McGuinty gov’t spending $6 B more for 90,000 fewer students

As with the October 2007 Ontario election and the faith-based funding issue,  the 2011 campaign is going to be mostly about education.  Meaning, that once again, Ontarians can expect McGuinty-style smoke and mirrors.

I have no doubt, for example, that the McGuinty Liberals and their supporters, will spend a lot of time talking about their wonderful full-day Kindergarten and how the bad old PCs are going to freeze — not cancel — its rollout. Never mind that no one yet knows how much a province-wide full implementation of the ELP would cost. No need for accountability. It’s the Liberal “don’t worry, be happy” boondoggle mentality at work.   

Ontarians can also expect, as the Kingston Whig Standard article “Failing Grade for McGuinty’s Grits” outlines, that the McGuinty Liberals will talk a lot about the fact that 14% more Ontario students are graduating from high school than ever before.

However, what they will not be telling voters, of course, is that the reason for that increase is not because more students were motivated and inspired to stay in school, but because the system watered down expectations and academic requirements through McGuinty’s “success/no-fail” social promotion policies.

But, that is not all. What the McGuinty Liberals will also NOT want to tell Ontario voters is that:

  1. EQAO standardized test results (scroll part way down the page to the chart) have pretty much stayed stable over the last five years, with only “writing” going up slightly at the Grade 3 level (see also the Fraser Report Card);
  2. Between 2002/03 and 2008/09, the province’s public schools lost 90,000 students; and
  3. Costs for education went up nearly $6 BILLION, from $14.4 billion in 2002/03 to $20.2 billion in 2009/10.

Yet, where has all that $6 billion gone? If EQAO standardized tests have only remained stable (tests the teachers’ unions apparently hate), why was $6 billion more spent for 90,000 fewer students? It makes no sense at all unless most of it went to higher teacher salaries and benefits.

Which would explain why the teachers’ unions, as well as other public sector unions (including the Working Families Coalition) are going to be fighting an anti-Hudak, anti-PC campaign in favour of the Liberal Party of Canada. They can recognize a gravy train when they see it. 

The public sector unions also know that if they openly support the Ontario Liberal Party and they should win another majority government, the Liberals would owe the public sector unions big time. Meaning, that within months of a third Liberal majority, the EQAO office will be shut down putting an end to standardized testing.

“Change ahead?” Indeed! $6 billion dollars with little to show for it. Time for the Ontario PC Party to be elected to stop the Liberal education gravy train to nowhere.

21 thoughts on “McGuinty gov’t spending $6 B more for 90,000 fewer students

  1. Little to show for it?

    Ontario now ranks 5th in the world for quality education.

    81% of high school students now graduate…up 13% in 6 years.

    Ontario 15 year olds are more than one year ahead of their US counterparts

    Despite being much more diverse, Ontario ranks second in literacy only to Shanghai

    Where did Ontario rank from 1995-2003?

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  2. Chris, you sound just a tad defensive. You still don’t account for the fact that the EQAO stats are basically static and the fact that $6 billion more is being spent for 90,000 fewer students. It’s insane. Where will it end? Education has become the same kind of bottomless black hole that health care spending has become. Constant defending by those in the profession won’t cut it because Ontario is already a have-not province now. Where will it end, with bankruptcy and like Greece, where progressives are still making demands while the walls crumble around them.

    And, yes, as a former educator myself, I know all the arguments against standardized testing. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. Well, it is the “only” accountable way parents can have a clue as to what their kids are learning. Other types of assessment just don’t tell the same story no matter how much spin we get from the teachers’ unions.

    Make standardized testing random? I have no problem with that. I also can understand why teachers hate the “school reports.” It pits one neighbourhood against another. But, get rid of them altogether? Not going to happen if the PCs get in and the Liberals would be very wise not to do it either.

    But, there is that image of the Liberals being a gravy train again!

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  3. Cory C. — I am sure that Doug Little or Chris can come with some kind of source. The thing is there are many other sources to counter what they say. Too much spin IMO and too few educators, like myself, who are willing to counter the party line/spin.

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  4. given the current state of the USA education system I wouldn’t be sporting the “more than one year ahead of their US counterparts” numbers

    I worked in that particular industry and can tell you that all the technology investments by and large are a waist of money without the teachers being commited to using them…and although there are by far more good teachers than bad there are enough bad ones that there is a lot of wasted spending.

