L059B - Tue 16 May 2000 / Mar 16 mai 2000
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EDUCATION ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SUR LA RESPONSABILITÉ EN ÉDUCATION
Mrs Ecker moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 74, An Act to amend the Education Act to increase education quality, to improve the accountability of school boards to students, parents and taxpayers and to enhance students' school experience / Projet de loi 74, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation pour rehausser la qualité de l'éducation, accroître la responsabilité des conseils scolaires devant les élèves, les parents et les contribuables et enrichir l'expérience scolaire des élèves.
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of Labour): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek unanimous consent that the opposition have no more questions this week during question period.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): I'm going to have to look up the precedents for this just to be sure it's in order.
The Chair recognizes the Minister of Education to lead off debate.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): I'd like to let you know that I'll be splitting my time with my colleagues from the ridings of Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, Guelph-Wellington and Durham.
The goal of Bill 74, the proposed Education Accountability Act, is to keep Ontario firmly on the path to quality publicly funded education for our province's children. Parents have told us to ensure that students come first. They want school boards to be held accountable for delivering the benefits of Ontario's education reforms to their children. If it is approved by this Legislature, the bill will be an important step to securing and strengthening the benefits of education reform for Ontario's students. It will clarify province-wide standards in key areas of reform, it will provide enhanced authority for the government to uphold those standards and it will set new standards for lower average class sizes.
This bill confirms and consolidates important positive changes in education, changes that will increase quality based on challenging standards, changes that will ensure our priority is to direct more resources to the classroom and changes that will improve accountability to students, to parents and to taxpayers.
Before I get into the specifics of the bill, I think it's important to remind the members of how far we've come in meeting the commitments we made to the voters of Ontario, commitments that we made to ensure more accountability and better quality. From the start of our mandate, we've made key commitments to education reform. I think it's important to recognize that before we took office in 1995, there was a great deal of consensus around the need for change in education. I've mentioned many times the report of the Royal Commission on Learning that was released in 1994 and supported by all three parties. It reported on the urgent need for reform. It's easy now to forget that in the early 1990s there were parents, teachers and taxpayers who were organizing themselves into lobby groups to demand a better education system.
I also would like to point out there was a story in the Toronto Star, an editorial in 1993, that actually gave a failing grade to our schools and reported a tidal wave of parental anger and frustration with the education system. So there very much was a recognition of the need for change.
I must say too that recognizing the need for change doesn't in any way mean that we don't recognize and acknowledge that there are many good things in the education system. There are many excellent teachers, many committed staff, many people who are committed to the public education system. But at the same time, all three parties very much recognize that the education system we inherited in 1995 was in serious need of repair and revitalization. It was outdated, it lacked focus and it definitely needed a new direction.
The electorate of Ontario certainly recognized this problem as well. They charged us with the major responsibility to meet this challenge. We've certainly moved forward with our plan to do this, with the initiatives that we actually laid out before the election in 1995 and again in 1999, initiatives that emphasize quality and excellence through higher standards and more accountability.
We are now starting to see the benefits. We have a more rigorous curriculum, with clear expectations, that is better preparing our students for their future. We are testing students to ensure that they are indeed learning this new curriculum. We have clear, understandable report cards for parents. We have changes in secondary schools to better prepare our students for either their post-secondary destinations or directly into the workplace. There's more money going into classrooms, another important priority. There are more new schools, as I mentioned in the House last week, to get our children out of portables. We've had almost a 10% reduction in the number of portables-very important in those high-growth communities. There's a much stronger role for parents through the school council and other initiatives.
We're starting to see the benefits of many of those improvements, but we also recognize very clearly that the job is not over. That brings us to the legislation that is the topic of discussion tonight. I'd like to go through some of the key areas, and my colleagues will certainly be following up with other information about this.
The first very, very important issue has to do with what we like to call co-instructional activities, or what sometimes the public sees as extracurricular activities. With this bill and the amendments that we are proposing, we want to recognize in law the clear importance of co-instructional activities, how important they are to give our students a quality education. The language of the bill itself indicates the importance of ensuring that an excellent co-instructional program is available to all students throughout the year. As it says, co-instructional activities:
"(a) support the operation of schools,
"(b) enrich pupils' school-related experience, whether within or beyond the instructional program, or
"(c) advance pupils' education and education-related goals."
These activities can include things like "school-related sports, arts and cultural activities, parent-teacher and pupil-teacher interviews, letters of support for pupils, staff meetings and school functions"-the list is quite lengthy. We recognize the importance of these programs in key provincial policy documents, like our high school Program and Diploma Requirements. It states that co-instructional programs "provide students with opportunities for enrichment, the development of social skills and independence, and practice in making decisions and handling responsibility." Participation in these activities is also a good way to build positive relationships within a school community, between the teachers and the students, different groups of students, between the home and school. They're very, very important.
I'd also like to recognize that many committed teachers provide such experiences. They spend many hours beyond the formal instructional day on these and other activities because they enjoy them, certainly, but they also recognize that they're very much a benefit to students and help enhance and improve the education that those students receive.
Teachers have also very frequently said that they consider these school-related activities outside the hours that they actually spend in a classroom as very much part of their professional responsibilities, part of the job they do. Whenever we have looked at issues like instructional time, as we'll talk about a little later, we've heard the message very clearly that that's not all that teachers do. It's a very important message, because it is indeed true: That is not all that teachers do. They do much above and beyond simply standing in front of a classroom.
Parents also know very clearly that these activities are not extra, if you will. Parents expect these opportunities to be provided for their children. Unfortunately, we've also heard another story, a different story, about co-instructional activities in many communities, a story in which the availability of these programs, which provide so much to students-a story where these programs have been used as a bargaining chip in contract disputes between unions and school boards; stories of cancelled graduation ceremonies; letters of support for students for scholarships that have not been delivered; students not being allowed to officially register for regional track and field championships; about teachers who have been intimidated by some union members and have been prevented from offering these important activities for students; about communities where these activities have been withdrawn completely or where the threat of withdrawal has been put forward.
Parents have said very clearly that this is not acceptable for their students, and we agree. Ontario's students should not be pawns in labour or political disputes. So in the proposed legislation before you for consideration this evening, we seek to address this issue in a number of ways.
The first step is to state in the legislation that each board will develop a plan for the delivery of co-instructional activities. The second piece is that the school principal, in accordance with the board plan, will develop a school-based plan to provide these activities. Third, in developing that plan, the principal will consult with the school council, with the parents of that school community, to develop the plan. Fourth, if required, the principal will have the ability to assign these activities to make sure they are indeed provided for the students in that school.
I'd like to point out that despite what some of our critics are saying, this doesn't mean that every teacher will be doing everything. It doesn't mean that the art teacher is going to be coaching the football team. But it does mean that there is a mechanism in place to ensure that our students do not lose out on these important co-instructional activities.
The second major issue in the legislation has to do with instructional time. This is another important initiative, because while the activities that teachers provide to students outside regular classroom hours are important, maintaining province-wide standards for the amount of time that teachers spend in classrooms with their pupils is also an important part of this government's plan to improve student achievement.
The Education Improvement Commission in 1997 reported that secondary school teachers in Ontario were spending significantly less time teaching in the classroom than their counterparts in other provinces. The commission recommended to this government that this time be increased. We agreed and we set a province-wide standard that required high school teachers to teach, on average, four hours and 10 minutes a day. This moved our teachers closer to the national average for teaching time in Canada, which is actually a little higher: four hours and 20 minutes a day. We set this standard of four hours and 10 minutes a day two years ago. Unfortunately, many boards and unions negotiated agreements that did not comply with this standard. I said very clearly as bargaining began this year that we expected boards to be in compliance with this workload standard and that we would not accept boards using money given to them for other purposes-for example, in some cases textbooks-to be subsidizing, if you will, a decreased workload. Also, teachers' unions and school boards both had requested that if we were going to close this loophole, if we were going to be firm and enforce this workload standard, we would have to clarify what teaching duties the standard included and certainly we heard the message that if this was to be done, it had to be fair to every community.
Our proposed legislation does indeed do that. It would restate the instructional time requirement in terms of course load. This change provides a definition of "instructional time" to actually better reflect the practical requirements of assigning duties to teachers in a secondary school. The standard we sent out two years ago, the four hours and 10 minutes, or 1,250 minutes, as it's sometimes expressed, or as the unions have said, 6.67 out of eight-we've defined it in a clearer fashion that recognizes these practical requirements. It sets the standard as 6.67 eligible courses per school year. And we define, again so it's very clear, that an eligible course includes a credit course, obviously, that a student takes for a degree; a non-credit course if required for a diploma or certificate; a special education program; or remedial courses-an important distinction-including the teacher adviser program. Each school board would be required to ensure that its secondary school teachers are teaching an average of 6.67 eligible courses during the school year.
I go back to the remediation point, because this is an important improvement in how we have set this standard. Remediation and the teacher adviser programs were not specifically recognized in the original definition. Teachers said that remediation was extremely important, especially with the new curriculum, with its higher standards. We agreed, and we've included it in instructional time. We've put almost $90 million towards making that happen, which I think is an extremely important commitment.
I should say that how we define remediation-because I understand there's some concern about this-is that the amendments, as I said, recognize remedial help as instruction. It says that it must take place in a regularly scheduled class, with a teacher qualified to instruct them. For example, a remedial math class for grade 9 would have to be taught by a teacher qualified in teaching math. We have a definition again to make sure it is clear.
I know it may be a little confusing for our viewers when we talk about this standard, but I think it's very important to know that it is the equivalent of the four hours and 10 minutes originally set two years ago.
It's also important to recognize that this standard does provide flexibility, because we recognize that teachers have different kinds of workloads and courses they must deal with. Principals, under these amendments, would be able to continue the current practice of assigning different course loads to different teachers based on the needs of students and what works best for their schools.
The third important area deals with making sure that our education quality standards are indeed being implemented. As we set higher standards, as we set standards to ensure better quality, we need to ensure that those standards are actually being met by school boards and that school boards are accountable for doing this. The Education Improvement Commission just reiterated in their most recent report the need for greater accountability in our system around these kinds of issues. So these amendments will strengthen school board accountability as part of our plan to continue improving the quality of education.
If these amendments are passed, they will give the province the ability to take steps in the interests of students if the local school board is not meeting its legal, educational and financial responsibilities in key priority areas.
Under the proposed legislation, the minister would be able to direct an investigation of the affairs of a board if the minister has concerns that the board may not be in compliance with important key reform areas, like:
-The new curriculum.
-Co-instructional activities, as I mentioned earlier, or, as some people know them, the extracurricular. So co-instructional activities would be part of this.
-Class size requirements. As you know, we're trying to bring class sizes down.
-Teaching time requirements.
-The amounts of monies that go to trustees.
-Requirements that certain funds allocated through Ontario's student-focused funding model must be spent in the areas to which they are targeted. For example, grants for special education must be spent on special education. As I mentioned earlier, in some boards money that had been given to them for textbooks had been used to subsidize a lower teacher workload.
This proposed legislation would deal with some of these important areas.
The bill proposes a fair and objective process to determine whether there needs to be action, whether there needs to be an intervention. These amendments adopt a process that is similar to what's already found in the Education Act for investigating and, if necessary, supervising the affairs of a school board that may be mismanaging its finances. That's a provision that's been in this legislation for more than 50 years. It's a model that has been very helpful and useful and worked well, so that is the model we have adopted for these other important issues.
A minister would also be able to initiate an investigation if there are concerns that a board may not be in compliance with some of those important priority areas I mentioned, or-and this is another important piece-if a complaint alleging non-compliance is received from a school council or a group of taxpayers, again getting back to the importance that we believe taxpayers and parents and the school councils have in education. If a minister were to receive a complaint, the minister could direct an investigation, provide a written response to the complaint setting out the reasons for perhaps not following through with an investigation. We'll be outlining further details on this very important complaint process in the regulations.
