STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMITÉ PERMANENT DE
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE L'ADMINISTRATION DE LA JUSTICE
EDUCATION QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1997 LOI DE 1997 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DE LA QUALITÉ DE L'ÉDUCATION
BLAINE MITTON IRENE POWERS
SCARBOROUGH CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE STUDIES
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ONTARIO DIVISION
EDUCATORS' ASSOCIATION FOR QUALITY EDUCATION
ETOBICOKE HOME AND SCHOOL COUNCIL
ST MARY'S SECONDARY SCHOOL
EAST YORK HOME AND SCHOOL COUNCIL
BRUNO PILEGGI LYNDA CLIFFORD-RASHOTTE LOUISA DECIANTIS ANTHONY BELLISSIMO
TOGETHER IN EDUCATION, REGION OF WATERLOO
SCHOOL ADVISORY COUNCIL CHAIRS, BOARD OF EDUCATION FOR THE CITY OF YORK
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
STUDENT TRUSTEES FOR THE ETOBICOKE BOARD OF EDUCATION
SCARBOROUGH PRINCIPALS' ASSOCIATION
ORDE STREET PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS COUNCIL
Monday 20 October 1997
Education Quality Improvement Act, Bill 160, Mr Snobelen /
Loi de 1997 sur l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation,
projet de loi 160, M. Snobelen
Mr Blaine Mitton; Mrs Irene Powers
Mrs Carmel Suttor
Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies
Ms Pam Petropoulos
Ms Elaine Lloyd-Robinson
Mr Senaka Suriya
Mrs Kathleen Pinto
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario division
Mr Sid Ryan
Mr George Christoff
Educators' Association for Quality Education
Mr Barry Kavanagh
Ms Kathryn Blackett
Etobicoke Home and School Council
Mrs Debbie Gilbert
St Mary's Secondary School
Mr Gary O'Dwyer
Mr Todd Blimkie
Ms Kelly MacDonald
Ms Erin Black
Mr Kevin Cardoza
Mr Darcy Fuller
Mr Keith Crysler
Ms Bronwyn Drainie
Mrs Bonnie Palmer
East York Home and School Association
Ms Laura Dark
Dr Trish Simmie
Mr Bruno Pileggi; Ms Lynda Clifford-Rashotte;
Ms Louisa DeCiantis; Mr Anthony Bellissimo
Together in Education, Region of Waterloo
Mr John Ryrie
Ms Diane Greenhalgh
M. Yves Bouchard
Mr Brydon Elinesky
Ms Pat Cannon
School Advisory Council Chairs, Board of Education for the City of York
Ms Cathy Zeleniak
Mr Bill Worrell
Ms Joanne Clarke
Ontario Association of Catholic Families
Mr Brian Taylor
Ms Fiona Nelson
Mrs Doretta Wilson
Ms Gay Young
Mrs Angela Kennedy
Student Trustees for the Etobicoke Board of Education
Mr Scott McDonald
Mr Aaron Richards
Ms Leslie Gross
Ms Kelly Maguire
Mr Jann Flury
Scarborough Principals' Association
Mrs Vera Taylor
Mr Jack Madden
Mr Ken Lauder
Orde Street Public School Parents Council
Mr Jose Freire-Canosa
Ms Marion Endicott
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Chair / Président
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia PC)
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South / -Sud L)
Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre / -Centre PC)
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau PC)
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold ND)
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge PC)
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming L)
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr Bob Wood (London South / -Sud PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr David Caplan (Oriole L)
Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence L)
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock PC)
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South / -Sud L)
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William L)
Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC)
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex PC)
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma ND)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale ND)
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine ND)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel
Mr Andrew McNaught, research officer, Legislative Research Service
STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMITÉ PERMANENT DE
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE L'ADMINISTRATION DE LA JUSTICE
Monday 20 October 1997 Lundi 20 octobre 1997
Report continued from volume A.
EDUCATION QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1997 LOI DE 1997 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DE LA QUALITÉ DE L'ÉDUCATION
Continuing consideration of Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability, and make other improvements consistent with the Government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à réformer le système scolaire, à protéger le financement des classes, à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte et à apporter d'autres améliorations compatibles avec la politique du gouvernement en matière de qualité de l'éducation, y compris l'amélioration du rendement des élèves et la réglementation de l'effectif des classes.
BLAINE MITTON IRENE POWERS
The Chair: Our next presentation is by Irene Powers and Blaine Mitton. Welcome. I'd ask you to proceed. You have 10 minutes between the two of you. Written submissions have been filed by both of you, and members of the committee should have those.
Mr Blaine Mitton: Good afternoon. I believe I'll go first, if that's okay with the committee, re Bill 160. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee. My name is Blaine Mitton. I am president of the Peel Taxpayers Coalition.
First I'd like to give a little background for my presentation that I feel needs repeating lest we lose perspective for the exercise. This provincial government has over $110 billion in debt inherited from past governments of various distinction. The federal government has a $600-billion debt.
We have a 9% unemployment rate, shameful in a country with our natural wealth and when compared to our neighbours to the south, whose unemployment rate is about 5%. Further, the average income for people between the ages of 20 and 30 years has fallen to 72% of their counterparts in 1981 as measured in 1993 dollars.
If education is the resource that helps us generate wealth, it has surely failed us in many respects. Internationally, people are catching up. Look at the retail stores and see where the majority of our consumer products are made. We are not competitive; thus our high unemployment rate. More important, we are not competitive in many cases because of our high taxes. The prices of many of our products reflect taxes collected on behalf of governments, besides our income taxes.
Let me say this: Education costs are a large part of the tax bill, and when half of the education costs are spent outside the classroom, we know much of our tax dollar does not go for teaching students.
We want a provincial curriculum, a provincial test for all students, provincial grading: a measure of scholastic performance to a standard for all schools across the province. Then we will know where the best schools and best teachers and teaching methods are used. We will not need school boards to tell us how great they are, with no real comparison or means of measurement.
Industry has been using statistics for years to improve quality and performance. Why are teachers and their unions so scared of this? Are they afraid to compete? Do they not measure up?
A per student allocation of funds with variance only for transportation and heat is needed. Then we will know how much money each school board should have to spend.
In Singapore one Saturday morning, I watched a skilled teacher on local TV present a chartered accounting course for all to see, with video assists that were clear and to the point. It was impressive and memorable. This type of teaching could be presented for all courses as many times as desired in a classroom, from the best, with assistant teaching coaches. If prep time is such a big problem, this could be a solution. By the way, I went to a school with over 40 students and eight grades in one classroom. There was only one teacher. She never had any prep time. I don't understand the prep time issue for a skilled teacher teaching two or three subjects repeatedly.