    If they really want to invest money in the education sector they need to open things up for new teachers and get rid of the dead wood…we all had teachers like that…one’s who couldn’t teach, hated kids, or just saw the job for a good way to have the summer off and all the stat holidays…

    Further, Instead of investing the money in the public or seperate school system they should be looking at higher education and investing the money directly into universities to drop student fees. Not through student loans…that just creats bad debt…put the money directly into the university system… Canadian students should have priority over those from outside of Canada… The system is broken today as students from outside of Canada are getting larger and larger presence in our Universities because they pay upwards to 5x what Canadian students pay…

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  5. Ontario students DROPPED from 7th place in 2006 to 9th place in reading in 2009. Like I said, depends on your sources as to how well Ontario public schools are doing.

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  6. Oh dear, Chris. Pearson? You do realize that this is a powerful educational publishing firm?

    An agenda there, maybe?

    Students entering their first year in post-secondary education are woefully lacking in writing and reading skills. My experience, and that of my colleagues, is that they’re getting worse, not better.

    Do you have a link to a more neutral source? Pristine neutrality isn’t possible, I know, but some sources are more reputable than others, don’t you think?

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  7. Too much spin IMO and too few educators, like myself, who are willing to counter the party line/spin.

    It sounds as if we’re fellow teachers-in-arms?

    I work with men and women who think like Chris; they believe firmly that spending more money necessarily translates into better education. It doesn’t. Far too often, powerful unions protect terrible teachers and block efforts for real reform.

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  8. Sounds like we are definitely teachers-in-arms. When I taught undergraduate, the lack of writing and study skills were awful. I had to take a whole class just to teach the students how to answer an essay question on an exam. Many of them would get terrible marks on the progress exams and wonder why. They simply talked all around a subject without ever actually answering the question.

    Was also was in teacher education, including grad education which I enjoyed very much, working with practising teachers who were willing to look outside their teachers’ unions envelope.

    I find that most teachers know the negatives about the education system and are willing to look at how to improve it without getting defensive. Chris is usually one of those. So, let’s give him some slack. 😉

    The problem is, IMO, when you lower the academic requirements to graduate from high school, all you do is transfer the problems to the post-secondary or trades levels. But, you see, those in the system are not there to observe it. So, they think we are exaggerating.

    News flash! We are not!

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  9. I don’t think anyone wants money thrown anywhere. But I try and make the point that when teachers work together with our partners: students, parents, and government, improvements can be made.

    It is clear that reinvesting in the system has produced results. No public education system is perfect but Ontario’s is first class.

    What would be great is if we actually got some policy meat from the PC’s. They have refused time and again to come clean with their plans for education.

    What are they hiding from parents? Cuts? Canceling full day learning?

    Teachers have requested to meet with Mr. Hudak again and again. He has met with every other stakeholder in education but the most important group: Teachers. Why? Is that leadership? Even if he disagrees with us, have the fortitude to at least meet to discuss our differences.

    If not, it should be no surprise to him if teachers look elsewhere for education friendly alternatives.

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  10. I don’t think anyone wants money thrown anywhere. But I try and make the point that when teachers work together with our partners: students, parents, and government, improvements can be made.

    I’m in full agreement with you here. I’m just concerned that too often the only solution that unions advance is to spend more money.

    I’ll have to look into the Conservative position on education — perhaps Sandy can give us more of a substantive response to your concerns?

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  11. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Sandy 🙂

    I know that teachers of various political stripes can agree to disagree on things, which doesn’t diminish the hard work they put into their profession.

    Some of the best teachers I’ve ever had were far-left in their political allegiance, but they deeply cared about my ability to learn and grow.

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  12. Chris — The PC Policy Convention is at the end of May in Toronto. Why don’t you attend? Why don’t other teachers attend? Or, would they be shunned if they did? You know the answer to that as well as I do.

    Then, you have the audacity to complain about Hudak not meeting with teachers and not coming up with policy.

    Well, think back. Remember 2007? The minute Hudak opens his mouth about education issues or possible policies, the Liberal war room types will be all over them just like with faith-based funding.

    So, I don’t blame them a bit to wait until just a few weeks before October 6th — in what will be the writ period.

    Remember too that when Elizabeth Witmer was Education Minister and she attended a teachers’ convention, she was spit at by teachers with brown bags over their heads.

