Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory announced today that one of Ontario’s leading pioneers of tolerance and diversity in public education has agreed to help find the best way to bring even more of Ontario students into our public education system.Under a PC government, Former Premier Bill Davis would be appointed to lead a Commission to review options and make recommendations about how Ontario’s public school system could become more inclusive of faith-based schools.
“Ontario has funded faith-based education to varying degrees since Confederation,” said Tory. “This inclusive approach has proven to be successful in managing and respecting religious diversity within public education. It has taught children of different of ethnicities and faiths to value our respective religious and cultural heritages, while also being unified by common standards and equivalent experiences.”
Faith groups have said that they feel betrayed by Dalton McGuinty for offering them vague reassurances in private on this issue, and then engaging in divisive rhetoric in public. In contrast, John Tory said he would speak openly and welcome discussion about his plan to reduce the separation that exists between students in faith-based schools and those operating in the public system. Specifically, he said that a John Tory PC Government would:
- Preserve and strengthen Ontario’s public school system;
- Expand the system subject to clear conditions to reflect and embrace the changing diversity of our population;
- Use this expanded system to bring people together and promote integration within Ontario’s public education system, both through academic programming and extracurricular activities;
- Ensure that, with public funding, comes public accountability, including requirements to teach the Ontario curriculum, standardized testing and teacher credentialing.
The Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission, which would be chaired by former Premier and former Education Minister, the Hon. William G. Davis, will ensure that this expansion is undertaken after significant public consultation and with solid and responsible planning, with pilot programs beginning in September 2008.
Mr. Davis, a strong supporter of public education throughout his career and to this day, transformed Ontario’s education system during his term as Minister of Education from 1962-1971. He went on to serve as one of the most respected Premiers of Ontario from 1971-1985. During his time as Premier, he introduced legislation to strengthen medicare, public transit, mental health programs and environmental protection. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1985. “Ontario’s public school system is one of the best in the world. We have an opportunity to strengthen and expand upon that success responsibly in order to provide more Ontarians with the same opportunity our Catholic school system provides,” Tory said. “Ontario needs a leader who will ensure that children of all faiths are part of a public education system that reflects and strengthens our shared values and shared belief in public education through common standards of curriculum, teaching and accountability.”
Backgrounder Investing in Public Education John Tory and the PC Party of Ontario understand that education is one of the most important investments our society can make. Unfortunately, Dalton McGuinty has not addressed some of the crucial challenges facing our education system today. The education funding system is broken, schools are run down, and standards are dropping. Instead of fixing these problems, the McGuinty government has chosen the easier route of sweeping these problems under the rug and relying on gimmicks, photo-ops and slogans. A John Tory government will show leadership and make education a priority. Education Funding: § John Tory’s education plan calls for an $800 million increase in funding for public education in 2007-08, climbing to an increase of $2.4 billion by 2011-12. We will continue to invest more in education as enrolment declines. § A John Tory government will improve the funding formula and keep it up to date. We must provide schools and school boards the flexibility to meet local needs. We will review the funding formula and make adjustments to fill the gaps Dalton McGuinty has created in the education system. Other Education Initiatives: § Limit the homework burden on young children to the recommended ten minutes per grade level. Children need a life outside of schools – time with family and friends. Not an extra two hours of stress at the end of the day. § John Tory’s Open Schools program will open up schools on weekends and over the summer to community groups. We will do this across the province, not just in Toronto.
§ Ensure English as a Second Language (ESL) programs help those who need it. Because of Dalton McGuinty’s lack of leadership, school boards are not required to spend their ESL funding on ESL programs. Dalton McGuinty short-changes the school boards in other areas and allows them to raid ESL to plug the gaps, which hurts newcomers.