We need change. Picture this if you will: A student I know has gone to nursery school, junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2, and is now in grade 3. Five years and roughly $30,000 of taxpayers' money later, the student cannot readily tell time nor add or subtract numbers under 20 with any degree of assuredness. This is five years later. Don't talk to me about prep time. Talk to me about bottom-line results. This student is smart but lazy. Outside tutoring is now under way. Worse, this student has not gained any work ethic, mental discipline or any level of real expectation. Solid work habits will have to be taught at this late date. Social skills were improved tremendously this summer at a Y camp through competition and team spirit.
Student-centred learning is a fraud on the taxpaying public. In this school there are no textbooks, so parents have no measure of what to expect. This is ridiculous. Money has been taken from textbooks for salaries.
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Mitton. You only have 10 minutes between the two of you. At the rate you're going, you're going to take all 10 minutes with your presentation.
Mr Mitton: How much do we have left, sir?
The Chair: You've got five minutes left.
Mr Mitton: I'll move on a little bit.
Further, don't talk to me about hurting students' self-esteem by failing them. What kind of self-esteem do you have when you realize you can't tell time in grade 3?
Education costs over $7,000 per year per student currently; $8,400 if you are in Metro. When you look at the actual costs in a classroom of 25 students, you have to wonder where the money goes and how effectively it is spent. Maybe students could even have textbooks. Taxpayers are fed up with paying for poor service.
I'll jump down a little bit further.
To make my point about how fed up people are, the new 407 became a toll road recently and traffic dropped by 66% even though drivers had to endure heavy traffic. If anyone is watching and listening, there is a message. The people are ticked off with paying extra taxes or tolls when moneys are being spent so ineffectively by all levels of government.
Implement Bill 160, and if the teachers go on an illegal strike, fire them. Give them their pension, then implement right-to-work legislation. There are a lot of young people who would love to teach and receive those wonderful salaries. You are the senior management. We elected you, not the unions, to make change. Do it. Stay the course. Prove to the voters of this province that you deserve to be returned to office. Rise to the challenge, which we know all too well is real. Thank you.
Mrs Irene Powers: My name is Irene Powers and I am not affiliated with the taxpayers' coalition, Peel or any other one, at the moment. I am an Ontario working mother residing in the town of Caledon. I have two children aged eight and 11 in the public school system. I have not been paid to attend these hearings. Rather, I have taken time off work to be here because I care about the future in education of our children.
I support regulating of class size and more teacher-student time. Allow administrations and teachers to come up with creative methods of efficient and effective teaching within these new size standards.
I support more classroom hours.
I support more money going into classrooms in the form of textbooks. Spending for our children's education at a basic level must come first.
I support the hiring of staff in specific areas without teaching degrees. What a great opportunity for other professionals to share their knowledge in a different environment.
I support fewer PD days. Kids do not need more time out of the classroom.
I support year-round teaching beginning with an earlier start to the school year.
I support a reduced number of school boards and less top-heavy management in the system.
I support a reduction in the number of trustees and the consideration that perhaps it should become a part-time position and not a springboard to higher political aspirations.
I support the sharing of services between public and private school boards to reduce duplication and cost.
I support the removal of education taxes from our property tax bills.
The reason I support the government's efforts in changes to our educational system is simple: I don't believe in mediocrity. I don't accept mediocrity from my children and I would be a party to continuing mediocrity in education if I didn't speak out in support of change.
Many of the impending changes to our education system by the government are in fact still vague. However, it is the effort and direction of this government to attempt to change an outdated, ineffectual and expensive system which I applaud and support.
The status quo is one of reports and discussions and meetings and public input. We are in information overload. Let's have faith in the combined efforts of our elected government and our educators to work out the fine details of this plan.
To our educators I say: Stop threatening strike action. I do not give you the right to make my children pawns in your serious games of control to maintain a failing system. It should be remembered that we pay your salary. You are responsible to us, the public. If you are successful in your unbending quest to strike, it will not be tolerated without severe consequences. If not the very least, your reputations are on the line. The line is thinning; don't try so hard to erase it. It can only be to the serious and immediate detriment of our children to go out on strike. There is no benefit to this way of thinking.
It is arrogant of the teachers' unions to believe that only they know what is right in the educational process. It is my contention that when you live in a protected environment, it becomes increasingly difficult to see beyond the walls of that system. What we parents want for our children is the exposure to the outside world, the outside ideas and the people from the outside who, although they do not hold degrees in education, are in many instances most able to transfer their knowledge to the students.
We know that this is a tough chunk to swallow for the educators, but what can we lose by trying? In fact, what do we have to lose by any of these changes? If the pressure on Bill 160 exists at the next election, another government would be elected and rescind the changes, kind of like a democratic system rather than empowering a few with personal investments to be protected.
It is my personal belief that the opposition parties sleep well knowing that the tough and necessary solutions are being made by others and their dreams are to inherit a healthy Ontario.
To the honourable Premier Mike Harris and Mr Dave Johnson I say sincerely, do not bow down to special-interest groups. Blaze your own trails for the good of Ontario and stay on track for all of our sakes. It takes courage to be different. Anyone can maintain the status quo.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Powers and Mr Mitton. The time has elapsed. I thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Chair: This morning a number of us raised a concern about the unfilled time slots and it was my understanding there would be an attempt to ensure that those times were filled from the list of people who had made application to make presentations. I'm wondering if we could get an update from the clerk as to the progress in filling these slots.
The Chair: There was a request. There was no decision ever made. We will have one coming up. We have a tabled motion from Mrs McLeod on the floor that has to be dealt with today if it's to be of any use whatsoever. Could we deal with it after this presentation?
Mr Wildman: Sure, I guess so.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Chair, rather than lose an opportunity for another presentation, I would withdraw the motion. My motion related to the desire to see some extended time for presentations.
The Chair: Could we deal with it right after this? I will ask the question then.
Ms Lankin: I just want to be clear. Am I to understand you haven't decided that question, so the clerk was given no instructions this morning to try and fill those empty spaces for this afternoon? Is that what you're saying?
The Chair: No. We're talking about taking someone from the audience. The clerk was given instructions to phone people, which he's been doing throughout these hearings, individuals on the large list.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Carmel Suttor. Could you proceed?
Mrs Carmel Suttor: My name is Carmel Suttor. I come as an individual parent. I want to speak to you because I want you to know that we parents are very, very worried about how Bill 160 will affect our children's education and what changes Bill 160 will bring.
I come not as a member of an organization. I speak for myself and for parents I've talked to over coffee and in playgrounds. We've been aware for some time that changes are coming to our education system, and since the passing of Bill 104 we've been on tenterhooks wondering what these changes will be. The devil is in the details.
