister Stephen Lecce committed to full-day kindergarten in bargaining with teachers – though union said there was nothing explicit about this in collective agreement language. February 6, 2020 Source: CBC

Stephen Lecce looked for more money from Ottawa to help pay for full day kindergarten as Ford government held up the fed’s plan for $10 a day daycare. November 15, 2021.  Source: Globe and Mail.

    • Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario says the government doesn’t understand the difference between day care and full-day kindergarten and questions whether it will protect the programme. November 16, 2021 Source: ETFO

 

Class size

Increased average class sizes by 1 – grades 4-8 and 6 for grades 9 to 12. March 15, 2019  Source: IPolitics

    • Public schools to lose over 10 000 teachers over 5 years with savings to government of $2.8 billion – September 26, 2019 Source: CBC
    • Education Minister Lisa Thompson said this would improve students’ “resiliency”
    • School board began to send out surplus notices to teachers and cut high school course offerings – September 5, 2019 Source: School Magazine
    • For Fall of 2019 average high school classes were set at 22.5 By March 2020 Minister Lecce was saying that average high school class sizes would be 23. For elementary average sizes would be 24.5   March 6, 2020 Source: School Magazine
    • TDSB class-size increases would force it to cancel 313 high-school courses. Some other courses will have larger class sizes or combined grades and levels.  Services like library and guidance reduced. May 17, 2019  Source: CP 24

Considered removing kindergarten and primary class size caps – no final decision made about that- so this is worth watching. January 23, 2019  Source: CBC

 

Post secondary

Scrapped Ontario’s first -ever French-language university costing about $80 million and focusing on technology, business and health sciences – November 19, 2018   Source: CTV News

    • Changed course a year later and asked Ottawa for half of the required $126 million – September 5, 2019 Source: Sudbury Star

Reduced post-secondary tuition fees by 10 percent without any plans to fund the schools that will bear the costAt the same time eliminated free tuition for lowest income studentsFebruary 4, 2019 Source: CBC

    • Students lose 6-month grace period for starting to pay back loans.

Ford made student fees, like student union dues, optional – then described student union activities as “crazy Marxist nonsense.” February 11, 2019  Source: Toronto Star

    • Student groups faced shortfalls: Campus daycares, newspapers, food banks, aboriginal programs, among them
    • The move was quashed by Ontario Divisional Court – November 21, 2019  Source: CBC
    • The government requested an appeal on the decision – no ruling yet. April 8, 2021  Source: Excaliber

Proposed to tie post secondary funding to “performance outcomes” like graduate earning. At the same time it decreased funding by 1 percent annually. April 11, 2019  Source: CBC News

Required teacher candidates to pass a Math Proficiency Test in to get teaching certificate – assumed that poor Math scores meant that teacher didn’t know basic Math. Mar 25, 2020 Source: School Magazine

    • EQAO developed the test – call for tenders went out inviting private companies to bid on administering the test.

Laurentian University faced insolvency  – cut 100 professors and 80 staff on April 12. June 3, 2021 Source: CBC

 

Autism

Froze Ontario Autism Programme waiting list refusing to move any more children in to the previous Liberal government’ Needs Based Program.  February 26,2019. Source: Toronto Star

Children taken off the waitlist – parents not told. Waitlist was frozen for students needing autism treatment in Fall of 2018. This was in spite of the fact that there was room for more children. February 25, 2019  Source: Ottawa Citizen

Underfunding of services for autism

    • Money was to go to families rather than service providers
    • Funding was not based on need, but age
    • Overall amount provided was capped at $20 000/year for kids up to age 6 and $5 000 /year for those from 6-18 .
    • Maximum amount was capped at $140 000 per student’s childhood. Therapy costs run to about $80 000 / year June 19, 2019 Source: Ipolitics and School Magazine
    • Ford government then budgeted $600 million for the autism programme, something that would leave 23 000 children waiting for services. By July 2020 the waitlist had grown to 27 600. July 21, 2020 Source: CBC News
    • The government proposed a new funding model that would be based on need – by 2021. Parents said it was not needs- based and at a maximum of $65 000 / year – not enough to cover costs January 24, 2020 Source: Toronto Star and CTV news

Currently:

 

Friends of Ford

Hired unsuccessful Tory candidate, Cameron Montgomery to $140 000 p.a. job chairing board of Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)  Predecessor earned @ $4 000 p.a.  – February 19, 2019  Source: Toronto Star

 

Action against the Ford government

150 000 students across Ontario walked out of class for an hour, protesting increased class sizes, e-learning and losing variety of courses on offerApril 4, 2019  Source:Toronto Star 

Thousands rallied at Queen’s Park to protest education cuts. Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation President Harvey Bischof said the Minister of Education should listen to the students and that our education system needs investment, not cuts.  April 6, 2019  Source: Toronto Star

Parents and teachers organize.  Throughout 2018 – 2019 parent groups across the province began to organize actions to protest Ford government cuts and support teachers. Some of these include:

Job Actions 2019 -20

Teacher contract talks hit snag. Ford  government wants to remove many items from local bargaining, moving them to be negotiated centrally, taking away local solutions to issues that have local impacts. May 24, 2019   Source: Globe and Mail

New Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced that high school class sizes will not be as large as anticipated for 2019-20August 22, 2019. Source: CBC News.