Following an investigation, a minister would have the authority to direct a school board to correct any non-compliance. I don't think this will occur, but if a board were to defy the law, the government would have the ability to temporarily place the board under supervision to assume control until the problem was resolved. Following such an order, members of a board who vote to break the law would be guilty of an offence with a maximum fine of up to $5,000 upon conviction. Also again as currently exists, in certain circumstances there could well be disqualification from holding office under the Municipal Elections Act or the Education Act. Any officer or employee of a board who failed to carry out such orders could be dismissed from office or liable to a fine, again of up to $5,000 upon conviction.
Yes, there are penalties in this legislation. They mirror some of the authority that is already there, but also underline very clearly the importance that we see to reform initiatives like curriculum, for example, like class size.
That brings me to the issue of class size, the final major issue that this legislation deals with. This will enable the province to ensure that, among the other standards I've mentioned, maximum average class size standards would be upheld. Before 1998, many parents had expressed concern that these large class sizes were adversely affecting their children's ability to learn, and it's certainly something you hear from teachers as well. As part of our commitment to provide a quality education for each and every student, we've set in the legislation maximum average class sizes of 25 students to each teacher at the elementary level and 22 students to each teacher at the secondary level. When these province-wide standards came into effect at the start of the 1998-99 school year, they clearly ended a province-wide trend to increasing average class sizes, and stopped the practice of some school boards and some teachers' unions negotiating increases in class size as part of their contract bargaining.
Average class size, because of that legislation, has declined overall already. We do have examples. The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board's elementary average class size decreased from 27 students down to 24, a significant change. York Region District School Board's secondary average class size went from 24 down to 22.
So we had seen some improvement, but we still continued to hear from parents, from teachers, that there were still too many classes that were large, and that was something that for good, quality education they felt we needed to address.
In this legislation we propose to take another step to do this. We will have a lower average class size in the primary grades. For junior kindergarten to grade 3, we'll bring that down to 24 for children in the primary grades. We've heard the minister with responsibility for children talk about the importance of those early years before school, but also for those primary grades in school. This will bring that class size down. There will be a lower overall maximum average class size for all elementary classes, JK to grade 8, to 24.5 pupils to each teacher, again an important change. For secondary schools there will be a maximum average class that will come down to 21 students to each teacher. All of these smaller classes will come into effect this coming September. To achieve this reduction is important, but I think it's also important for taxpayers to recognize there is a significant investment required from this government. As was announced in the budget for the elementary changes, the elementary school level, it will be over $100 million a year. That's additional funding, permanent funding. In the secondary panel we will be providing an estimated $162 million in funding to support the lowered maximum average class size in secondary schools.
School boards will be required to report annually to the public on their average class size-again, that's an important accountability measure to parents-and they'll have to do it both by school and on a board-wide basis. These reports, which must be submitted to the ministry by December 15, are also available to the public and to school councils, and the boards must use a consistent province-wide method to calculate their average class sizes.
So these are the four key areas that this legislation proposes to deal with. The amendments support our focus on students' progress towards quality education. I'm confident that these amendments will help move us towards even better-quality education and better accountability, and they certainly signal our government's firm and continuing commitment to achieve the promise of education reform for Ontario's students. I certainly invite all members to join with me in putting students first by supporting these amendments.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm very pleased to follow the minister and join in the debate on the Education Accountability Act. When you look at the title of this act and we talk about accountability, those are the ingredients of the standards the public expects should be set by the province for the delivery of education. We're talking about co-instructional activities. We're talking about class size. We're talking about instructional time.
The Education Act and also this Education Accountability Act set out very clearly what the roles are with respect to the minister's powers in dealing with education. I think it's very clear, based on the election that we went through in 1999, that the public expects the province to set the standards for education to ensure that there is quality education delivered and that such fundamental areas as co-instructional activities, class size and instructional time are not negotiation tools which will infringe on or weaken the foundation of a quality education. The minister touched on it somewhat, where we found boards had negotiated increased class sizes in exchange for compensation, and where we had in the set of negotiations in 1998 and 1999 situations where co-instructional activities-also termed by teachers' federations as "extracurricular activities"-were used as a negotiation tool to get what they wanted, in terms of withdrawal of the particular activity.
Those approaches to dealing with education, because we have to put the student first, are just not acceptable. So the framework that has been set up under the Education Accountability Act mirrors the Education Act in terms of responsibilities and powers, the minister's role, the school board's role, the principal's role at the school level and also the teacher's role at the classroom level, and very clearly sets out, very clearly delineates what is the standard and what is expected.
In the time that I have tonight, I want to speak on co-instructional activities and exactly what that involves and exactly what we're trying to accomplish with that particular section of the act. The legislation makes very clear what co-instructional time is and I will deal with that in due course. But in terms of the accountability aspect, the proposed legislation makes it a duty of a board to provide co-instructional activities; it also makes it a duty of a teacher to participate in co-instructional activities; and finally, it makes it a duty of a principal to assign co-instructional activities. There's also an element with respect to the board putting together a plan that obviously has to be followed through at the school level by the principal, and also an obligation on the principal to consult with the school council with regard to that co-instructional plan that is being developed for that particular school.
That is something that is sensible. It's the way the system works now and obviously it is what is necessary. When we're looking at co-instructional activities, that's what brings about a quality education in terms of rounding out what the community is, because that's what a school is: It's a community. You have to make sure that all those activities which would normally happen in a community are not something that can be bargained away, something that can be weakened to take away from what that special system is. Traditionally, many teachers have been involved in a wide variety of sports or cultural activities. You know, it's not just the sports teams; it's also dealing with graduation exercises, activities with respect to the arts and, as I said, cultural activities.
We think that in terms of dealing with co-instructional activities the focus with respect to what is happening out there already shouldn't be something that can be used as a tool to forward the agenda of something that is related to a labour relations perspective and take away from the community activity that we're trying to deal with. Certainly that's not defined under the Education Act at this point in time. But the Education Accountability Act defines and provides that co-instructional activities are activities other than instruction that support the operation of a school and enrich pupils' school-related experiences. I think the operative words in the definition are "support the operation of schools" and "enrich pupils' school-related experience."
The proposed act defines co-instructional activities to include sports, arts and cultural activities, parent-teacher and pupil-teacher interviews, staff meetings, school functions etc, and the intention is that the board develop and implement a plan for the delivery of co-instructional activities. They're the delivery agent with respect to education in this province: the school board level. A principal, in accordance with the board plan, develops a school plan to provide co-instructional activities and assigns teachers to the activities. That's what the principals do now when they deal with running a school and assigning duties. That's not new. What we are also looking for is for the principal to consult with school councils about the school's plan. As well, a teacher's duty is to participate in providing co-instructional activities, as assigned by the principal, and these activities may take place at any time and any day during the school year, whether or not a school day, on school premises or elsewhere, as set out in the board's plan.
So clearly, with respect to co-instructional activity, the board has the responsibility to develop the plan so the principal can implement that plan at the school level and so the teacher can follow through on the duties that are being requested. The act makes it very clear that co-instructional activities being used as a negotiation tool in terms of withdrawal of services or a partial withdrawal of services cannot happen and states what the consequences are to the respective parties, be it a trade union, federation or a person who is going to engage in that activity.
The clearness with respect to the responsibilities is what makes this act what it stands for in terms of accountability, and I think that's what's expected in terms of managing the educational system in this great province. Co-instructional activities, from the principal's perspective, from the teacher's perspective and from the board's perspective, are something that are a part of their everyday routine; something that students look forward to, depending on what the activity is, be it sports, be it arts, be it cultural; and certainly something that the parents expect with respect to a proper and balanced education for their children.
So on this part of the legislation, co-instructional activities, what we have done here is made it very clear that we don't want this particular aspect to negatively impact on co-instructional activity in our schools. The importance of extracurricular activities is something you hear about as an MPP, because whether it's a swimming program or something the students want to participate in, the decision is made at the school level about what co-instructional activities they're going to provide. That's where you have to prioritize in terms of what is expected and what is needed with respect to that particular school. That's why the school councils have a role to play, obviously, parents representing the students' interests in this particular aspect. I think it's very balanced in terms of trying to get input from school councils with respect to what the principal's going to be implementing. I would expect the principals to be having input with the school board at that level.
Not every teacher gets involved in co-instructional activities. There is an opportunity for all teachers to be involved, but some choose not to be. That doesn't mean it has to turn into a negotiation tool or something on which everybody takes a position when it comes to labour relations negotiations. That's wrong, and that's why when you look at how the province manages the education system in terms of the standards they set-certainly the public expects standards with respect to classroom size, they expect standards with respect to instructional time, with respect to dealing with report cards and the other reforms we've brought into place. Those things have to be set out so everybody knows what's expected of them. It's for the school boards to implement that particular quality standard the public has come to expect.
That aspect of it encompasses the entire community. In my area of Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, one of the larger electoral areas in the province, with two large school boards, there are tremendous challenges, not only in terms of geography, the areas covered, but also the needs of every school and the needs of the communities within that particular area, because in Simcoe county there are 16 separate municipalities. The Simcoe Catholic board also extends into Muskoka, and they're a larger geographical board.
So the balances that have to be put in place with respect to co-instructional activities are something the boards already handle. They now know how and what is expected of them and that they can't be interfered with or used as a negotiation tool to impact. How they deliver that particular aspect of their school program is something that parents, students and, I would expect, teachers and principals welcome, because it is an important part of our education system. It balances it and brings all aspects to what is supposed to be an education, not only in the curriculum students are expected to learn but also in the activities they feel are important to the quality not only of their education but also of their life. When you deal with sports and cultural activities and arts, you're dealing with something that people generally, beyond when they leave secondary school, are going to participate in and perhaps even make their vocation.
I'm very pleased to have been able to speak on second reading debate of to the Education Accountability Act. I will relinquish my time to the member for Durham.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I'd like to thank the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford for sharing his time, as well as the minister. I listened with some interest to the minister this evening, as I have all along She started by suggesting she was prepared to listen and work with people, and I quite honestly mean that's the impression I got. There have been difficulties. No one on either side of this House would deny that.
Why would I start with that premise? We're going to hear some technical definitions or interpretations tonight, because I know the opposition are here, as they should be, listening. It's important to start with yourself and really look at it. I'm the parent of five children. My wife is a teacher, I might say successfully. My daughter Marnie has graduated from Western and from Lakehead University and will be a secondary school teacher this September. In fact, she was teaching today. Both my wife and my daughter love teaching, as do my sisters and others in my family who are teachers. Sometimes they're at odds with me. It is a topic of not just this past weekend, when my son Erin was home from Halifax, and my nephew Ryan Brooks, who's a principal, a young principal, I might add, just outside Peterborough-they have had difficulty relating to me as a non-educator, although I am an educator. As a parent I'm an educator.
You have to go back even further than that. When I was first elected as a school trustee, Mr Conway, who is here tonight-the member from Renfrew somewhere; it's most of eastern Ontario he looks after, Renfrew-Nipis-sing-Pembroke-was about to become the Minister of Education. In fact, I've always remarked that it was my duty, being the representative from that area and I think vice-chair or something at the time-he was the Minister of Education and came to announce a new school. In the old days, a new school was like a pontification from the ministry. It was this great political weapon of getting a new school, and we had huge growth. But today I would say respectfully that we've taken all the anxiety of the grants for capital out of the political process and put it where it belongs: where the students are.
Education reform, Mr Conway would know, whether it's the pension system, which was dealt with some years ago and is still a problem today-I would say almost every government has had some kind of royal commission on it. To say there haven't been some problems would be absolutely not paying attention for the last 15 years or so. Most of us in this House have spent some time as a trustee, I myself for a couple of terms, maybe longer-longer than I care to remember. I look back to the previous government and I think of David Cooke, now on the Education Improvement Commission, and his time as the Minister of Education. I think the first four bills we introduced in this Legislature were as a result of discussions and deliberations of the previous two governments, both the Liberal and NDP governments.
John Sweeney was a Liberal cabinet minister, of course, who led the discussion on the governance model in education, how much of the $12 billion to $14 billion in education was actually being spent on governance. I think there were some 130-plus boards in the province. It affected my area significantly. I had five boards in my area, not including the Christian schools, that is, the private or denominational schools, which of course aren't publicly funded.