The disturbing thing about Bill 160 is that there are no details. None of the questions that parents ask, such as, "How big will my child's class be?" or "Will my school still have a program for children with learning disabilities?" are answered. What Bill 160 seems to do is to grant the Lieutenant Governor in Council and the Education Improvement Commission sweeping powers to decide these matters by regulation after the bill is passed. Whole sections of the bill give powers to the Minister of Education or the Lieutenant Governor in Council, which I understand is the cabinet, to decide everything by regulation.
Time and time again in Bill 160 we see phrases like, "A regulation under this section may be general or particular," or "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting any matter that is referred to in this section as prescribed." We see sentences like, "Orders and directives of the Education Improvement Commission under this section are final and shall not be reviewed or questioned in any court." Why? This last one worries me.
We all make mistakes. No government, Education Improvement Commission or cabinet is infallible. They will make both good and bad decisions. What sort of redress will we have when we learn that a bad decision has been made? I'm sure that it will be parents and teachers who deal with their kids every day who will be the first to notice if something is not working for our children. What forum will we have to voice those concerns? Why is it necessary to have no recourse when a bad decision gets made? Ontario is a democracy.
The second thing that worries me is money. Bill 160 will pass before we have any idea how much will be spent and how and where. This, once again, will be revealed afterwards.
The government's news release of September 24 states, "We are committed to ensuring our students have access to the highest quality education in the most cost-effective manner." "The highest quality education" -- a laudable goal, no one will argue with that -- "in the most cost-effective manner." Is that the point of the whole exercise?
Parents, teachers, editorialists have been worrying for a long time that the uploading of education was to enable the government to take money out of education. I don't remember exactly when or where the $1 billion figure first got mentioned, but what we've been waiting for is reassurance from the government that every penny we save from restructuring education will be reinvested into education. We have not got that reassurance.
Ontario cannot afford to be penny wise and pound foolish. Education is an investment. The children we are sending to school now need to become competent, capable adults if our society is going to flourish in the next generation. A little reinvestment in training in the current technology is not enough. We have no idea what sort of world our little ones will have to function in when they grow up or what skills they will need in 20 or 30 years. We were not taught how to use the Internet or a word processor when we were children; we learned as adults. We have no idea what new technologies will come along later. We need to help our children become informed and innovative. We need to equip them with the ability to learn whatever skills they will need to function as adults. We need to allow them to become adults who know how to think.
Let's reinvest every penny we save back into education. Let's do it thoughtfully and carefully. Let's pay attention to the early years when difficulties first occur -- an example was just given -- when some children need a lot of extra help just to catch up to the average. Yes, that costs money, but every dollar invested into giving children with learning disabilities the extra help they need or giving children from impoverished backgrounds a chance to catch up will be repaid many times when they grow up to become productive adults. Let's invest in all our children of all abilities.
Bill 160 gives the government the power to determine class sizes. Let's put every single child in smaller classes so the teacher can know each child properly and help each child attain his or her greatest potential. Small classes are the only way to bring out the best in every child, from kindergarten right through high school.
Parents care deeply about their children's future. We know that having a high-quality education is one of the things that will give them a good future. We keep a close eye on the schools they attend. If our worst fears come true, if we see the schools deteriorate, with demoralized teachers in overcrowded classes without enough textbooks and we have no power to change it, we will be more than worried. We will be furious.
The Chair: I thank you very much. Unfortunately there's too short a time to have all three caucuses take part and there's no time for questions. Thank you indeed for your presentation.
We have two things that have to be done. We have to read in at the request -- and I've agreed, but that's going to take about 10 minutes, to read a list of the written submissions received. We have two 10-minute blanks this afternoon. Right now is one of them, and then there's one following. Do we have agreement that we would select someone from the audience, contrary to our prior agreement?
Mrs McLeod: I was suggesting earlier this morning that there was a precedent established in the committee hearings on Bill 104 that where there were vacancies, we would do that, providing the individual had indicated an interest in presenting prior to the date.
The Chair: All we need is the agreement of all three people if we can do it.
Mr Smith: My understanding, then, Chair, is that your interpretation of the -- I guess this can't be considered a cancelled slot if they're unfilled, but that the cancelled slots would be filled at the discretion of the Chair with names from the appropriate caucus lists. Have those lists been expired or have they been pursued?
The Chair: We were unable to fill them this afternoon. We filled everything except two slots. It was just impossible. The clerk has been working all weekend and in the office today, and we just haven't been able to fill them from the lists. It's as simple as that.
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): You've got a list that has to be read in, understood?
The Chair: Yes.
Mr Rollins: We also are not on time. I think we should have the list read in, and then I think we should look at the time factor to see where we're sitting.
The Chair: Well, I can start reading the list in.
Mr Wildman: Is it really necessary for it to be read into the record? Can't it just be tabled?
The Chair: I don't understand that anything can be just tabled and appear in Hansard without being read in. That is correct. In committee, unfortunately, to appear in Hansard it has to be read in. We've gone through this with reading of amendments. Sometimes they're rather long. Yes, Mrs McLeod?
Mrs McLeod: I appreciate that, and I do think it's important that people who have made the effort to make written submissions should have those read into the record. I think it's appropriate to take some time for that, since it's apparent we're not going to be able to fill this spot in any event.
But I just want to point out that the reason for suggesting people who are in the audience, whose names are on the list as having contacted the clerk, who followed due process, asked to make a presentation but weren't able to get a spot, is that if they have been present for the hearings and are here, to continue to exclude them when they've sat through the hearings and are here ready to present without notice, when they have gone through due process, is really, really exclusionary. That's the reason for the proposal.
Mr Wildman: Could I ask just one other question, Chair, on the process? If we're going to use this time now to read the list into the record, what are we going to do when we finish hearing from Mr Christoff, prior to hearing from Mr Kavanagh, which is the next slot which is not filled?
The Chair: After I finish reading this list, I was going to ask the committee just that. You want to deal with it first?
Mr Wildman: No. It doesn't matter to me if you deal with it after.
The Chair: Okay. Let me read the list: "Sallie Lyons, Toronto; Jane Forbes and Geordie Colvin, Toronto; Debra Clarke, Ottawa; Greg Scott, Haley Station; Ontario Association of Children's Treatment Centre School Authorities; Luigi Tucci, Woodbridge; Teresa Carolan, Port Elgin; Ralph Gentile, Napanee; Concerned Staff of Fairwind Senior Public School, Mississauga; Annette Berry, Sioux Lookout; School Advisory Council, Etobicoke Collegiate Institute; Robert Vollum, Thunder Bay; C.N. Watson and Associates Ltd, Mississauga."