    • He did not say they wouldn’t rise to this level in future
    • Ford government continued to use this as a reason to dig its heels in on further concessions, like cost of living increase for teachers and eliminating cuts, saying it’s done enough.

Elementary teachers’ union asked for conciliation in bargaining with province and school boards amid growing frustrations at the negotiating table, the union says.  October 16, 2019 Source: Toronto Star

    • Ontario elementary school teachers vote 98 per cent in favour of strike action. November 1, 2019 Source: Toronto Star
    • Ontario’s public high school teachers vote for strike action. November 18, 2019  Source: CBC
    • English Catholic school teacher union (OECTA)  vote for strike action. November 13, 2019    Source: CBC

Ontario public elementary teachers began a work to rule campaign which would target ministry and school board administrative tasks.  November 14, 2019, Source: CTV News

Ontario backed down on online high school courses – cut requirement from 4 to 2.    November 21, 2019   Source: Toronto Star  Doesn’t take away the problems with e-learning See School Magazine

Ontario public high school teachers held 1-day strike after contract talks stalled. December 4, 2019  Source: Global News

    • Secondary teachers held another day of strike action December 11, 2019 after talks broke off between the government and OSSTF and struck 3 more days in various locations during December and January

Ontario elementary teachers ramped up their work-to-rule campaign by not planning any new field trips or distributing letters or memos from schools and boards.  December 7, 2019 Source: Toronto Star

    • Elementary teachers stopped spending their own money on schools supplies, and filling out comments on report cards
    • Stopped supervising extra-curricular activities or field trips in an escalation of their work-to-rule campaign on January 9, 2020

Teachers unions challenged Bill 124 “Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act” which caps public sector wage increases to 1 percent for 3 years December 12, 2019  Source: Global News

Waterloo Public School Board postponed EQAO test after Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that school boards could make their own decisions on whether to conduct the test in January or in June since the work-to-rule high school campaign includes not preparing students for EQAO. January 9, 2020 Source: Globalnews.ca 

Teachers held a series of day-long strikes across the province protesting lack of progress in contract talks, underfunding education, lack of written assurance that full day kindergarten would be maintained, lack of special education support, increases to class size. For the first time in more than 20 years all teachers’ unions in Ontario are involved in job action.

    • AEFO began work to rule campaign January 16, 2020
    • Elementary s teachers stages rotating strikes during week of January 20. There are still no bargaining talks scheduled.
    • All Catholic teachers across the province went out on a day-long strike January 21, 2020
    • ETFO held 2 province-wide walkouts February 6 and 11, 2020
    • AEFO held its first province-wide walkout Februay 13, 2020
    • All teachers unions walked out across the province – largest in Ontario since 1997 February 21, 2020

Source for above: Global News

Ontario offered to back down on class sizes if teachers agree to wage cap. OSSTF president Harvey Bishoff said Stephen Lecce had not presented the new proposals to his union but in a press conference while exploratory talks were underway. March 4, 2020  Source: CBC and see School Magazine

Agreements:

    • OECTA reached tentative deal with province March 12, 2020
    • ETFO reached tentative deal with province March 20, 2020
    • AEFO reached tentative deal with province March 31, 2020
    • OSSTF reached tentative deal with province April 20, 2020

Source for above: Global News

Ford government revoked Bill 274. Under the bill boards hired new staff from a pool of teachers based on seniority October 19, 2020   Source: CBC News and see School Magazine

Teacher Unions challenge Bill 254 limiting 3rd party election funding. Bill limits amount that may be spent by third party groups while increasing the amount that may be donated to individual candidates. April 28, 2021. Source: Toronto Star

    • Tories lose the challenge in court, but after a marathon weekend debate, use the “notwithstanding clause” in Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override the  court’s decision. June 14, 2021  Source: CBC   and see School Magazine

 

COVID-19

Ontario schools shut down for 2 weeks after March break 2020. They remained closed after April 12 for the remainder of the school year as school boards scrambled to develop online learning programs while the Ministry of Education scrapped EQAO testing and parents struggled to make sense of loss of work, child care and unheard of restrictions on movement during the first weeks of this 20 month crisis. March 13, 2020Source: Hamilton Spectator and CTV News