All I'm trying to establish is the need for reform. Style and substance are two quite different things, but I think everyone here would agree that the need for reform was essential. If they don't, they simply have not been paying attention. I would go back as far as the Hall-Dennis report and say that reform started but was poorly directed at the time. Intentions were well-founded but the outcomes were less than adequate. I think I have established, without having a lot of time to spend on the need for change-I'm always very reflective on trying to convince both the viewer and the people in the House here tonight-that change was necessary.
As a concluding remark on the necessity for change, the motive for change was not just the Sweeney commission on the governance model but the Royal Commission on Learning. Monique Bégin and Gerald Caplan led that debate and came up with a report that had, I believe, some 167 recommendations for change. I might say to those listening tonight, one of those recommendations was the need for teacher testing. They called it something different; that's where the semantics and the politics of the media come into it. But what they were saying was that we had to move forward with change.
The medium of education delivery itself has profoundly changed from when I was a student in OAC many years ago. At that time there were departmental exams. That set very clear standards. I always recall-and if we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it-that when I was in grade 13 there were two people in the class who were extremely bright. I wasn't one of them, by the way. Both of them have PhDs today. Both of those people, who were Ontario scholars, have PhDs. Both teach in Ontario universities today. I'm proud to say I know them. I represent very ordinary Ontarians, hard-working Ontarians, the people who pay taxes and obey the law. That's who I represent. A parent of five children: That's probably my biggest qualifier. Any post-secondary education is purely from tenacity and hard work, not from brilliance.
I've established the fact that change was absolutely critical. I don't think anybody would disagree. When we came in, we looked at introducing some of the recommendations of both the Sweeney commission, which reduced the number of school boards to I believe 67-let's just dwell on that one piece and the importance of that one piece on education. Let's say in simple round numbers that the budget for education, elementary and secondary, was around $12 billion. It was a confusing complex of how it was funded on the local levy part, which was an equity issue-dealt with by the Fair Tax Commission, who said education should be publicly funded and all children should be treated equally. We're trying to get there; we're trying very, very hard to get there without much time to debate that. Let's say we were spending $12 billion and let's say we eliminated half the boards. Let's say that of the $12 billion, roughly 10% was spent on administration. That would be $1.2 billion. If we eliminated half the boards, you would think there would be savings or efficiencies that didn't affect the classroom. Half of $1.2 billion is $600 million. I would think, without doing any more math than that, that there would be efficiencies. If, for instance, those efficiencies were just ingested into the system and could not be clearly demonstrated as going directly into the classroom-I personally, as a parent, as a taxpayer, as a former trustee and a spouse of a teacher, believe that the system has to provide first for the children, absolutely first for the children in the classroom.
I'm going to expand on a model that I think is quite simple, in the remaining time I have. I have to share my time with the member for Guelph-Wellington. An average school model might be 500 students in the elementary panel. Let's say that for each of the 500 students, the approximate funding would be between $5,000 and $6,000. For those listening tonight, let's keep it simple: 500 students at approximately $6,000 each is about $3 million going into that school. We set ratios of class size at 25 to 1. You can do the numbers. With that budget of $3 million, you could almost-I want you to sit down tonight and just pencil in the numbers. For 500 students with $3 million in the school-I've done the numbers-you could give each child $100 a month for busing and to pay for the school and still not be able to spend all the money. What has happened is we have too far many conventions in California and too little chalk left in the classroom.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): That's it. That's the problem. There you go.
Mr O'Toole: That's exactly the fact. Everyone who's legitimized in education "has to have a PhD." I put it to you that the best thing you need in the elementary system is a caring person with a post-secondary education in a subject that's related to learning.
I've gone through this bill, because Bill 160 received a lot of time in this House and outside the House. There are four fundamental changes here. I'm just going to repeat those and then I'm going to allow the member for Guelph-Wellington to complete my speech.
The member from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford covered co-instructional activities. It was a very important part of my children's educational life in high school. On class size, not just Mustard but many studies in the elementary system-there isn't as much evidence, by the way, in the secondary system-show there's a correlation between class size and learning. In primary education it certainly is important. There's evidence there to support that.
Some subjects are more difficult than others. Instructional time is very important, but I think the big piece here is co-instructional time. That's the importance of having time for art, music and culture in the life of a student in secondary school. It's very important. It's hard to quantify. I think educators should be involved and certainly should be paramount; I also think parents and senior students should be involved and learning teachers should be involved as well.
Getting down to this whole thing of instructional time, I remember clearly the clock ad. It's going to upset everybody. I hope we don't have to play that one again, but it was a very simplified demonstration of what is actually in-the-classroom time and outside-the-classroom time. If you do the numbers, 1,250 minutes per week is 21 hours or something like that. I think there's absolutely every evidence that there's some necessity for preparation time.
I'd like to keep it simple. Perhaps I'm off message here. I'm putting down all my notes so I can come clean. I would just say this to you in my last minute: I'm trying to influence the best outcomes for the students here. If I was to think of seven hours a day as a normal day-and I'm not trying to be smart here; I'm just trying to say of course we could say we only sit here from 1:30 till 6 at night or 9, whatever. My point is this: That core time of seven hours in the facility, of which four hours and 10 minutes is teaching-it's actually not four hours and 10 minutes; it's 6.67. You do the numbers. Let's say they do four periods. At an hour and 10 minutes a period-do the numbers. They need prep time; no question about it. Some subjects need more prep time than others. When you have a union mentality, it means that everybody's doing the same thing. Experienced teachers in calculus probably need less time. I think the profession should come forward and say: "Look, we need a seven-hour day. We need a five-day week. We need 190 teaching days. We need to have 110 hours of credit."
The most important thing here is quality education and putting the student first. The member for Guelph-Wellington is going to add more details with respect to the bill, but I'm interested in listening to the whole debate over the next several days.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this Bill 74. The long title is An Act to amend Education Act to increase education quality, to improve the accountability of school boards to students, parents and taxpayers and to enhance students' school experience.
When we come to this place from our various backgrounds, it's always interesting to learn what each of us has done in years past. I'm a mother of four, all of whom have been in the public education system. My last and youngest, Gregory, is about to graduate this year, so I will no longer have any more children in elementary or secondary schools. All of those years, until I was elected to this place, I was very active in supporting our local schools. I was one of those members of parent councils who sold cheese and all those kinds of things. Those are not new since the Harris government was elected; those have been going on for many years in our riding.
One of the main things our government undertook when being elected was to make improvements to the education system and the emphasis, absolutely, has been consistently on improving the quality. What I didn't say was that prior to starting my family and raising my children, I was also educated as a teacher and taught for a few years upon graduation. I enjoyed that profession very much. It was something I had wanted to do from, I guess, my early teens. I somehow felt I had an affinity to being a teacher and I think when I was in the classroom I was a very good teacher. There are many teachers across this province who are indeed excellent teachers.
But it became apparent to me and to so many others that there was something wrong within our system. While my children were at one school, it fell upon my shoulders at some point to organize parents all across our county to-actually we said we were assisting the board; what was really occurring was that we were going over and around our school board because our school board could not seem to find it within their ability to get money for new schools. A group of parents and myself as the leader got together and we determined that our county of Wellington was at the time actually growing faster than Peel. Our board seemed unable to get money from the province. They seemed unable to build schools. There were portables here and there, all over the place. Children in school were being threatened with being put into church basements and here and there, all over the place. It was very evident for many years that the funding system within this province was deficient in so many different ways. I was very pleased to see our government undertake to establish a more fair, focused student funding model across this province.
The bill that we're debating today, the Education Accountability Act, is a follow-up to Bill 160. As my colleague before me indicated, there are four key areas to this bill. They deal with co-instructional activities, class size, instructional time and compliance with board obligations. We, as a government, have taken a very clear leadership role in setting directions for the boards, for teachers in their classrooms, and our focus has always been to improve the outcomes for the students, to improve their educational opportunities.
What I'd like to speak to specifically tonight are the issues of class size. In my board, as in so many other boards, over the years the class sizes seemed to grow. I know there's no pedagogical evidence that indicates that smaller classes produce better students and with higher marks and so on and so forth, but parents and teachers and, I think, students understand that the more individualized the opportunity for instruction, hence smaller class size, the better the educational experience. Our government set province-wide standards that ensured the trend to larger class sizes did not continue in this province because we recognized this was absolutely essential for quality education in Ontario.
Since 1998-99, school boards in the province have been required by our government to ensure that, on a board-wide basis, the average class size does not exceed 25 students in elementary and 22 in secondary. We've supported that through the focused funding model and I'm pleased to say that the evidence indicates that all the boards have either met or in fact exceeded that. We've decided there's more yet for us to do, so we are now putting into legislation new standards for smaller average class sizes.
The recent budget that was just introduced was very well received and two of the reasons it was very well received were that we have added an additional $101 million annually to reduce average class sizes at the elementary level and also $162 million to reduce the maximum average class size at the secondary level. The change that will occur for class sizes, if approved under Bill 74, will be that the board average class size will be 24 for each teacher at the primary level, which is of course junior kindergarten to grade 3, 24.5 pupils to each teacher at the elementary level up to grade 8, down from 25, and 21 pupils for each teacher at the high school level, down from 22. School boards will still have the opportunity to have local input, will have the flexibility to implement these limits in a way that best suits the needs of their students. We have always respected the ability of the boards to make decisions that are required by their local areas. They can also tailor the legislative requirements to accommodate things like class size caps for certain grades. I understand some boards are already working on that.
While I have just said that we respect the boards' ability to respond to the local needs of their students, we have also in this legislation ensured that school boards report publicly to the minister on their average class size, by school and on a board-wide basis. We're doing this because it's very important that the school boards are accountable. So many parents have come to me in my riding over the years, very unhappy because they had a really hard time getting direct, clear and straightforward answers from their boards. Parents want to be assured that when they send their children off to school in the morning they are getting the very best educational experience possible. When it's difficult to get answers about class sizes, when it's difficult to get answers about a teacher's accountability, for instance, or about a specific program, it makes the parents uneasy.
I know that our minister, our Premier and I are very confident that the members of our government want to do everything we can to make sure that our public school system is the best it can be. I believe this legislation is necessary. I think it is going to go much further in enhancing the quality of classroom life for our students. Education is very important, not only in the broad economic picture of Ontario, because the future of so many industries is going to be brains rather than brawn, but it's the right thing to do. We owe it to our children and we as leaders have an obligation to ensure that all of the partners in the system, be they the teachers' unions, be they the boards or be they the teachers, do everything they can to be the very best at a time when children are at a vulnerable state and are absolutely relying on us for leadership.
I am very pleased to support this bill. I congratulate the minister on this bill. I believe it will go far to making education better in Ontario.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I certainly do have a great deal to say about the proposed legislation that we are debating this evening. I'm pleased to be able to make some comments on what I've heard, the debate that has taken place so far. The member for Durham made some references to prep time, that this legislation would tighten up prep time and how it would be used within schools. He made some references to the fact that some subjects might require more prep time than others. I have to say I was really taken aback that an individual who indicates that there are a lot of educators in his family-his wife is an educator, his children have become educators, he's a former school board trustee-would make a comment about prep time, relating it to the particular subject.
Prep time is that opportunity for teachers to make individual plans for their students. If they have a number of extraordinary students, exceptional students, students who have particular needs, this is an opportunity for them to make plans in their program on how they will deliver the curriculum, how they will fashion their program to deliver that curriculum. To even suggest that prep time has anything to do with subjects, in my opinion, only reflects that the members on the other side of the House really don't understand how education works and what prep time really means.
If we were judged in our roles by the amount of time we spend in this room and it was assumed that we only work when we're sitting here, that would be a very unfair assumption in terms of the effort we put forth on behalf of our constituents. Likewise, I think it's equally unfair to suggest that teachers only work when they're in front of students in classrooms.