That is the list as given to me by the clerk. The question simply is, assuming that Mrs McLeod withdraws the motion she has tabled, we will have time at 4:20 -- it isn't 4:10, but we do have a vacant slot. Is it the desire of this committee that I now address individuals in the audience to determine if we can select one? Is there any opposition to approaching it in that manner? There seems to be no objection.
Is there any member of the audience who will be here for the next hour and a half who has not made a presentation and would like to do so for a 10-minute period -- that's a lot to ask -- and who has concerns they would like to express to the committee? It's very difficult, I understand, to do it spontaneously. Yes, ma'am, have you already made a presentation?
Ms Kathryn Blackett: No. I applied to the clerk of the committee to speak and was not granted a speaking opportunity. I am prepared and would be quite willing to present.
The Chair: Were you not present at the table?
Ms Blackett: I was, as a reader for People for Education, but I did not read my own; I read somebody else's, from a Catholic school board.
The Chair: And your name?
Ms Blackett: My name is Kathryn Blackett.
The Chair: Where are you from, Kathryn?
Ms Blackett: I am from Toronto.
The Chair: Is there any objection? It's the only volunteer we have. Yes. You will be heard after George Christoff.
SCARBOROUGH CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE STUDIES
The Chair: We shall now proceed with the Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies. Could you identify yourselves for the purposes of Hansard and proceed with your presentation.
Ms Pam Petropoulos: My name is Pam Petropoulos. I am a teacher. This is Elaine Lloyd-Robinson. She is a student. We're both from the Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies, known as SCAS. SCAS is the main adult education centre in Scarborough.
I'd just like to start by thanking the committee for giving us this opportunity to address you today. Elaine and I are representing adult high school students and adult high schools from across Toronto. By "adult high schools" I mean schools that are day school, that are credit programs. It's for students over the age of 21 who are trying to obtain their diplomas, so they are working towards credits to get their diplomas.
Who are adult high school students? They're learners who do not presently have a high school diploma. As you can imagine, a high school diploma is something that's an absolute basic résumé requirement. Adult high school students are people who want to participate fully in the labour force, but they are economically marginalized because they don't have the education, the skills or the training to be competitive in the workforce. Adult high school students are people who are in the prime of their income-earning years. They're people who have decades of work ahead of them. Adult high school students are for the most part people with financial responsibilities. They have families. Many of them have dependent children. Adult high school students share a couple of things in common: They share the desire and the commitment to improve their lives and to improve the future lives of their children.
In our community, students, staff, co-op employers, graduates and other people who are aware of our programs are disappointed, dismayed and confused by what has been happening to adult education programs across the province.
About two years ago, Bill 34 mandated a 50% reduction in provincial grants for high school students over the age of 21. This discriminatory policy has devastated adult programs outside of metropolitan areas that rely on the provincial grants. It has resulted in approximately an 80% reduction in enrolment in many jurisdictions.
Bill 104 and Bill 160 together will set the stage for Bill 34 to fully impact on adult education programs in Toronto. This will result in approximately a two-thirds reduction of current funding levels. This will do irreparable damage to programs that have been very successful in helping adult learners get the skills and education they need to get back into the workforce. Adult education has a solid record of placing graduates in jobs and preparing them for further training. Within six months of graduation, 75% of adults are either working or enrolled in more advanced training.
The acute social and economic needs in Metropolitan Toronto's diverse population make quality high school education for people of all ages an essential part of the infrastructure. Drastic cuts to programs like these will seriously limit opportunities for people like Elaine, who will now speak.
Ms Elaine Lloyd-Robinson: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today. I am a student at the Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies. Prior to going to SCAS, I was a high school dropout with not many skills. Not a lot of places wanted to hire me besides fast-food; I didn't do much in that area.
I've been diagnosed with ADD. Quite often lots of skills, but the diploma just was not there. I tried going to college twice, which I had to leave because my academic skills were not up to par. I'm now 32 years old. I have three children. Once again, jobless and skill-less.
May 1996, I arrived on the doorstep of SCAS, where I was assessed, given maturity credits and went on to meet counsellors who helped to point me in the right direction, where they feel I should be. Within one year I was able to get my grade 12 diploma through lots of hard work, with lots of good support from lots of good teachers and good people. I was given an award of outstanding academic leadership for that year at that school.
While at SCAS, I also obtained excellent employability skills, leadership skills, computer skills -- which are, as we know, essential for the 1990s -- and motivation skills. I attended parent workshops, for which I have a certificate. Heightened self-esteem, a sense of hope and my dignity. For this, I feel that I'm a better person, and the greatest thing to me is that I am now able to contribute back to my society economically. That, to me, is important. I'm also a better parent and a better worker and a better citizen. For these accomplishments, I'm proud of myself and SCAS and adult education.
There are many more adults like myself who would like the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and for their children. I know this afternoon you'll be hearing a lot of people saying a lot of different things. This afternoon I'm asking that you give careful consideration, and I do mean careful consideration, to adult education. There are lots of adults like myself, like I said before, who would really like the opportunity to get off social assistance and just get their life going once again. Many are victims of circumstances, we all know that, and I think we would all like to be given that opportunity. To me, it is one of the few options that's available to people like myself who need to bridge the gap, who need a bridge to get into the workforce and to establish a career.
With that, I would like to say thank you for listening to me and if you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer if I still have time.
The Chair: I thank you both for your presentation here today. Our time has elapsed, so I do thank you for your presentation. All members of the committee have received a copy of a written report also, so that will be looked at. Thank you.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Senaka Suriya. Welcome, sir. Please proceed.
Mr Senaka Suriya: This bill is a massive one. I probably can't talk about quite a lot of the things here. The way I feel is that Bill 160 is an extension of Bill 104 and the EIC together. As a result of that, I will focus on the subject of my presentation, which would be: Can Bill 160 be a recipe for marginalization?
The approach of the current government to education is unique. John Snobelen, the former Minister of Education and Training of the current government, eloquently explained this uniqueness: "We need to invent a crisis." To his credit he kept his promise, delivering an unwanted, manufactured, artificial crisis through Bills 104 and 160. Ironically, the immediate victims of this crisis will be none other than Ontario students, their parents and their dedicated, professional teachers.
Bill 160, if you look at the first reading version which I have here, contains 219 pages. When I showed the bill to a friend, she commented: "This is so large." Yes, the bill is large. But Bill 160 cannot be treated as a single item. What is not stated in Bill 160 can be found in Bill 104. In fact, Bill 160 finishes the job started by Bill 104. As a result, considering the implications of Bill 160, it is not large, but rather it is massive.
Massive projects can make massive mistakes. If mistakes are to be minimized, all concerned parties of an issue must be seriously consulted. On the contrary, the current government has been using "We will stay on course" rhetoric as an excuse for not listening to anyone who contradicts the government's position or even people who are interested in voicing constructive criticism. For a change, could you please listen to students, parents and teachers? They are not your enemies.