Class sizes vital to curbing the spread of COVID-19 in schools Sick Kids experts said. August 7, 2020  Source: Toronto Star

Premier, education minister defended Ontario’s back-to-school-plans amid class size concerns. No caps for class sizes from grades 4-8 which could be as high as 30 students. August 7, 2020  Source: CBC News

Ministry of Education’s back-to-school plan underfunded sketchy and late. Boards told to rewrite plans shortly before school opened – efforts to reduce class sizes squashed. August 16, 2020Source: School Magazine

Ontario raises school board funding for COVID costs but unions say the back-to-school plan is unsafe. Ministry of Education announced $50 million for improved ventilation and $18 million for online learning. Boards dip into their reserve funds to cover costs.  August 13, 2020, Source: Toronto Star

TDSB back-to-school plan to shrink class sizes rejected by ministry of educationAugust 16, 2020, Source: CBC News

Teachers’ unions asked Ontario for workplace safety orders as schools set to reopen. Called for standards that kept class sizes at 15-20 students. August 25, 2020, Source: CP24

Ontario school bus drivers ask for COVID-19 safety protocols ahead of the start of the school yearAugust 25, 2020. Source CTV News

Money the Ford government appeared to give for safe return to school is actually much less. Much of it came from federal government and boards own reserves. August 28, 2020.  Source: School Magazine   and see Press Progress August 19, 2020

Teachers’ unions take province to labour board over workplace safety as first day of school approachesAugust 31, 2020, Source: CTV News  

    • Ford says his patience is “running thin “with teachers as he opens up a war of words

Community rallied for paid sick days. Ford government was stalling on bringing them out. September 1, 2020  Source: School Magazine

Privately run learning pods emerged as parents worried about sending kids to in-person school. Parents trying to avoid infection for their children as well as online learning – at a cost. September 9, 2020  Source: School Magazine

More Toronto parents switched kids to online learning after uptick in COVID-19 cases. As new COVID-19 cases spiked to 313 in Ontario, 72 000 students looked for online learning. September 15, 2020   Source: CP24

Some school boards introduced a “blended hybrid “model for teaching. Teacher teaches students in class while others watch online from home. October 16, 2020 Source: School Magazine

Doug Ford ignored health experts advice three time about how keep Ontario safe during COVID. Repeatedly opted for looser COVID measures in long term care, hospitals and schools. November 16, 2020Source: Press Progress

Ontario urged to expand testing of school staff and students – especially in COVID-19 hot spots -after the first site in Toronto uncovered 19 cases at one elementary school on the first sample group that was tested. November 30, 2020   Source: Toronto Star

With record breaking infection rates and ICU numbers peaking throughout November and December – Ford government announced a total lockdown – including schools. Lockdown scheduled for December 26. Students in North expected to return January 11, 2021, Students in South expected to return January 25, 2021.   December 20, 2020   Source: CBC News 

Internal government documents show how Ontario ‘watered down’ its strategies to keep COVID-19 out of classrooms. Proposals for safety measures did not come to fruition upon Fall school openings related to testing, symptom screening and class sizes  January 21, 2021   Source: Toronto Star

Confusion abounds re money spent for safe return to school and criteria for number of cases in the community. February 2, 2021  Source: School Magazine

Schools in Peel, Toronto and York to remain closed until February 16. February 3, 2021 Source: CTV News

Did Ford government hire extra staff to keep schools a bit safer? It claimed that it put aside money to hire extra teachers, custodians and public health nurses, but refused a freedom of information request from CUPE to see how many people were actually hired.  February 5, 2021  Source: Global News

Teachers, education unions criticize Ford government’s move to delay March break. The Ontario School Board Council of Union’s president, Laura Walton, said Minister Lecce failed to implement some pandemic safety measures in schools  February 12, 2021, Source: CBC News

Memo from the Ministry of Education warns boards not to expect more COVID money for 2021-22 and to consider laying off extra staff. March 18, 2021. Source: School Magazine

Check out this analysis of board-by -board pandemic funding for schools by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives –  Author Ricardo Tranjan.  March 23 2021. Source: CCPA

Government gave money directly to parents to cover incidental expenses rather than putting it into schools and daycares. Three payouts made over 2020-2021. March 24, 2021 Source: CBC

Peel schools ordered closed despite Ford government’s “firm belief” they should remain open. This is as the third wave hits the province. Toronto, along with Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph followed suit shortly after. April 5, 2021    Source: CTV News

Ford announced schools will remain closed indefinitely the day after Education Minister Stephen Lecce says they will remain open. April 12, 2021, Source: CP24