The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Marchese: I just want to say to the people watching that I'll be on at 9 o'clock in case you want to hear my views. It's not worth wasting the couple of seconds that I have, except to remind the good folks that in approximately one hour I'll have a few remarks to make.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): I'd like to go back in history a little bit, if I may, to the days when I was in high school. They call it secondary school now. I know the member from Renfrew and the member for Kingston and the Islands might say that's ancient history, but we'll just pass on that.
When I was in high school, I took part in track and football and basketball and major play. I remember very well that the teachers took a very active part in that and they exemplified great leadership. To them, I say thank you and I am very appreciative. But I do want to comment that times have changed. I see, from a number of my relatives and friends that, yes, they are under a lot of pressure, but teachers today don't recognize that people outside of the teaching profession also have great pressures. It is a change that has come on to society not just in the education field but outside of the education field.
I don't think any one of us wants to attack a teacher. Certainly I won't be a part of that. But I would like to comment that when I see things that are happening, such as in the Durham area, where teachers are not taking part in extracurricular activities, that hurts the students, but it also hurts the reputation of the teachers. This is not constructive. If a government is to take a leadership role to the benefit of the students, then we must make some change to the legislation to ensure that the students are protected, to ensure that what has happened in Durham does not take place in another part of the province.
I really believe that this legislation, this clarification, is necessary.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): I'll have an opportunity to speak a little later this evening, but I do want to comment that I was more than a little surprised that the member for Durham would see fit to give reference to the clock ad tonight. The member from Kitchener-Waterloo says he wouldn't want to attack teachers. That's the government's line of the evening, which makes it even more surprising that the member for Durham would want to raise the launching of a direct frontal attack on teachers-the clock ad, which was a deliberate misrepresentation of the work that teachers do; the clock ad, which was an absolutely shameful abuse of taxpayer money to launch an attack on people who teach our children and an absolutely shameless attack on a group of people that the government comes into the House tonight and pretends it wants to value.
It was 32 years ago that I first ran for school board and in some 32 years I've had a lot of experience with teachers, as a school trustee, as an MPP and as a parent of four kids who have gone through the school system. The majority of teachers whom I have met over those 32 years are people who simply love to teach kids. One of the things that reassured me over those years was that no matter what unusual things school boards might do, no matter what crazy things would come down from Queen's Park, no matter who was in government, teachers would still go in and close the doors and teach kids. And no matter how beaten up they felt, teachers would still go back, for their love of kids and their commitment to kids, and go above and beyond what their job called on them to do.
This afternoon I met a class of students from a little town of Upsala on a trip to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal-the kind of thing that school kids from my part of the province get an opportunity to do because teachers believe it's important to give their students that kind of an experience. On Saturday night I was at an awards of excellence put on by the secondary school teachers, in which we recognized the achievement of students. All of those achievements were made possible because of the commitment of teachers, those same teachers being devalued by this government, and that's why this has nothing to do with quality teaching tonight.
The Deputy Speaker: The Minister of Education has two minutes to respond.
Hon Mrs Ecker: The member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan is quite right that there are many teachers out there who go above and beyond, and political fights-
Interjection: Why don't you say that more often?
Mrs McLeod: So why do you beat them all up?
Hon Mrs Ecker: I have said that on many occasions and I will continue to recognize the excellent work that so many teachers do. I think it's also important to recognize that, as the honourable member talked about, no matter what government was in place, teachers have had fights with governments. That's quite true, and they've gone back into their classrooms and they've continued to do what they went into teaching for, to teach children. I respect that very, very much.
When you look at what is enclosed in this bill, we have also put in this bill almost $350 million in new dollars to the system for lower class size, for more help for teachers on remediation, for the teacher adviser program, because those were things that teachers told me were important: smaller classes, extra help for the kids who were having problems with the new curriculum, the teacher adviser program, which was really important. I think that is a significant investment in front-line classrooms that says that we do value, that we do recognize the importance of teachers in our classrooms. It means an awful lot for a front-line teacher to have a smaller class size. It's certainly what they've told me. It's certainly what they've told many of the members of our caucus who have family members who are teachers, husbands and wives and sons and daughters, they have children in the system, and a good strong public education system is what all of this is about.
How we will help ensure not only that we have a successful society, a prosperous society, but that individuals will be able to succeed in their own lives is through a very, very good education system. That's what these changes are about. That's what we will continue to make the changes for, to achieve that goal.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): It has come to this: a tawdry little bill that presumes to insert itself into the time when this government is finally having to come to terms with the costs of its so-called education reforms.
This is a government that won't prescribe accountability for itself. It will talk ceaselessly, endlessly, about what other people in the system should do but will never stand accountable, not as individual members, not as a minister, not as an education committee of cabinet, and not as the Premier, for the decisions that they make in the lives of this province's children and their ability to be educated well. So we have a government with a slight air of desperation trying to distract and disguise and draw away from the real agenda that it has. That agenda is well revealed in the public estimates of this province.
I offer to the members of this House and to the people at home a copy of our document, De-funding Education in Ontario, which describes exactly the context for this bill we have tonight. Not a great achievement in education. Not something appealing to the better requirement of society, in fact maybe one of the singular trusts of society, to provide equal access to high quality education. That is not what this bill is about.
What this bill is about instead is what this paper describes: cuts which this government has exacted from the first day it came into office and reductions in its share of the funding to education. If you look in estimates, you'll see that there's $484 million less money being made available in last week's budget than there was in 1994. You only need to look slightly further to see that despite the games that have been played by this government-downloading and swapping different grants and so on-it is possible to see the actual constant funding. What does it add up to? It is an additional cut of $387 million once you factor in the social contract costs which this government foisted on the school boards around the province. We have a total of $871 million less being provided to school boards by this government. A reduction in its share, the true count, the true measure, the true accounting of this government's real concern for children.
We can see very clearly that this is a government that wants to distract us from these figures. This is a government that doesn't want these figures and this actual lack of attention, lack of care, lack of concern for individual school children to be what parents and schools and other educational communities around the province focus themselves on. When we go further, when we look at the reasonable obligations of a government that proclaims from the highest peaks of the province and says "We have balanced the budget"-mind you, we're ninth out of 11 governments and it took us a long time and we gave away a tremendous amount of money in tax cuts that we borrowed for, but at the end of the day they say and they claim to have balanced the budget. But who paid for that? This was paid for by the school children of this province through this government not keeping pace at all with the cost of enrolment, with the cost of inflation. When that is factored in, there's a further $745 million that this government, through its negligence, has denied from its share of funding of education, that it would not provide, a total of $1.6 billion-a 29% reduction by the members opposite. That's what they've sanctioned since they've come into office. That's what they continue to seek from the education system.
When we see this particular government-
The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Order.
Mr Kennedy: When this $1.6 billion or 29% reduction in the commitment of this government to education comes up, it is clear that these members opposite, the government, don't want to be held accountable. This is not an accountability bill for them. This is how to foist the attention of the province elsewhere, how to detract from what their real agenda is.
It is sadly clear as well that the primary objects touted by the honourable member for Durham, for example, or the member for Kitchener Centre-what was this government up to? What did it think it was doing when it stumbled around the education system the last five years? What did it think it was accomplishing? We heard mysterious figures plucked from the air by the member for Durham as he talked about administration costs. As it turns out, we actually have the administration costs.
What has this government done? It has exacted these cuts on the schoolchildren of this province. What has it managed to do with the administration costs of the school boards and the governance costs of the elected officials at the school board level? What has it done? Well, over five years of struggle and toil and a tremendous amount of agitation in the school system, this government has managed to reduce administration costs from $445 million in 1995-96, to $429 million in 1999-2000, a grand reduction of $15 million.
Less than 0.1% of the cuts in education have come from what this government, in its propaganda, in its commercials, in the money that it's wasted to put across its particular message, claims the money is coming from. In fact, for the people who would like to look at the facts and not have them plucked out of the air for them, in the estimates of this province it says clearly, last year the amount of money being spent on administration by this government, which controls all of the purse strings, increased by $5 million. This government is increasing the money it's spending on administration, not reducing it.
Further, where is the money coming out of? Where is this being visited upon children? The government has gone to great lengths to change the categories, to change the accounting, to amalgamate boards, to cover its tracks. We're able to tell how much money of its share is missing. We also will look at some of the areas where children have been harmed because of the money being taken away: some $300 million less in special education, some of which the government has reluctantly been dragged, kicking and screaming, to bring back this year. We'll have to see if that money does actually flow.
In December, this minister and this Premier said, "It's not our problem; it's not our responsibility." In this budget, there's a claim-and I say that to the public out there advisedly-for $70 million. Let's see whether that money actually gets to where it needs to be, which is in the school system, helping children whose special aides have been taken away from them, whose hours at school have been reduced as a direct result of the cuts of this government.
They've also cut the pupil accommodation grant. They've cut the amount of money to keep schools clean. They've forced all kinds of communities around the province-in places like Avon Maitland and the Grand Erie board and so on-to shut schools, only and exclusively because of this government's preoccupation with taking money out.
They've actually, as well, cut the transportation monies available. We had an excellent question put to this minister this week. If she purports in this bill to be in any way concerned with the extracurricular development of children, why have they cut the transportation allowances? Why have they put children at risk? Why have they made them walk? Why have they denied them the after-school activities that this government says this bill is all about in the first place? That is because it's the money that matters the most to this particular government.
This has never been and never can be, given the continued direction of this government, about the well-being of the children.
Adult education has been decimated with cuts of about $36 million. Over and over, the amount of money there for a quality learning experience, for equal access to it, has been reduced by this government. Its $1.6 billion in reductions has been the central and sole objective of this government's policy. There is nothing around the education reform, despite how it may wish to dress it up in the formal validation of things like the royal commission-the people who worked on the royal commission shudder when they look at what this government did, trying to legitimize, trying to dress up this bold grab for funds and for centralized control.
The only way this government could reconcile, could even try to legitimize-I've been to schools in the riding of the member opposite, the member for Etobicoke North, for example, which next year, because of this government's cuts, lose the security guards in their schools that they have to bring in to quell trouble. The hall monitors are going away. There is not the money for the safe schools this government purports to associate itself with. Why? Because-
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke North): They don't need security guards.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke North would know that he's not in his seat and he would also know that heckling is always out of order.
Mr Kennedy: We heard the member for Etobicoke North not defending the right and the need of schools like Thorncliffe to have the exact resources they require. Why? Because of the simplistic approach. Once this government determines it needs to take out money, then everything else follows from that. What does it actually turn out to be? It turns out to be centralized control, a government that believes in an almost Soviet way of thinking, and that informs this bill here tonight.
We have from this government an idea, an illusion, saying to the parents of this province: "We can engage in behaviour control. We can take activities formerly seen as voluntary and we can mandate them. We can push a button here at Queen's Park and make those happen in your school." Let's come to the bill in specifics and see how well it fits this concept.
This bill is not about a rash of teachers being negligent with their extracurricular activities. In fact, I defy the members opposite and the minister to produce any evidence that there is a widespread problem with extracurricular activities not taking place in the school system. The minister's staff were asked that very question: "Does the minister have a study? Has the minister actually looked carefully at the situation that exists in the schools of this province and does she know? Did you do this study for her? Is there a study or was there a report or anything to look at as to how much extracurricular activity is actually taking place now and the extent of the problem?" The ministry staff said no. The ministry staff said there is nothing but anecdotal information, and further, they told us that this minister has no intention of measuring whether extracurricular activity is adversely or positively affected by this bill.
This bill stands exposed for what it is: the export by this minister of the Durham disease, of enforcing the Durham formula. The people out there may not appreciate that a little time ago this government stole control of education out of their community. They grabbed hold with both hands and now control the financing, and increasingly, time after time, these pieces of tawdry legislation which purport to actually be engaged with the education of children, but are really about power and control by this government, from a centralized perspective, of what goes on in the school boards and the schools. Sadly and unfortunately, this trickles down and has its effect on the well-being of children. Its lack of concern for children, its backhanded effects are manifest.