If you realized that people who voice their concerns over Bill 160 are not your enemies, you would stop spending taxpayers' money to spread propaganda messages through various media outlets to cover up the contradictions of the bill. Even if you feel that people who voice their concerns over Bill 160 are not your enemies, you may find difficulties in backing down from the general legislative theme of centralization of power in Queen's Park which is so dear to your government's ideology. You may feel it is absolutely essential that Bill 160 does not contradict the overall legislative theme of centralization of power, but please make an exception. Please withdraw the bill. It does not make sense. If you think education is too expensive, then try ignorance.
I am sure that you will hear a well-founded variety of reasons for requesting the withdrawal of the bill. However, I am not going to address all aspects of the bill, but I am focusing my oral presentation today on the need to protect the marginalized people in schools and in society at large.
The preamble of Bill 160 states that it is structured to "reform the education system." Surely the Ontario education system requires some changes. However, the extent and the nature of reforms which are tabled through Bill 160 will deform the education system to the extent that it will not provide responsive learning environments for all students, disseminate socially responsible values or produce equitable employment. In other words, in order to be just and equitable, the Ontario education system must provide responsive learning environments for all students, disseminate socially responsible values and produce equitable employment.
I go back to my first theme: provider of responsive learning environments for all students. The bill gives the Minister of Education the right to control prep time and class size. In light of the current government's confrontational approach with teachers, I'm inclined to believe that the threats of prep time reduction and the increase in classroom size are not mere empty words. On the one hand, the reduction of prep time will result in inadequate time for teachers to design appropriate lessons addressing the diversity of student needs. Students who need extra help, students with alternative learning styles, students with special education needs and students who are recent immigrants with additional language requirements will suffer the most. On the other hand, any increase in classroom size will create similar problems.
My second item: disseminator of socially responsible values. Although certain planning initiatives can be centralized, any massive centralization of planning means making local issues invisible to a degree in school administration and curriculum content. In addition, considering actions such as the slashing of powers of local school board trustees; the patronage appointments to the Education Improvement Commission, an executive body unaccountable to the public to design the future of Ontario's education system; and the failed attempt to remove principals and vice-principals from local teacher union units, I am concerned about the lack of accountability in your government's education agenda to the communities in which schools are located. In other words, the bill should safeguard, respect and preserve socially responsible values central to the communities in which schools are located. If the school system fails to disseminate socially responsible values, the students graduating through Ontario schools will be useful neither to their local communities nor to Ontario at large.
Third: producer of equitable employment. The reduction of prep time and the increase of classroom size have ramifications on the ability of school boards to remain as producers of equitable employment to traditionally underrepresented people in the teaching profession in Ontario. They are women, visible minorities, first nations peoples and people with disabilities. In recent years, the Ontario education system has made some attempts to address this employment inequality. Any reduction of prep time or any increase of classroom size will result in the application of the "last come, first out" principle in the laying off of teachers. In other words, whether it is intentional or unintentional, the final result is the increase of underrepresentation of the abovementioned traditionally underrepresented people in the Ontario teaching profession.
Therefore, in my conclusion, systemic education inequality is a social reality in Canada that is faced on a daily basis by many living in Ontario. It took decades of public policy measures to enable Ontarians to enjoy the present level of some equality in standards. The current government arguments of downsizing, rightsizing and reorganization have failed to address equity concerns. Please do not make equity concerns disappear into obscurity. Please reconsider the government position on Bill 160 because the bill is a recipe for marginalization.
The Chair: Thank you, sir. There is one minute per caucus only starting with the opposition.
Mrs McLeod: I wonder, given the fact that we just have a minute, if you would be able to expand a little bit more on the marginalization of those individuals in the education system who you think are going to be further disadvantaged by this government's exercise of powers under this bill.
Mr Suriya: Do you mean the employment terms or the student terms?
Mrs McLeod: Schooling terms.
Mr Suriya: One of the problems when you teach in a classroom is that you realize that especially the special education students and also new immigrants, for example, need extra attention. When the classroom size increases, one of the problems is that teachers don't have time to prepare their lessons to take care of the unique, individual particularities of each and every student. What I observed in the schools -- my opinion, at least, and I have taught in the schools -- is that prep time is the time when we usually talk to the students and address their problems.
If they have a welfare concern we ask teachers. We are not just people adding one plus one equals two. We are social service agents too so we solve those problems and we will not have enough time. Especially as young teachers we have to do extracurricular activities after school, which means we don't have enough time to do a whole of things, so prep time reduction and class size increases mean one thing or another gives way. It's not a race issue per se, because race, class, gender and other series of things come into play.
The Chair: Excuse me. I have to cut you off there because we only have this one-minute period.
Mr Wildman: I want to thank you for your presentation. You talked about centralization of the system and how that contributes to marginalization. You gave us some examples, but do you have any particular ideas about why a government that says it wants to get services closer to the people would be centralizing education at Queen's Park?
Mr Suriya: I remember the days when I used to live in England. I have seen this idea. This is neo-Thatcherism, in my opinion. One of the problems, I know that if I have a problem with a principal or a school bus driver or what not, I would call the local school board trustee, who is more effective in handling local-level situations. I think with all the government ideologies -- you can't understand this Bill 160 by itself. If you get all the legislation bills introduced into the Legislature they make one whole bill. All their themes are centralization of power. So that itself is synthesized in this bill. That's part of the ideology of the --
The Chair: I know it's impossible to answer in one minute, but again I'll have to cut you off.
Mr Smith: I just want to be clear. You're a teacher yourself are you?
Mr Suriya: No I'm not teaching now.
Mr Smith: You're not a teacher. With respect to your last paragraph, where you raise issues around equity concerns -- in part Bill 160 brings a new funding scenario for all students -- would you support a scenario that provides a fair and balanced funding model for all students in this province?
Mr Suriya: The point is that I don't like to talk about policies in abstract terms. When I read this bill I have no clue what it's saying. You have to give me a solid example, solid answers, then I'll answer that question. All my answers are subject to conditions. That's reality. I live in the real world. As a minority that formula, this formula do not mean anything to me. If you give a solid example, I'll give a solid answer.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr Suriya: Thanks a lot for listening to me.
The Chair: Not at all. It was very thoughtful.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Kathleen Pinto. Welcome, Ms Pinto. I ask you to proceed.
Mrs Kathleen Pinto: Thank you for the opportunity to present my opinions on Bill 160. I am appearing as a parent of five children who are currently in grades 12, 11, 9, 6 and 3.