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that COVID-19 was not spreading in school – despite internal ministry documents saying it didn’t know if this was true. It took a freedom-of-information request to find this out. Lecce was making statements about school being safe – but didn’t know what he was talking about. June 1, 2021  Source: Toronto Star

Schools closed until September 2021. Outdoor graduation ceremonies allowed in-person with distancing. Ford considering earlier back-to-school date. June 2, 2021. Source CTV News

Globe and Mail named Ford’s pandemic response the worst of Canada’s premiers June 3, 2021  Source: Globe and Mail

    • Students out of class for about 20 weeks while COVID continued to spread
    • Ford’s lack of leadership and inability to make decisions failed Ontario’s children Source: Fix Our Schools

Ford government released back-to-school plan just over a month before school was slated to open August 3, 2021 Source: CBC News   also see School Magazine

Ontario’s directives or return to school called “hoping and praying” August 10, 2021  Source Fix Our Schools

Ventilation improvements in schools could have been done sooner, if funding had been provided earlier and with more direction  August 17, 2021 Source: Fix Our Schools

    • Plan lacked targets for ventilation and measures for assessing them

Ford leaves it to hospitals and schools to have a plan for vaccination without mandating it by the Ontario government. August 17, 2021. Source: CBC News

    • Stephen Lecce said that 50 000 education workers could be terminated for lack of vaccination – something that Education critic Marit Stiles called “utter fiction” October 27, 2021 Source: Ottawa Citizen

Because of federal election, Ford prorogued the legislature as Ontario schools prepared to return to class for first time since April 2021.  September 3, 2021 Source: Toronto Sun

Ford wouldn’t impose mandatory vaccination of Ontario healthcare workers. Says it could cause departure of “tens of thousands of heath care workers. November 3, 2021  Source: CBC News

Ford said it’s too soon to be sure whether or not schools will reopen after holiday break, as case counts rise and many schools close due to COVID-19 Omicron variant. Five days before Ontario students were set to return to school, no word had come from the Ministry of Education, whether schools would be open or not. December 17, 2021 Source: CTV News

Ontario Government limited who can and who cannot get PCR tests December 30, 2021   Source: CTV News

Ontario’s new pandemic strategy risks uncontrolled transmission – according to epidemiologists. Reducing isolation times, opening schools and restricting testing contributing factors. December 31, 2021  Source: CBC News

Days before schools are set to re-open, Doug Ford announced this will be postponed to Wednesday January 5, 2022, December 30, 2021  Source: Toronto Star  

“Bracing for Impact” Ford closes schools until January 17. January 3, 2022  Source: CTV News and School Magazine

Ontario schools will resume in-class learning on Jan. 17, premier’s office says. Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said to prioritize schools, the province should have brought in more closures to rein in Omicron’s spread. Since that didn’t happen, reopening schools “will exacerbate the situation” in hospitals. January 10, 2022  Source: Toronto Star

Parents won’t be notified of COVID outbreak in schools until 30 percent of kids are absent from school. That threshold won’t automatically trigger school closure.  January 12, 2022  Source: CTV News

    • Parents not automatically notified if their children are exposed to a COVID case
    • If a child show symptoms isolation times depend on vaccination, status and number of symptoms
    • Student eligible for free PCR test only if they develop symptoms at school
    • Children and staff in childcare and schools each to receive 2 Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT)
    • 10 million non-fitted masks for school staff
    • 4 million 3-ply masks for students
    • Province to set up school based vaccination clinics
    • Hiring 2000 extra teachers to fill in for absent staff.

January 12 , 2022  Source: CTV News 

Elementary teachers federation calls on Ford government to address concerns:

  • failure to reinstate monitoring
  • absence of a robust testing procedure
  • low vaccination rate in 5-11 year-olds
  • need for a plan to address staff absences
  • ability of education workers to get boosters

January 12, 2022  Source: ETFO

New school reporting system needs details, boards say. The Ontario Public School Board’s Association is urging the ministry to find a way to give parents clearer information of what is happening in schools regarding COVID cases.  January 25, 2022.  Source: Toronto Star

Combined efforts of parents, community, education workers and unions to deal with COVID-19

Throughout these months, parent groups like Food for Thought, Ontario Parent Action Network (OPAN) Ontario Education Workers United (OEWU) and Fix Our Schools have worked tirelessly to address COVID -related -and other- serious problems in schools:

  • #safeseptember organizing and Day of Action
  • Many information pieces about vaccination, testing
  • Fact sheets about government inaction over data sharing, testing, vaccination
  • Online meetings – eg. January 4 meeting with OPAN and OEWU to discuss implications of latest round of government postponement of school
  • Food for Thought working with Foodshare to deliver food baskets to families affected by COVID
  • Basic standards for safe accessible schools – COVID and normal times