Before this government moved, we had 70 out of 72 boards prepared to settle, as they did last time, and have arrangements with their teaching staff to deliver the best education they possibly could, under the constraints this government puts them in, to the school children and the students of this province. Instead this government intervened. Where did they go for the model? Where did they design the intervention they felt was necessary when they saw peace breaking out all across the land in terms of school boards and relations with teachers? They went to Durham, to this minister's riding, to the only two out of 72 boards that couldn't get arrangements which would have good, solid working relationships between the various constituent parties: the teachers, the trustees, the parents and the students. Instead they have brought years rife with problems and difficulties, as they've tried to adjust to the exact kind of staffing time and workload that this government now recommends to us, with this bill tonight, to inflict on the whole province.
What kind of government, what kind of party, what kind of ideology, would pick the worst problem spot in the province and inflict it on everyone else? This government would, because this government is only concerned with the amount of money that formula will save for them.
In fact, if you look closely at an objective report this government commissioned to the Windsor board just a week ago, written by a chartered accountant in that community, it tells in that report of a board that said to this government: "We're fed up with your hypocrisy around funding that says we can't protect a quality education for our children. We can't protect a decent education for our children if you keep cutting."
What the independent person going into the Windsor board found out was that the only way they could balance the budget was to cut teachers and cut support in the classroom. That's the only avenue, the only prescription this government left itself open to, because substantially, as Mr Hines says, it's about the money. This government has made it less viable for the local boards to provide for their students. Now we have it on a prescriptive basis, with the legislation before us tonight, based again on no briefing, no study, no analysis, of a problem with extracurricular.
That's not what brings us here tonight. What brings us here tonight is another attempt, which was tried two years ago, to write a regulation here at Queen's Park and have an effect in the classrooms, the 5,000 schools and the thousands of classrooms in this province. This government has the arrogance and the conceit to believe it can cause that to happen with the bill we have before us tonight.
What we have in this bill tonight is rampant bureaucracy. We have something this government has tried in its propaganda not to associate itself with. Not only has it essentially allowed the class of administration in education to be the same and to increase last year, but it has set itself up for a whole new bureaucracy and bureaucratic activity, as it tries to fulfill this impossible quest for central control over some of the micro-details of education.
It provides, for example, for reports to be made by principals to those boards and for the boards to make those reports to the minister. It also provides for anyone to walk in off the street and decide that somebody is not in compliance. What happens then is that somebody from, I guess, the MOEBI, the Ministry of Education Bureau of Investigation, then comes into the school. That's what actually is in this bill we're asked to provide for tonight. They send in an investigator. What is that investigator looking into? What are they actually going to find out when they get to that school?
In this bill are vague, broad, vast definitions of what is extracurricular activity; this government, in true Soviet style, wants to rename it "co-curricular activity." But the extracurricular activity people are familiar with, it leaves wide open. It also leaves the days, hours and times of execution wide open. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, are all game for a principal to give direction on.
As this government plays its games with the total cost of education, and then tries to assure parents that at the end of the day extracurricular activities will somehow get delivered, how does it leave itself open to do that practically? It doesn't. It doesn't have any practical means of enforcement, because what it will be doing is having a large core of investigators. They'll send them all around the province, and then they'll come back and the only enforcement they can really inflict is to fire that teacher. The only way a principal can really enforce whether extracurricular takes place is to list them for insubordination with the board. If the principal won't do that, then the investigator can, or it can direct the board to act.
There are no halfway measures here. There are no reasonable means for discussion or negotiation. There is nothing contemplated in this bill but cover for this government's agenda of cutting money out of education. It's the only thing that's contemplated, and people looking for some terrific insight, looking for some real understanding of how to make education happen better, will not find it here, because the main culprit is how this government deals with time, how they see themselves controlling to the minute how much time teachers will spend on their various activities.
We did not have the sense, the grasp of accountability by this government to actually say: "We will reckon with teachers as professionals. We will acknowledge that they will do their test marking at home, that they have to prepare their assignments, that they have a range of other things that they are expected, and have been expected for numerous years in this province, to do." This government wouldn't do that. Instead, they focus on one part of those non-classroom activities, call them co-curricular, say they're going to be mandated and then cross their fingers and hope for the best. That has characterized many of the so-called education reforms of this government, centralized control that, as time passes on, it becomes clearer and clearer cannot be achieved by this government, and this government simply delivers newer and newer versions of it to make sure that the parents and the other interested public out there simply can't catch up to the number of changes they're making.
It is, however, abundantly clear that with $1.6 billion being removed, this government stands accountable. When they want to say that the main thing they wish to accomplish here in terms of providing for extracurricular activity is making sure it can't be bargained for, they're reaching into 70 out of 72 boards that would have had arrangements for teachers if not for their desire to do one single thing: to increase the number of students per teacher. That's fundamentally what this bill does. It provides for more students per teacher. It increases the workload per teacher by 11%.
The government, taking measure of things out there, realizing that this is seen as a bit of a desperate measure, that people don't really appreciate or understand how it is they're going to control extracurricular activity, despite the core of investigators and so on that this bill contemplates, has put as part of the bill, or at least as part of their announcement, a reduction in class size of about 5%. But it still leaves more kids per teacher. It still leaves all the other manifest problems that come from a government that is deducting money and resources away from the school and away from the learning experience.
That's what is happening in special education, that's what is happening in terms of the mismanagement of the curriculum, that's what is happening in terms of the testing program and that's what is happening in terms of the literacy test the government wants to bring in but has to put off for a year. This is a government not just in a hurry; this is a government that doesn't show the care and concern that would go with a real commitment to public education.
A real commitment to public education would attend with it the ability to provide the most important elements that are required for a child to learn: a motivated, well-trained and well-respected professional standing in front of the classroom, which we have today. But we have not just an attack on the professionalism of teachers in this province; we have substantially an attack on public education. We have an attack by this government, determining that it's not their responsibility to sustain the well-being and the outlook of those teachers in their classrooms. Instead, it will try and micromanage wherever they need to be able to deduct the money from the system. But they won't take the responsibility of making sure, for example, of the quality things that would give a new curriculum a chance of success.
For one, this government talks about the minutes or the time in the day as being averaged somehow to the country. In point of fact, if you look at the number of professional development days this government has taken away, the teachers of this province are already spending more time standing in front of students than those of almost any other province. But that's not good enough, and the reason it's not good enough for this minister and this government is because it's not enough money. Not enough money can be saved unless they spread the teachers out more thinly with the students. They want to take teachers back to where they were before in the 1980s. They want to go where a previous iteration of the Conservative government would not go.
Let me just say to the people out there who are wondering what can be coming from a government that wants to attack teachers, that wants to attack local control of our public education, that wants to try large-scale experiments with curriculum, with these various measures being proposed here today on the students of the province, we know what their alternative is. When they look at private schools, do they see private schools adding more workload to teachers? No, they don't. Do they see a cutback in the amount of money available per student in those private schools? No, that's not how private schools sell themselves. Do they see in those private schools an attack on the staff, an undermining of their professionalism, a diminishing of their ability to provide the best for the children in the classroom? We don't, because it's bad management. It's bad education.
We have a government that thinks it can justify to us tonight a law for which it has committed no studies, done no analysis to show that there is an initial problem, that relates back to the failure of a central management system that it put in a number of years ago with Bill 160 and Bill 104 which would see the conceit of a minister sitting in her office trying to control the teaching activities taking place thousands of miles away. We have seen parent groups and teachers and students fitfully try and deal with the implications of this time after time. If properly seen in the cold light of day, this is but another in a series of inadequate Band-Aids to a wound inflicted by this government itself.
That damage has a quantification: It is $1.6 billion less coming from this government's share of education funding. It's money that this government won't provide. It won't provide it now in good years, and it used it to fund the tax cut in other years. When we see, for example, the $200 cheque that a week ago this government was so proud of-being able to waste the kind of money it will spend for stamps and so on to send out to everyone in this province-we can pretty readily anticipate that they won't include with that cheque an explanation of how teachers are going to have less time for students as a result of that cheque; of how special-ed children have had some of their education compromised as a result of this government's obsession with providing that cheque; of how, around the province, we are losing good qualified teachers who no longer have faith in this government's ability to provide for them a teaching experience where the learning of children can become paramount.
Teachers are, as some members mentioned, used to dealing with the various machinations of government with regard to education. I think it was used in the context of justifying this current round of what is being done. Instead, the teachers of this province, and I think more and more the parents of this province, are understanding what is really afoot. This is a government not overly concerned with the well-being and the improvement of public education. If they were, they would put themselves in a position of being accountable for the kinds of things they're trying to foist on to teachers and the schools boards tonight, the responsibility to make their funding formulas work, to make their overall fiscal regime happen. People are starting to appreciate that this is an agenda about the detracting from the confidence that people have in public education.
A companion piece of work from this government came out this week, so-called teacher testing, which has no teacher test in it at all. It is related to an election-time promise, but if you look in the cabinet document, which was widely available, there was nothing in there that said there was a test of teachers. That's in the election document. That's not in the actual document in terms of when we come to this government living up to its promise. It will turn things upside down to be able to pretend that some of its election commitments are being met, but in the course of it has no regard for what it does to the morale and to the ability of teachers to provide for kids in their classrooms in this province.
They have the audacity to change the rules. Rather than treat teachers like firefighters or policemen or lawyers or doctors or other professions, they want to set up a separate and distinct bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that would travel the province auditing principals and auditing teachers. This government is setting itself up with centralized testing, with centralized investigators and centralized testers to eliminate school boards altogether and to set themselves up on some Connecticut or American model of charter schools or voucher systems. This is where this government has always been tending, because that is the ultimate distraction and the ultimate disguise: to be able to isolate people in their local communities away from any level of real accountability; to be able to disguise the impact of the funding cuts because it is handled in some of the better-off neighbourhoods by the volunteer activity of parents. Instead of a vision that informed many of the past governments of this province-real equal access to real quality education-this is a government that fritters and dithers away that sense of opportunity for people.
There is nothing in this bill tonight that does anything but put us further down that path that will create an immense problem in terms of the workability of our schools because of what it is inflicting in terms of time and what it wants teachers to be able to do. At the very same time it says, "You will do certain extracurricular that has been added," they will have a heavier workload as well. Many teachers in this province will be teaching, for example, four classes out of four and then be told they will be doing extracurricular, and there will be some notional idea that investigators will be buzzing down from the province. It's not workable, it's not tenable, but it suits this government's vision of what centralized education should look like, a government that doesn't have to take any responsibility, that collects the money, only gives out a smaller, diminishing share, and then maybe at the local level holds out to parents some pretence, some false promise, that they might have some impact through their local school council and eventually some iteration of a charter school.
This is not a government that believes in real community control. This is not a government that believes in communities having a say, because it has stripped the school boards. In this bill that we're asked to pass tonight, if a school board contradicts what this minister notionally believes she wants to change on the part of that board because she's had a bad day or something else has gone wrong at Queen's Park, they are subject to $5000 fines, to not being able to run for municipal office. They are also subject to becoming personally liable for the financial implications of any decisions they dare make against this arrogant, autocratic, centralized government. We see as well this government, this fan of big government, of autocratic, unaccountable, never-answer-able government, having the ability to reach into school boards and to fire employees who don't carry out this minister's wishes.
We see opposite here a government grown weary, grown comfortable in their seats, not able to stand up on behalf of their constituents, for one of the most central and perhaps most precious trusts we have, something that past, present and future generations are going to hold us accountable for: the education of children in this province, the promise that we will measure people by their hard work and by their ability and by nothing else. We see a government with a bill tonight that would skew that, favour that in a completely different direction, and we stand opposed.
Mr Speaker, I'd like to split my time with the members for Ottawa-Vanier, Kingston and the Islands, and Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
Mrs McLeod: I cannot say that it gives me pleasure to take part in this debate tonight. It makes me angry that this bill is here, and I can't even begin to describe the frustration that I feel in witnessing the inexorable march of this government in pursuit of its political agenda on education.