During the past 14 years my children have accumulated approximately 50 years, collectively, of educational experience. Some of those years have been very positive. We have been privileged to work with classroom teachers who have accurately recognized our children's strengths and weaknesses and enabled them to develop both intellectually and emotionally. Our children have benefited from teachers' and principals' generous contributions to extracurricular activities in coaching sports and in running clubs and competitions. There have been years in which the children have been regularly assigned homework and tests and had these marked and returned in a timely fashion.
When our oldest child was in grade 1 her school librarian, a certified teacher, ran a three-month enrichment program which introduced every child in the class to the computer. We as parents were very optimistic about the possibilities of public education. But that was our one and only experience with such a program in the 50 years of collective experience mentioned above. What enabled one teacher to implement and run such a program where no other librarian has been able to do so? What does a school board or its library resources department learn from "best practices" of such outstanding teachers?
There have also, sadly, been years where problems with a child's performance identified by us parents have been dismissed or not responded to by our teaching professionals, who have insisted there's no real problem because children develop at different rates. Believe me, it is extremely difficult as a parent to watch a child struggle in a system which is either unresponsive to or dismissive of a plea for help.
We have tried to work cooperatively with the school system. We have raised our concerns with classroom teachers, we have consulted the principal when the classroom teachers have not responded and we have asked our supervisory officers and school trustees to deal with the problems identified. We have appeared as delegations at our school board meetings to identify local school issues and ask for help. We have actively participated in school associations to help contribute to building a strong local school. Our general experience, unfortunately, is that we and many other parents who identify problems or request that alternatives be considered within the system are met with hostility, denial and indifference by our school board employees.
In order to support our teachers' classroom efforts, we have requested curriculum outlines for our children at the beginning of each school year. We have also requested lists of texts and approved reference materials. These requests have been responded to very infrequently.
We have asked that we be provided with the names of supply teachers when our children's classroom teachers are away, but this request has been ignored. Now we are being subjected to fearmongering from the teachers' federations, which insist that changes to the act will mean we won't know who is coming into the schools to teach our children. With all due respect, we can't miss what we've never had.
We are still waiting to be provided with our local school's results from the grade 3 tests administered in spring 1997. We are told that the education quality assessment office is responsible for the delay. When our daughter wrote the grade 9 provincial English test, the infamous Philadelphia Cream Cheese test, four years ago, we were promised that the results would be shared with us, but despite our repeated requests for this information it was never made available.
We know that the teaching profession is made up of individuals with a wide range of abilities. Unfortunately we also know that where a teacher is experiencing problems there is no effective mechanism in the current system to enable a principal or a board to help the teacher improve his or her performance. That this situation is tolerated when the education of young and impressionable children is involved is very unconscionable.
We have asked several times at our board level why curriculum is being written in every board across the province rather than centrally by the province. That question has never been satisfactorily answered. We know also that there is a great disparity in spending per pupil from board to board across the province, but we believe that a public education system should provide equal funding to all its students.
Year after year it is reported that Canada as a whole does poorly on international tests, and to add insult to injury Ontario, which spends more per capita than any other province, always ranks near the bottom of the Canadian provinces in performance, and that is true.
School associations traditionally have been treated primarily as fund-raisers by most schools. Parents' attempts to have any input with respect to curriculum or other educational issues have been discouraged by the principals and the teacher representatives. Although school councils were mandated by the provincial government to provide a forum for input in the areas of school year calendar, to act in an advisory capacity with respect to principal selection and other responsibilities, our school boards passively resisted their implementation. Principals encouraged the rollover of the school associations into the school council, thereby undermining the government's attempts to provide options for parental and community involvement.
That the teachers' federations have a monopoly on education in Ontario cannot be disputed. The boards of education are staffed at senior levels primarily by employees who were members of the federations; principals and vice-principals remain in the bargaining units of the federations. There are very serious conflict-of-interest problems which must be addressed.
Pupil-teacher ratios quoted by school boards do not sound unreasonable at 19 or 17 to 1, but we all know that most classrooms over the last few years have been finding teachers struggling to teach over 30 children. Teachers tell me that their classes effectively contain an extra three or four children beyond what their registers show because children with special needs, who are listed on different registers, still remain in the classroom for large parts of the day. Pupil-teacher ratios are diluted by the inclusion on the teachers' side of service-type functions such as guidance, music, family studies, industrial arts, core French and library, but none of these teachers has responsibility for a full class for a full day. Special education teachers for gifted children do not teach five days a week in our board, vice-principals often do not teach and principals rarely teach. Considering that all these specialists are included in the pupil-teacher ratio computation, it isn't hard to see why class size is so much larger than pupil-teacher ratios would suggest.
There has recently been an enormous public outcry on behalf of the teachers' federations that allowing differentiated staffing -- that is the use of non-certified instructors in education -- will inevitably lead to the destruction of public education. One of my children has been taught by an absolutely outstanding music instructor who is not certified and the quality of his program far surpasses that offered by other certified instructors.
Is it so unreasonable to expect that our school libraries have aspects of their operations handled by library technicians, perhaps on a part-time basis? Is it impossible to expect that teachers who are now full-time librarians could conceivably be used as part-time librarians or be responsible for more than one school? Industrial arts and family studies could be handled by non-certified instructors at a lower cost to the system. Guidance counsellors need not be certified teachers to make a legitimate contribution to the system.
What we must do is ensure that the legislation guarantees the teaching of strictly academic core subjects such as English, mathematics, science, history and geography. The money being spent in staffing our schools could then be redirected within the system to put more funds directly into the classroom. This would permit a reduction in class sizes without impairing our children's education.
Is it any wonder that we parents are sceptical about the way the school boards have delivered public education in Ontario? We realize full well that the school boards have surrendered decision-making to the federations. Witness the latest threats of an illegal public strike. Did the boards that employ these federation members speak out strongly and publicly against the strike to their employees? No, they didn't. In fact, they were all too ready to inform their clients, the parents and students, that schools will shut down entirely in the event of a strike. The boards, as employers, have failed to fulfil their responsibility to discourage this strike.
We taxpayers and parents have waited too long and too patiently for boards of education to acknowledge and deal with the many problems described above and we have done so at the expense of our children as well as the classroom teachers who work so hard to provide the basics. The boards have failed to exercise their responsibility to provide our children with high-quality education. It's time to change the system.
Due to the lack of accountability of our educators with respect to the problems mentioned above, I have become an active member of the Organization for Quality Education. I believe that our public education system is in urgent need of reform to ensure that our children emerge as strong and effective citizens as we enter the new millennium.
Bill 160 is not the solution to all the problems in Ontario's education system, but it is an opportunity to correct some of the serious imbalances. The professional development days mechanism should be tightened up to support focus on the new curriculum, on testing and reporting initiatives as recommended by the government. The setting of class size guidelines should permit focus on cost-cutting outside the classroom. The use of differently qualified instructors should result in cost savings which can then be redirected to our classrooms, where the core academic subjects of English, math, science, history and geography are taught. Perhaps programs such as instrumental music could then be introduced at a lower grade level.