    Similarly, I was at an OSSTF meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake when John Snobelen was verbally abused and ignored. Yet, he remained a class act, not something I can say for my colleagues, who talked over him the whole time he was trying to speak. I also heard a similar reaction with Janet Ecker.

    And, you wonder why the PCs haven’t sat down with teachers?

    Hudak has already said he won’t cut the ELP. Rather that he would freeze it and wait to see how much it costs. I believe him. So, why do you keep spinning that nonsense. I mean, it is not necessary to have an ELP program (even though the pre and post school day care has already been fobbed off onto other agencies) in every neighbourhood schools. All boards have to do is for those parents who want it, bus their kids to the nearest school that has it.

    Yet, you still asked what he was hiding from parents. In other words, in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter what Hudak says, teachers and the Liberals ignore it or make things up.

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  13. Good points Cory. Since the PC Policy Convention is not until the end of May, we won’t know specifically what a PC gov’t would do. But, I suspect they won’t change much.

    In the 1995 to 1999 period when I was the EA to an Ontario MPP and Parliamentary Asst to the Education Minister, they only improved the language arts curriculum from primary up. Yet, even today we hear how Mike Harris ruined the education system. He did no such thing and I know because I was there. In fact, I can remember reading things in the Toronto Star about what was going on in the Minister’s office. I’d laugh because I was up there on the 22nd floor and nothing untoward was going on. It was all teacher union paranoia.

    So, I have no plans to get into that paranoia now. When the PC Convention is over, I should know more. I may even interview Tim Hudak. He has offered to speak to me when he is in the Niagara area so I may take him up on it.

    Note to PC Party Staff:

    If anyone on Hudak’s team reads this thread, please contact me via my Contact Form before and after the Convention. I need to be able to answer my readers’ questions about what a PC government would do regarding education in this province. And, I can’t do that without information.

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  14. There are some Tory teachers, just not many. In the days of Bill Davis, teachers were rather evenly divided between the parties but after teachers saw the Mike Harris government they gravitated en masse to the other 2 particularly the Liberals. The teacher leadership is evenly divided between Libs and NDP with OECTA a little more Lib and OSSTF a little more NDP and ETFO about half and half. At the voting base they are very heavily Liberal to block a PC government. I know. We tested their opinions constantly within OSSTF and discussed the same with the other feds.

    I’m afraid Mr Hudaks attitude to education “review reconsider” leaves him wide open for another Liberal attack where McGuinty can win the election by saying we will just spend and spend and spend again because nobody deserves it more than your children.

    You need to check public opinion a bit more carefully. Public spending on class size reduction, ELP etc is VERY popular overall.

    Budgets go up ($6 Billion) because education is a highly labour intensive industry. 70% of any board budget is the cost of teacher, 10% is the cost of support staff, 10-15% is the cost of repairs maintenance, paper, books technology, heat and light. This CANNOT be controlled without a Wisconsin like assault on teachers and CUPE. Hudak has already said no to Wisconsin.

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  15. Like I said, Doug Little’s comment was predictable.

    Doug — I know it will go in one ear and come out the other, but I would suggest that you are the one who should check public opinion more carefully.

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  16. I work part time for Vector polling. We constantly review other polling from other companies. My job at OSSTF was to be right on top of the polls.

    Public spending on education is very popular. The ELP is very popular. When a program like ELP draws 67% suport, that basically means all NDP all Liberal and about 1 in 4 Tories supports it. McGuinty will beat Mr Hudak over the head with a table leg on this exactly like JT on religious funding.

    The only hope for Hudak is to say “Mr McGuinty is not spending nearly enough on education, I would add an etra billion and speed up the ELP. I have plans to lower class sizes further as well. THAT is a winning formula.

    BTW anybody notice the Supreme Court in BC just reversed the Liberal government on teacher contracts saying “the government must restore the teachers right to negotiate class size, the number of integrated SE kids, the length of the day and everything else that was in contracts before 2002. WOW. Could be coming to Ontario soon. Court said government had no right to narrow the conditions of collective bargaining.

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  17. In your dreams Doug — The Dalton McGuinty government will be done like dinner on October 6th, 2011, the only poll that matters. Nothing, absolutely nothing is going to change the subject from their incompetence and spend thrift ways. Nothing. Not even the Working Families Coalition.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, not going to happen!

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