This government would have you believe that this bill is about students, quality education, better teaching. It is not, as my colleague has so clearly said. This bill is about what this government's education agenda has been about from day one. It's about saving dollars by cutting teachers, and that's what it always has been about.
I remember three years ago when this government was looking for the ways in which it could cut another billion dollars out of education, and of course its main concern is always with its public relations campaign. It wanted to find out how it could cut a billion dollars from education by cutting teachers and have the public still somehow support them before the next election. So they ran a couple of focus groups: one in Ottawa, one in Thunder Bay. The reason I know about this is because the Ottawa Citizen carried a headline which said, "Government Plans to Cut 10,000 Teachers."
Hon Mrs Ecker: And it didn't happen, Lyn.
Mrs McLeod: The way that it planned to cut 10,000 teachers-Minister of Education, I'll tell you exactly how you're planning to cut the teachers, and that's why this bill is here tonight. Three years ago you set out to find a way of cutting teachers by cutting prep time, but you discovered in the focus groups that it didn't wash. People thought it was a good idea for teachers to have some time to prepare their classes so they could provide quality education to their students. So the government led the focus groups-this is fact-and they found that if they could say to people, "Our teachers in Ontario have twice as much time for preparation as teachers across the country," then the focus groups started to say, "Maybe they could give up some of the preparation time and it wouldn't hurt teaching and quality education." So guess what emerged as the government's public relations message? It didn't matter that that was a totally inaccurate representation of Ontario teachers' preparation time versus the rest of the country, because you would never let truth get in the way of a good public relations campaign. That's why we had the launch of the infamous clock ad campaign, with its inflammatory, derogatory, offensive message that totally misrepresented the value of the work that teachers do.
The government at that time wanted to say that there was going to be an increase in instructional time. That was the PR message, because that sounds like a good thing, an increase in instructional time. Well, of course, we all know that if you have fewer teachers teaching more students in more classes, you actually have less teacher time with the students, exactly the opposite of the government's public relations message. But again, you'd never let reality or a concern for consequences get in the way of a well-developed plan to take yet another billion dollars out of education to pay for the tax cuts.
The government was warned that this direction would have an effect on extracurricular activities, not because of a work-to-rule campaign by teachers but because of the simple reality of a workload. If you expect teachers to teach four classes out of four classes in one semester-that's what seven out of eight means, four classes out of four, and it is seven out of eight. You've never been able to implement your numbers in a schedule anyway. So if you have teachers teaching four classes out of four in one semester and they have that extra class of students to teach, and they have less preparation time for it so they're doing their preparation at night and they're doing marking at night because that's part of the accountability of good teaching, you simply don't have the time left over to coach the drama team or the basketball team or to provide support for the student council. That's the reality which this government prefers not to deal with.
The government was extremely unhappy, and you can tell that by the minister's reaction tonight. The minister is still very unhappy. Why are they unhappy? They're unhappy because 70 boards actually sat down with the government's new rules and were able to negotiate agreements with their teaching staff that allowed teachers to keep teaching and still do the extracurricular activities and still live within the letter of the law that this government brought in.
That wasn't enough for the government. The government was angry. I know the Minister of Education was particularly angry in Durham, where there was an arbitrated settlement with an arbitrator, I remind you, appointed by the government, because that's the way public sector arbitrators are appointed now. They had an arbitrated settlement, and the minister claims to have been angry because of the teachers' reaction. She could have resolved that, if that was the real source of her anger. It would have been possible to sit down with the parties and resolve that issue, as opposed to imposing the Durham disease, as my colleague has described it, on the rest of the province.
But that is not what the government did, and it's not what the government did for one very simple reason: They weren't nearly as angry at the Durham board and the Durham teachers as they were at all the other boards that actually managed to work out good agreements that allowed teachers to keep teaching, allowed extracurricular activities to keep being done, but didn't cut the teachers that this government wanted to cut. Because the boards didn't cut the teachers that the government was looking for, because we didn't see the 10,000 teachers cut, this government had to go to the next step, and that's why we have the legislation that's before us tonight.
This legislation means fewer teachers. There's no question about that. The government has tried to provide a cover, as my colleague has said, of some dollars to reduce the class size. Again, that's a PR cover. They're trying to make the public believe that somehow they're going to reduce the class size and that's going to mean better teaching. Think about it. They're adding a full class of extra students to every teacher's workload. In secondary schools that's 22 students on average; 21 with the reduced class size. They are adding an extra class of 21 students on average and taking away one student out of each of the teacher's other classes. So you lose three students in three classes and you pick up an extra class of 20. That's where you get the percentages that my colleague was speaking of earlier.
Minister, I don't think the little bit of money you're putting into reducing class sizes by one is going to nearly make up for the damage you're doing by imposing this legislation on the teachers, the trustees and the principals of this province. The minister, of course, will not say how many teachers are going to be cut with this because, again, you wouldn't want to acknowledge the reality or deal with the consequences.
This legislation will affect extracurricular activities. As the Premier himself has said, 99% or 98% of teachers, depending on what figure we're using, do extracurricular activities and do them voluntarily. They do them because it's part of their commitment, it's part of their love of teaching, it's part of their concern for their students. They do it because they believe that extracurricular activities are indeed a part of the total educational experience for students. They will not be able to continue to do that when this legislation passes. They won't be able to do it if they are teaching four out of four classes in one semester, and they certainly won't be able to do what they have done through all of the years of publicly funded education in this province, and that's to do those extracurricular activities, those co-curricular activities, as the government would prefer to call them. They won't be able to do them with the same kind of enthusiasm that you get from people who do it for the love of it, when now they are going to be doing it because the government wants to force them into it.
I wish I had time tonight to talk a little bit more about the absolutely impossible position that principals have been put into with this legislation. There certainly will not be harmonious working relationships in our schools when principals are given the dirty work to do by this government of deciding who gets the assignments to do the extracurricular activities and how that is to be balanced with the extra workload they're going to have to do that particular semester.
And I wish I had some time to talk about the real hit at school trustees that this bill provides. I agree with my colleague that this could well be the beginning of the end of the commitment of publicly elected school trustees. They've been asked to do the dirty work for the government before. This really takes it-I hope not, but I'm afraid this may take it the final step.
I want to conclude by coming back very briefly to the event I was asked to in my riding on Saturday night, which was the awards of excellence for secondary school students put on by the secondary school teachers. They've been doing it now for some 13 years. They recognize excellence in achievement in academics, in technical areas, in athletics, in student leadership, in the arts. Without a single exception, the achievements of those students are directly related to the opportunities that teachers provided to them to learn and to grow and to have the full experience of a full educational curriculum.
That's what education in Ontario has always been about. But because this Harris government needs to cut costs and gut education and seek public support by scapegoating teachers, I am truly afraid they are changing public education in ways that we will all regret and may never recover from.
Mme Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier): C'est vrai-ment un plaisir pour moi d'apporter mes commentaires sur le projet de loi modifiant la responsabilité en édu-cation. C'est vraiment ironique que ce gouvernement a décidé de présenter un autre projet de loi, durant la Semaine de l'éducation, qui impose encore de nouvelles exigences aux enseignants et aux enseignantes de la province. Ce gouvernement est un véritable dictateur, en venant d'imposer à la profession enseignante l'obligation de faire des activités parascolaires 24 heures sur 24, sept jours par semaine, et en augmentant davantage la charge de travail de nos enseignants et de nos enseignantes à travers la province.
Ce projet de loi, croyez-moi, aura un impact sub-stantiel dans la vie quotidienne de tous les enseignants et enseignantes au niveau secondaire.
Yes, believe me, this bill will have a substantial impact on the everyday life of teachers. Yes, it will. This government seems to be unable to acknowledge the important role of the teachers of this province. This government always seems to be unable to realize that our education system is fortunate enough to have a number of assets: professional, excellent and devoted teachers who ensure its quality and its good working order.
I will tell you that slavery will now be practised in Ontario. Who will be the slaves? The teachers. Let me tell you, teachers really don't need legislation to force them into extracurricular activities. Voluntary work has always existed. They have always organized their time to go along with extracurricular activities, always on the same voluntary basis and very willingly. Extracurricular activity is just great for teachers. It gives them a different relationship with their students, and that is great.
Questions remain. Why bring forth legislation that will cause further conflicts and will continue to strain government-teacher relations? What about the morale of teachers? We're talking more and more of long-term for teachers who just can't take the stress any more. Believe me, it is very hard, and teachers don't necessarily listen to themselves. They just can't cope with the workload this government is putting on their backs. Is this the straw that will break the camel's back? I say, enough is enough.
It is frustrating to see how teachers are treated. I can tell you of a survey that was done recently which shows that the teacher's workload, on average, is about 51 hours a week. Add to this about four hours a week for extracurricular activities at the elementary level, and at the secondary level nine hours a week. Isn't that saying a lot?
On ne peut pas légiférer la bonne volonté et l'enthou-siasme requis pour encadrer les activités parascolaires. No, we cannot legislate the goodwill and enthusiasm that are needed for these extracurricular activities. Encore une fois ce gouvernement fait fi du professionnalisme des enseignants et des enseignantes. Ce sont eux, souvenez-vous-en, qui sont en mesure de déterminer quelle sera la nature de leur contribution aux activités parascolaires pour que les intérêts en salle de classe ne soient pas négligés.
This bill doesn't even foresee that the teachers will be consulted in collaborating on a plan for extracurricular activities.
Do you know that the process of collective bargaining is another unjustified decision by this government with this bill? By defining what constitutes instructional time, this government has taken away the flexibility at the local level and will bring on more difficult negotiations. Any questions relating to extracurricular activities are no longer part of negotiations.
Hon Mrs Ecker: That's right.
Mrs Boyer: Well, that's too bad. You need that local flexibility and I think it is very important.
This bill will have an impact on the quality of education, and it will not be a positive impact. This bill really goes overboard. It is a shame to treat our professionals this way. I have been a teacher. Teachers don't count their time and they do put in the hours needed to assure quality of education in their classroom, in their school, for their local board and for the good of the province. Will teachers be ready to say yes when we tell them they have to participate in extracurricular activities at night, during the weekends? Will the principal be able to impose on those teachers that they have to go with the football team on a weekend, that they have to practise for a drama session for two or three months in a row? I wonder if teachers are ready to do this.
Je m'interroge à savoir comment serait géré le nouv-eau système d'obligation. I really question how this new mandatory system will be managed. En rendant obli-gatoire la participation des enseignants et des enseign-antes aux activités parascolaires, le gouvernement s'at-taque encore une fois à un faux problème. Il risque de provoquer d'inutiles confrontations. Une direction d'école, peut-elle exiger qu'un enseignant accompagne encore une fois une équipe sportive ? Ce gouvernement ne peut pas exiger que les enseignants et les enseignantes travaillent-je me répète ; c'est important-travaillent 24 heures sur 24, sept jours par semaine.
Alors, j'aimerais finir en disant, instead of showing gratitude towards our teachers, this government insists on showing a great deal of resentment towards our professionals.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): On any of these issues I always like to go back to the government's own budget documents first of all so we can get a true and accurate picture of how much the government is actually spending in this area. It is very interesting that back in 1984, the operating grant for the school boards was $4.485 billion. Currently, when you take into account the fact that some of the downloading has taken place from municipalities etc, the operating grant is $4.001 billion. In other words, there has been an increase of $484 million, in actual dollars, in primary and secondary education funding. When you take into account the fact that the boards had to absorb the social contract effect and you take into account additional enrolment that has taken place and inflation over the last five years, this government has taken $1.6 billion out of the education budget.
What's interesting is that this is at the same time as the coffers of the province of Ontario have grown by $14 billion. The revenues of the province are actually up $14 billion over what they were five years ago. So how anyone on the government side can say that they're spending more money on education-the facts just don't bear that out.
All one has to do is go into almost any school in this province, talk to any teacher, and you'll quickly find out that most, if not all, of the teachers have much bigger class sizes now. I used to go into schools four or five years ago and the average class size at the primary level was maybe 25 students. Now, quite often it's over 30. I know the minister will say, "We're going to reduce the average to 24 students in the junior classes, up to 21 in the secondary classes," but remember, that's across the whole board, so you can have classes in individual schools that are highly in excess of these numbers.