Parents look forward to a better definition of the role of the school council and welcome the opportunity to become more involved in the local decision-making of their schools. Hopefully, school councils will become respected partners in every school's operations.
We parents do not naïvely believe that the proposed changes will occur without difficulty, but we will be vigilant in ensuring that our children's interests are protected during this time of transition. Thank you for your attention.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation, Mrs Pinto. Our time has elapsed.
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ONTARIO DIVISION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be CUPE, Ontario Division. Welcome, Mr Ryan. If others are to take part in the presentation, I ask you to identify them down the road. Please proceed.
Mr Sid Ryan: With me are Karen McNama, who is our education coordinator in Ontario; and Jim Woodward, who is the legislative liaison to Queen's Park. I'm Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario. On behalf of CUPE's 180,000 members in Ontario, and in particular the 40,000 school board workers we represent in this province, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to make this presentation.
Let me begin by saying that the timing of these hearings is indeed ominous. I believe I can say without argument that it is precisely because of this legislation that Ontario is today on the verge of the first-ever province-wide teachers' strike. This single, indisputable fact is proof that opposition to Bill 160 is sweeping and it is community-wide.
Teachers, school board workers, parents, parents' associations and school boards themselves all are united in their belief that this bill has nothing to do with improving quality in education and everything to do with this provincial government's attempt to seize control over virtually every aspect of public education in Ontario. The implications of this bill for Ontario's teachers will no doubt be covered at length in presentations from our sister unions, so we will confine or comments to simply stating to the committee, as we have stated publicly, that CUPE is solidly united with the teacher unions in defence of quality public education.
To demonstrate this we have asked our education sector workers, and there are 40,000 of them, to respect teachers' picket lines should they be forced to take job action to fight this legislation. That is an unprecedented move in this province. No union has ever asked 40,000 people to support another union. I want to make it perfectly clear that if this government thinks they're going to bring in back-to-work legislation to put teachers back to work, I would ask you to think twice about it, because you will end up escalating the conflict beyond the school teachers, beyond CUPE to other unions both in the private sector and in the public sector. I want to make it absolutely clear: The labour movement is solidly behind the school teachers of this province, and this government will back down on Bill 160 and gut the parts of this bill that are most offensive to school teachers in the public education system in this province.
Let me now turn to the underlying objectives of this bill. Our analysis of Bill 160 concludes they are fourfold:
(1) Pulling up to $1 billion out of the system;
(2) Downsizing public education in dramatic fashion by merging school boards and gutting our system of elected trustees;
(3) Laying the groundwork for full-scale privatization, so-called outsourcing of school board services and jobs;
(4) Centralizing control and funding of school boards by removing control of education spending and taxation from school board trustees.
Let me address these issues directly. On funding cuts to education, this government was elected on a platform which stated quite clearly that not one single penny would be cut from the school system, yet to date you have cut hundreds of millions of dollars directly from education while slashing funding for junior kindergarten and special-needs classes and much more.
Your now demoted former education minister is on record as saying an additional $1 billion in cuts would be needed. Your new minister is now trying to distance himself from this statement. While Ontarians may be looking for sensible, progressive changes to the education system, they are not looking for, nor do you have a mandate for, wholesale gutting of a public education system which belongs to the people of this province.
On merging school boards and virtually dismantling our system of elected accountable trustees, let me remind the committee members that as we speak, communities across this province are actually having trouble finding candidates to even run for school board trustee positions. This is because your government has made them virtually meaningless positions. As a result, on November 10, when Ontarians go to the polls in municipal and school board elections, they will effectively be witnessing the death of democracy in their school boards. I suspect this may have been your intention all along.
On the question of school funding and taxation, again this bill gives the minister complete control of the method of calculating what individual boards should get, yet it provides no further details on how this will be done. Surely, given its dismal record on consultation thus far, this government does not expect the people of Ontario to simply trust them on the critical issue of school board funding. In fact, we have not seen any sign of regulations for this piece of legislation or any other dealing with education that this government has brought in in the last number of months.
Equally disturbing on the question of taxation powers, the bill states that the minister is now in charge of setting tax rates, wresting control away from local taxpayers on how much they pay in school taxes and how much money their boards receive.
Probably most disturbing to us, as the province's largest union, is the way this bill opens the door to widespread privatization and outsourcing of publicly funded education. Let me state categorically that CUPE is adamantly opposed to any such move and that we will fight to ensure that public services in this province are delivered by public employees and not turned over to private companies whose only interest is in making a profit.
While I know this may come as a shock to some of the Reformers in your caucus, our education system is not for sale in Ontario. This bill is the government's third attempt at the deunionization of the school board sector, the first two attempts being Bill 104, which tried to mandate outsourcing of non-instructional work, and Bill 136, which tried to eliminate collective bargaining and the right to strike for school board workers. Education workers fought successfully for amendments to Bill 104 and Bill 136. They knew the government's attack on unionized school board workers was a direct threat to the quality of education.
If Bill 160 is enacted as is, school maintenance staff and custodians, cleaners, administrative and clerical staff, educational assistants, foodservice workers, technicians, bus drivers, library technicians, ESL and adult education instructors and other school support staff who are now public employees could soon be working for half the wages they currently earn. Those who may still have jobs will see their working conditions altered dramatically.
It is not only morally unacceptable for a provincial government to be promoting such an agenda, it will also mean more bad news for struggling local economies across Ontario which are still trying to recover from years of recession and job loss. This province needs good jobs, not low-wage jobs, not ServiceMaster jobs that pay between $6 and $8 per hour. While this may be the type of Ontario the Tories envision, where workers are in a race to the bottom, we reject this vision outright.
Is this government worried about the impact funding cuts are having on the quality of education? We think not, since these are the very cuts which will pave the way for privatization, whether through contracting out of non-instructional services, charter schools, lease-back schools or outright diversion of funds to private schools. There is little doubt that this government believes a privatized education system would be a better one.
The reality is that the vast majority of Ontarians disagree with them, and that's been borne out in the last number of days with the Tories dropping to 32% in the polls, which has been a great joy, I think, to most people in Ontario. Beyond that, don't take my word for it. An Angus Reid survey conducted in June of this year for the management consulting firm Ernst and Young concluded that 70% of Ontarians are opposed to contracting out public services to the private sector.
In conclusion, the outcome of this legislation, Bill 160, will determine whether the high-quality education system we now have in Ontario will be able to continue to meet the needs of all Ontarians or whether the provincial government will get the control it wants in order to use the system to achieve its more narrow objectives: tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the province.