That's the first point I want to make. The people of Ontario should understand that this government has taken out $1.6 billion, and the facts in their own documentation clearly prove this.
The second thing I want to talk about is the attack on the school boards. When you think about it, we started setting up school boards in this province and in this country back in 1837, well before we set up municipal councils, well before the province got started. There was local autonomy with respect to school boards. That has now totally disappeared. The school boards are much larger than they used to be. They have absolutely no local taxing power any more. They are being threatened by the minister.
I will just read through some of the sections that are in here, for example. The minister took great exception when one of my colleagues pointed out that members of the board can be fined $5,000. Let me just read you the section. It's subsection 230.12(2): "The board and each of its members, officers and employees shall comply with the orders, directions and decisions of the minister ... in any matter relating to the affairs of the board, and any such person who ... votes contrary to ... " the minister's wishes, "direction or decision, is guilty of an" indictable "offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000." Tell me, why is that necessary?
The very first section in that part of the act states as follows: "The minister may direct an investigation of the affairs of a board if the minister has concerns that the board may have done something or omitted to do something ... ," such as the board passing a resolution which is contrary to the minister's instructions.
I would invite the people of Ontario to pick up a copy of this act and read it for yourselves. Don't take my word for it; don't take my colleagues' word for it. You will see that your school boards have no power left whatsoever. It's all about centralized control. This government, that was elected on the basis of, "We are not government; we are here to fix government"-we all heard the Premier say that-basically wants all the control here at Queen's Park within the ministry office, with the minister. If a board doesn't do what the minister wants or if a teacher doesn't do what the minister wants, in effect they will be fined and convicted in a court of law. That is not in the best interests of our children.
That leads me to the final point, which deals with the teachers themselves, and that's really what this is all about. I've gone into many schools in the Kingston area during our recess. I went into Winston Churchill Public School, Sydenham Public School, into La Salle Secondary School, I went to Holy Family school. In many of these schools I spent the better part of a day, and there wasn't one teacher I talked to in any of these schools who liked what this government is doing with respect to education. As a matter of fact, I can't ever remember talking to any teacher anywhere who supports what this government is doing with respect to any of its educational bills. Are all these people wrong? All of them feel the same way. They feel under constant attack. Their morale is being undercut at all levels. How can they teach our children, our future, in an appropriate fashion if the morale is being undercut by this government on a continual basis? How often have we seen anybody on the government side, the minister or anyone else, say anything good about teachers? Oh, every now and then they sort of slide it in. They spend 10 minutes attacking them in one way or the other and then they may say, "Oh, yes, there are some good teachers."
I will say that the teaching profession is no different than any other profession in that you have some excellent people and, yes, you probably also have some people who aren't quite as good, but the same thing applies whether you're talking about doctors, lawyers, engineers or any other group in our society. To single out teachers for the kind of activity that this government has been involved in on an ongoing basis is not only unfair but it's hurting our children.
I wish this government at least had the intellectual honesty to stand up and say, "We think we are spending too much money from the public purse on our primary and secondary education and that's why we're making these cuts." If they did that, at least I could say, "Well, I don't agree with you but at least you're honest about it." But you know and I know that they haven't had that kind of intellectual honesty about any of the cuts they have brought in, whether we're talking about health care, whether we're talking about education, whether we're talking about environment, whether we're talking about housing, and you could just go on and on. It's always sold on another basis rather than what's really happening.
I say to the minister: Think about the students. Do what's in the best interests of the students. What's in the best interests of the students is that you try to build up the morale of the teachers. That's what you ought to be doing. That's what you should be concerned about: "What can we as a government do to help the teachers so that they can better educate our young people in our schools?" That's really what this is all about, or what it should be all about.
The morale is low; the teachers feel under constant attack. This government wants to micromanage every situation. This bill is full of threats and intimidation right from the very first paragraph. You read the definition, for example, of what "co-instructional activities" means and it basically means whatever the minister says it means.
Why don't they show respect to teachers; deal with the one or two isolated problems-I'm sure that the federations and all those other people who are involved in education would be more than supportive of that-but do not attack the teachers the way you have over the last five years, because by the continual attack on teachers, you are attacking our youngsters in the school system. There's no way, with the kind of morale-burning exercise that you've been involved in, that the teachers of this province can give the best to the students who need their help on an ongoing basis.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Hon Mrs Ecker: The only person better at spinning conspiracy theories I think is Fox Mulder, listening to our honourable critic across the way in terms of his great conspiracy about: "Let's destroy public education. Let's bring in charter schools and no one will notice." I don't know what fantasyland he is living in, but it is certainly not the reality that we want to make of the public education system, the system that is so important to the prosperity of this province, to make it better.
Second, these fantasy numbers, that we're taking money out of education, could not be further from the truth. They want to have an argument that we're not spending enough. That's fair. It's not a new argument in education and will never cease, but we are spending more today on education than was spent when we came in. We've increased the amount of money for special education, for example, a 12% increase. The other thing: They're back there talking about, "Ten thousand teachers are going to be taken out of the system again." Where have we heard that before? Ten thousand teachers didn't happen, because it was not ever going to happen; it was fantasyland again.
Because of the new investments we're putting into education, the $353 million, we're going to need more teachers-not fewer; more. One of the wonderful positive things that is happening in this province today is the incredible increase in the number of people who are applying to teachers' college. Despite the fact that we have increased the number of spaces-there are going to be 2,000 more new spaces for new teachers in our faculties of ed. We have an increase, something like 40% more people trying to get into teachers' college because they see it as a good profession, they know it's important. We recognize that. That's why we've put more money back in there.
Heaven forbid we should do what we told the voters we would do, but that's exactly what we are-
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mrs Dombrowsky: I listened with great interest because of the experience I've had in the role of education. A couple of points I'd like to make: We hear regularly from the government the shell game they play about the additional dollars they've put into education. Yes, you have, and you should have. You said you would, because-you know what?-you said to municipalities, "If you pay for policing and ambulance and fire protection, we'll increase our support in education." That's your additional commitment. It's no new dollars in education.
Mrs Dombrowsky: It is not, Minister. It's a shell game that you're playing with the taxpayers. It's a shell game, and you're being exposed here tonight.
Also I would like to pick up on the comments made by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands. I happen to have a few friends in the education field-they're teachers, trustees, parents, students-and I haven't encountered one in my riding who thinks what this government is doing is good for education.
I do visit schools. I talk with teachers, I talk with trustees, and I'm getting a very different picture than the one you're painting. They are telling me that they would like some confidence, not criticism. They would like some faith from the government that has been elected to look after their interests. Instead, what do they get? More rules, more legislation, that they're not doing the job that they've been hired to do, when in fact they're doing it and doing it very well. They're doing it under more duress today than any profession in this field has had to face before. I commend them for it, and I will do whatever I can to expose what this government is really trying to do in education.
Mr David Young (Willowdale): I appreciate having an opportunity to enter in this debate. I listened with interest when the members opposite talked about how low morale was in the schools of this province. I heard both the member for Parkdale-High Park and the member for Kingston and the Islands draw upon their own life experiences, which is understandable to a degree, and talk about what they thought was wrong.
I was a school trustee for six years and I, too, have some life experiences I can draw upon. I remember, with interest, entering a board of education in 1991 that had just experienced the closure of not one, not two, not three, not four, but dozens of schools, many years before Mr Harris was in fact the Premier of this province. Let's be clear about this, whenever a school is closed, wherever it may be in this province, there is some pain, there is some discomfort and there is inconvenience, and it continues on occasion. But school boards, and provincial governments, on occasion, have to make difficult but responsible decisions. In the cases that I'm talking about, the funds utilized from the closure of those schools were then invested back into the school system. That is what's happening now in the instances referred to by the member from High Park.
I also heard the member for Kingston and the Islands talk about morale being low, "Morale has never been lower." I remember very distinctly walking through the schools in ward 6 in North York, and I remember talking not only to teachers, I remember talking to caretakers and to the principals-not when Mr Harris was the Premier, but during the social contract days-and they used the very same term, "Morale has never been lower." Change is necessary; it was then and it is now.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm pleased to join the debate. Just briefly, the minister and the government can argue all they want about numbers; the reality is, as my colleagues have pointed out, you have cut funding in education. There are bigger classrooms.
Even more importantly, this bill reflects the ongoing obsession that this government-Mike Harris, Janet Ecker and the rest of the government-has with going after teachers all the time. You have a track record. You have made it a sport since you've been in government to continually attack and undermine our teachers, because your polls tell you that it works for you and it's cute and it gives a little bump in the polls once in a while. The reality is that teachers in this province do a damned good job. They work hard. They look after our kids. They care about our kids. When you attack, it's not only teachers; you attack the teachers who volunteer.
In my experience through high school, playing sports and being involved in a number of activities, the only reason we were able to do those activities was because teachers volunteered hours and hours. I can tell you that teachers, for 25, 30 and 35 years, spent three hours a night on the football field for four or five months of the year. They didn't do it because Janet Ecker told them to do it. They didn't do it because you told them to do it. They did it because they care about the kids and they wanted to do it.
The reality is that you're now somehow imposing this volunteerism on teachers. You're causing a problem where problems do not exist. You're insulting every single teacher in this province who has even given a minute of their time, at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning at a track meet or on a Saturday night, or on a Monday night on the football field or the basketball court. That's the reality. They can talk and talk and they can pound their chests here. I ask them to go into the staff room and talk to the teachers.
Mr Agostino: I can tell you, my friend, I'd be happy to step on a football field with you any time. Any time you want, I'll step on a football field with you.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Kennedy: I'm especially appreciative of the remarks made by a number of members: the member from Hamilton East, the member from Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, my colleague from Thunder Bay-Atikokan, and the other members who spoke tonight.
From the government side, we still have this constant delusion, this constant idea that somewhere out there are people who believe that "change" is all they have to say and it somehow justifies the damage they've exacted on schools. I challenge anybody in the Conservative caucus to dispute the figures I've quoted tonight, anyone in any public location. I challenge the Minister of Education to table her own figures.
But more importantly for the public watching tonight, does this government even have the sincerity of its beliefs, or is this a government acting wide-eyed, fully conscious of the damage it's inflicting on the environment in schools? Does it know that it could reduce the amount of extracurricular activity by the actions it's proposing we take tonight? Does this government actually realize that it could lessen the learning experience available to students all across the province? Is that part of some calculation that this government is prepared to make for its other ends?
There is a time-honoured way to find that out, and it's not on the football field, as much as my colleague would like to line up against some of the other members to see how good their extracurricular training was. Instead, it's in committee. If the government has such confidence in this bill, let it bring it to committee. Let it bring it to the communities where the schoolchildren are going to be affected. But you know what, Mr Speaker? I can tell already that this is not a government with confidence in this bill. This is a tawdry bill. This is a leftover, a Band-Aid. This is not something for the quality of education. We will see the outcome of that if any of the members opposite take up my challenge to debate or if they give us the time in committee to expose this for the attack on education that it is.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Marchese: I'm happy to have the opportunity to speak to Bill 74. A few members, Liberals and Tories, were challenging themselves to a football game, or in a football field. I've got to tell you, that game is brutal. It's bestial.
Mr Tascona:: How about a soccer field?
Mr Marchese: You've got to play a soccer game perhaps. It's much more decent. You've got skills, right? It's a fair game. Please don't make references to football. Have you seen that game where people massacre each other on the field? Please. Better a nice game of soccer. It's clean, intelligent. Not to demean football, of course, for those who play it.
I've got to tell you, I worry about a government that never sleeps. These people don't sleep. These people hit the sack at night saying, "Who are we going to whack today?" or "Who are we going to whack tomorrow?" But if you're going to whack them, you've got to whack them fairly. Never whack them unfairly. I heard a couple of members talk about how, "We're now treating both the Catholic and the public boards fairly." Yes, you're treating them fairly. You're whacking them both equally, but fairly, of course. We wouldn't want to create the impression that there is unequal treatment now that you guys are in power.
I want to speak to the politics of this issue. What this is about is cutting dollars, of course, but also blaming. That's why I say when you guys go to bed at night, you say, "Who are we going to whack today?" You decided teachers are your victims for the time being. Why? Because as you do polling, you say to yourselves: "We did some polling here. It shows that going after teachers is not a bad thing." It isn't because Mme Ecker really hates teachers. I don't think she does. She loves them, in fact. Is it because M. Harris hates teachers? I don't think so. He loves them too. After all, he was a teacher at one point. He knows very well what it was like. So how could he do anything that would hurt the profession of which he was a member, right?
Mr Tascona: Don't get personal. Stick to the bill.
Mr Marchese: No, no personal stuff at all. I don't want to say anything about the Premier. I'm sure he was a good teacher. Some say he was a good teacher.
Mr O'Toole: Who's doing the evaluation?
Mr Marchese: Who's doing what? Evacua-? We'll try to get to that non sequitur; we'll see if we can make sense of it.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Durham would know that he needs to be in his seat.
Mr Marchese: What are we doing with this issue? We are going after teachers because your polling reveals that by going after them you're on safe ground. You are, because your polling shows that you are. "If we beat up on teachers, will the public say, `Yeah, we think so. Teachers are'"-let me guess. Underworked? Overpaid? Does the polling reveal that?
Interjection: Other people work hard.
Mr Marchese: Other people work hard, of course, but teachers are underworked and overpaid. How do we fix that problem? There's a thing in this Bill 74 called instructional time. We're going to make them work a little harder because the public thinks they don't work very hard. So how do we play politics with the public? Bismarck-there was a politician.
Mr Marchese: Minister, I made reference to Bismarck because I thought you might look him up. I am sure that you guys are good disciples of Bismarck. Why? Because Bismarck created a crisis in order to get re-elected. Brilliant. Now, M. Snobelen knew that. I'm assuming he was a good disciple of Bismarck because he said, "We create a crisis, we'll get re-elected. The public will say, `God, look at this mess in the school system; we have to fix it.'" And then the Tories come in and say, "We're fixing the problem."
Let's go back a little bit in history and think of the amalgamations of the school boards. "Too many school boards," the Tories said. Does the public believe there are too many school boards? Well, they don't know. But Mike Harris is going to tell them, "There are too many school boards, so we're going to fix it." In Toronto we had quite a number of school boards. I used to be a trustee with the Toronto board.
The Acting Speaker: I cannot hear the speaker. I remind the member for Durham that he's not in his seat and that it works much better in here if the member for Trinity-Spadina, who has the floor, is not heckled.
Mr Marchese: Speaker, I appreciate the help. I couldn't hear myself either for all that screaming. Please, a little calm on the other side.
Amalgamations of the school boards: I used to be a trustee with the Toronto board, eight years. I quit my job in order to do that full-time. And I have to tell you, I used to love that job because I felt that doing political work in a school system was as important as being a city councillor, just as important. I have to tell you that I did that work full-time because I felt it was important to be able to serve the public and the parents in a way that you needed to be in the school system to understand, and not just go to a meeting every now and then and simply put up your hand and say, "Yep, that seem all right," and then go home. You have to be there. You have to go to the parent meetings. You have to go to the schools. You have to go to those committees to hear what the issues are all about, right? You can't do that on a part-time basis the way these people want them to do the job.
That's what they want. They don't want trustees to, first of all, attack governments when they take money away, attack governments when the boards and teachers and students are under attack. So how do they deal with that? You simply, literally, eliminate school boards, but not entirely, because you still need school boards to be your foil so as schools close, Minister Ecker says: "Please don't come to me. I didn't close the schools. Go to the trustees." You understand. You give boards just sufficient power so that you can use them for the dirty work that they need to do because of the underfunding.
So when we amalgamated school boards, what we did was to simply create a whole lot of chaos in the system. The director of this new Toronto district board is so busy making their agenda work, she's got no time to go to meetings. There's no time to respond to parents. There's no time to address the Education Improvement Commission that says, "We need a plan to reach out to parents." How could you reach out to parents when you as a director or principal and everyone else in the system is so preoccupied with cutting money that you have no time to deal with the parents?
We've lost that closeness we had with teachers and parents, with parents and trustees. We've lost all of that connection we had to each other. That's the sadness of what this government has created. This is none of their business really; the consequences of their actions are irrelevant to them. The point is they needed to take money out of the system, so they simply say: "You've got to amalgamate. You've got to save money."
Then you go after the trustees: "Oh, those trustees, those politicians. My God, we've got to take politics out of education. We've got to make sure the trustees don't get paid enough, so that they don't do any politics." A whole lot of teachers bought into that, and generally, the public bought into that. This government says: "Oh, my God, these trustees are building Taj Mahals. They've got so much money to waste. We, as a government, are just going to"-it's unbelievable.
Talk about a boondoggle. Talk about spinning. You guys are good. I have told you before, you guys are really good. So we get rid of trustees and there's no more politics, but we leave them there to make sure they do the dirty work for you. Good thinking, an artful kind of politics.
Then we introduced Bill 160. Why on earth would you introduce Bill 160, except and unless you wanted to squeeze money, suck money out of the education system. Why? Your tax cut was coming and you needed money to give to your rich buddies. You can't do it without taking it from somewhere. Did you really think? Please. The people out there, at least the parents who are involved-and about 25% to 30% of the people in Ontario are parents-are quite political and they don't like you people, for good reason.
The other 73% of the people, who are not parents, don't know the game. You tell them: "Trustees are wasting money. My God, it must be in the billions. Boards must be wasting money in the billions. The bureaucracy in the Toronto board, and not just the Toronto board but everywhere, must be so huge. We could probably solve the deficit with it, if not the debt." The poor Ontarians who don't know any better say, "Yes, we could probably solve the deficit and the debt if we cut there." It's pitiful actually.
That's why I say you guys are good. Bill 160 was designed to centralize control, to take it away from the boards and the trustees and put it in the hands of Monsieur Harris, and now Madame Ecker, the chief steward of that. You squeeze. When the opposition says, "Oh, but you're taking a billion dollars," Madame Ecker is here tonight and says: "No, we're not. You're spinning a conspiracy theory." The opposition says, "You're taking money out." She says: "No, we're not. Where do you get your figures from?"
Maybe because we're the opposition we just invent. Yes, we invent these things because we know your intention is not to take money out, because, good God, you've given so much and parents out there are so grateful to be fundraising every night, fundraising till they drop. They're so grateful to you that you've given them the ability to be able to fundraise for their schools that they understand what you're doing. They know you've given a lot of money. That's why they're fundraising even more to make ends meet, because they know how tough this economy has been in the last five years.
Five years of a good economy, money coming out of their-many areas. Where's it going?
Hon David Turnbull (Minister of Transportation): That's what good management does for you.
Mr Marchese: Good management says, "We give money to the rich and we squeeze everybody else in the education system, our health care system, our social services, poor seniors."
Mr Wettlaufer: Good management creates a surplus.
Mr Marchese: Yes, I know. Good management means that you take five billion bucks, spread it out over a couple of years and give it to business. That's good management. Five good years of an economy without you giving them money. All of a sudden, you find five billion bucks to give to them. You've got to be nuts to follow that logic. If they were able to produce a good economy without you, why would you give them my money, the taxpayers' money, five billion bucks? Look at the stupidity of it all-with all due respect, Speaker.
The money managers who trade in the paper economy are the lazy bums-the guys who sit there by the computer and say, "Oh, here's a deal, made a couple of thousand; switch over in the next couple of minutes to something else and make a couple more thousand." These are the corporate welfare recipients of my money. They said, under this new budget, that the first $100,000 of these money managers, who make the big bucks, doesn't get taxed. They cut welfare recipients by 23% and then they give these people, the ones with the moolah, the pecunia, the bucks, a tax break.
Good honest citizens, taxpayers, can you understand the folly of it? Mr Turnbull says this is good management. I think you, honest citizen out there, good honest, paying, hard-working taxpayer, would think that that's corporate welfare, that you don't give your money away to people who are making money. You've got to think these people are nuts. I think they're nuts, and I think you good people of Ontario believe these people are nuts too.
They give $1 billion away at $200 a pop; $1 billion, a whole lot of money. They could have cut the debt, which is my burden and my responsibility too, and you, good taxpayers, that's your burden and responsibility too, and these people give away $1 billion to make you feel good by giving you $200. How do you feel about a Tory government that sends your money away to the big corporations and gives you 200 bucks instead of cutting the debt? How do you feel, good, honest, hard-working citizens, taxpayers of Ontario? You've got to tell these good managers, "People work hard and they don't want their $1 billion to go away while you feed your friends money they don't need, taking money from me to give to your buddies." You've got to think someone is nuts on the other side.
Bill 74: Someone from the Liberal caucus said, "You good people of Ontario should pick up the bill and read it." Who is going to pick up this bill and read it, leaf through this stuff? It's legal stuff. Good people of Ontario, are you going to read through this stuff? I'll tell you how good these Tories are: All you need to do is get hold of the first page and it will give you what you need. I'll read it for you. Ecoutez, s'il vous plait, un instant. It says, "Bill 74, An Act to amend the Education Act to increase education quality"-beautiful-"to improve the accountability of school boards to students"-need I say more?-"parents and taxpayers and to enhance students' school experience." You don't have to read the bill, the politics is on the front page. Every time you read the front page, good citizens, taxpayers of Ontario, if you see stuff like this, I'm telling you, don't believe it.
Mr O'Toole: Address the cameras.
Mr Marchese: I am addressing the camera. There are two cameras over there.
Interjection: You're not speaking through the Speaker.
Mr Marchese: Always through the Speaker, with one eye over here and another eye over there. I see him over there.
So this is the politics, right? It's called placebo politics. "How do we make people out there, the good taxpayers of Ontario, feel that we are actually doing something? If people feel good right here, that's all we need to do. We don't want to force the good public of Ontario to read through the bill. We just have to make them feel good right here."
I've got to tell you that with the polling you're doing, you know you're making the public feel good right here. That's placebo politics, right? Never give them the medicine they need; give them the medicine they think will make them feel better. That's what this is all about.
People try to talk about the detail of the bill. That's not what it's about. You think these people concern themselves about detail? I tell you, they introduced five or six or seven or eight municipal bills, each to correct the stupidity of the previous one. Do you think they care about bills and consequences? That's not their concern. The concern is: "Does the public buy into what we have presented?" Does the public understand that Mr Snobelen said, "We need to create a crisis," and that Bismarck was quite good at teaching these people a lesson: Create a crisis, then you say you're going to solve it? Does it solve it? It's irrelevant. Solving a problem is not part of what these people do. It's part of making people in Ontario feel good. That's placebo politics. That's what these people are all about.
I made reference to Machiavelli the other day. These guys are good Machiavellians: The end justifies the means. These people are good practitioners of some of these famous politicians of the past. I wish that we New Democrats were as good as they are. Our problem was that we were too fond of often telling the truth-
Mr Marchese: Mr Turnbull laughs.
Hon Mr Turnbull: That's a good place to stop, Rosie. That's the best yet.
Mr Marchese: Oh, really? But listen, Mr Turnbull, I'm going to have some more time tomorrow. I'll be back to finish this up and I will have some time to expound on that a little, for your edification, of course, because I know that you find this so very amusing.
Interjection: Keep going.
Mr Marchese: Oh, I will, because I've got so much material here. I've got a whole lot of time. Speaker, how much time do I have before you want me to finish? One minute? How time flies in this place.
So before I end, the people of Ontario need to understand the political game. Minister Ecker constantly says to the other people that every other person who makes the point about what she's doing is of course not telling the truth; only she is telling the truth, and the bill says so. The bill gives you a hint and the truth of what is to come and you simply need not bother with the detail. Just go home, be happy and carry on with your work.
Speaker, I know you're rushing me. I want to thank you for your attention. I'll be back tomorrow night at a quarter to 7.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. It being 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2127.