Bill 160 is not about improving the quality of education. It is about this provincial government taking control of education away from local communities, and no amount of Orwellian doublespeak will convince the people of Ontario otherwise.
Our recommendation to this committee is to stop the teacher bashing and the school board worker bashing, scrap this legislation and begin a process of meaningful dialogue with parents, school boards, students, school board workers and teachers about the real changes that are needed to our education system.
The Chair: Mr Ryan, the time has elapsed. I thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr Smith: Mr Chair, if I could, I think it would be appropriate for the committee to receive some information, in light of Mr Ryan's suggestion that it's difficult to find candidates running. Just so the committee knows, there were 627 --
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Smith, our time has elapsed. How are you putting this information in?
Mr Smith: I'm going to file the information and table it with you, sir, so the committee can see that the suggestions that were presented are clearly not factual. I would like to make that information available to the committee members.
The Chair: That's fine. You have a perfect right to table it. I thank you very much, Mr Ryan.
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I just wondered, as the parliamentary assistant tables that information, if he would also take the time to table along with that details on the backgrounds of the individuals: for example, how many of them are members of Conservative riding associations. As I understand, the Tories have been on a drive to get people's names on the ballots.
The Chair: That's not a proper point of order.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Chairman, on a point of order and as a question: I would ask the parliamentary assistant either to provide the response today or to pursue it with the ministry, but I would like some clarification of the sections of Bill 160 that apply to non-teaching personnel employed by school boards. It would be my understanding that the bill sets out that as of January 1, boards that are being amalgamated, existing contracts for all employees -- teachers and non-teaching employees -- continue on in the new board but that all those contracts expire January 1 and have to be renegotiated by September 1. If there's any difference between teaching and non-teaching personnel in that regard, I would appreciate receiving that information.
Second, if I'm correct in assuming that all contracts expire and have to be renegotiated for both teaching and non-teaching personnel, I would like to raise the question of why these contracts have to be declared null and void and have to be renegotiated both for boards that are amalgamating and boards that are not being amalgamated.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs McLeod.
Ms Lankin: Chair, a question of clarification: I was wondering if you could clarify for me, is the reason that the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 40,000 education sector workers, has only been given 10 minutes because, unlike the Ontario Home Builders' Association or the chambers of commerce or whatever, they weren't on the minister's list?
The Chair: Or the amended list that was requested by the opposition. There were a few names added, if I recall, two or three.
Ms Lankin: That's why they only got 10 minutes.
The Chair: Yes, that's correct.
Mr Wildman: We're not only moving to a two-tiered education system; we're in a two-tiered presentation system.
The Chair: Thank you very much again, Mr Ryan, and we'll move on to Mr George Christoff.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Chairman, I really can't let the last statement that you made stand.
The Chair: I'm sorry; was it not correct?
Mrs McLeod: No, it was not correct, as you'll realize. After an hour and a half of attempting to negotiate for an improved process of something better than the amendment the government was presenting, we had a 10-minute break between the subcommittee report where the original minister's list was presented and the committee report where an amended minister's list was presented. We had no input as opposition members into that amended list.
The reason there were some three additional groups added was because in the subcommittee meeting I had expressed, as had Mr Wildman, our very real concern that there were very few parent groups represented, that there were no principals' organizations represented and specifically that the Ontario Education Alliance was not represented. As a result of that, there were three additional slots created, but we had no input into that process of amendment. Had we had an opportunity to have some real input into that list, I can assure you it would have been considerably longer than the list that was presented to the committee.
The Chair: I didn't mean to mislead. For the purpose of the record, I recall in the meeting certain additions were requested and those appear. That's all I recall.
The Chair: Mr Christoff, please proceed.
Mr George Christoff: My name is George Christoff. As a concerned resident, I'm speaking about the education of my children. I've heard a number of presentations over the last couple of hours and only a couple of times has that really come up. The previous speaker spoke about job action. I don't think a word came up once about the education of my children.
I'm here today representing my children, who are both enrolled in the Metropolitan Separate School Board. My expertise for being here? I'm a concerned citizen who's involved in numerous, and I mean numerous, volunteer public issues. I'm on the board of directors of a community centre that deals with day care and a parent-child resource centre and deals with full-fee parents and subsidized parents. I'm well aware of what happens in younger children. I'm a board member of a safety village that is to be directed specifically for elementary school children's safety. I'm on the advisory council and chair the facilities committee of an elementary school. I'm the vice-chairman of a school advisory council of a secondary school. So I think I have a little bit of knowledge.
My concerns on Bill 160? I agree with previous speakers. The government has not done a good job of putting facts forward. I'm very concerned about my children because last week I was requested to authorize at a secondary school a non-factual piece of information to be sent out. It was faxed to me from the OSSTF and it was to be sent out under the guise of an advisory council. It wasn't even factual. I have to say I've been at three meetings in the last two weeks and I've heard a lot of union rhetoric from teachers and the previous speaker. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing factual on that side either. I'm sitting here as a concerned parent for my children and there are no facts coming from either side.
I'm a professional architect. I will relate to the Ontario building code. The Ontario building code is about this thick and regulates construction in Ontario. It has a compendium with regulations that get attached to it. It is about this thick, in a hard binder. It affects everything that's constructed in Ontario. But there wasn't this degree of involvement and everybody wasn't up in arms about the act.
As far as I'm aware, most regulations by this government, the previous NDP government and the previous Liberal government before that, all pieces of legislation came forward in an act. Large, comprehensive ones are debated and have public hearings. That's why we're here. And most of those large acts have regulations which are brought in by the respective ministry after the fact.
So yes, I have a concern sitting here. Parent-teacher ratios, the size of the classrooms are not addressed in this legislation. I don't think I've ever seen a piece of legislation come forward where somebody's gotten to the size of the little thing in the floor when you're dealing with this entire building, just to use an analogy. How anybody could deal with a parent-teacher ratio or the size of a classroom in a piece of legislation -- we would be lucky to get this passed in the year 2000.
I'm a taxpayer. I pay a lot of federal taxes in one form or another. I pay a lot of provincial taxes. I pay a lot of school board taxes, or I still do right now. There is too much administration and, frankly, I'm fed up with paying. I have to commend this bill for finally starting to address a lot of the inefficiencies in the education system, and I'll tell you, there are a lot in there.
I fully support teachers and I fully believe in teachers, but boy, there is a lot of administrative stuff and there are a lot of non-teaching positions that affect the quality of education in the classroom and affect the quality of education my children are receiving. If I can you give an analogy from Australia, I am worried about where our system is going because the Australian public education system has become so convoluted, so large and so inefficient that the only way to teach children there is to put them in private school.
As a professional architect, I have to work about 2,000 hours a year to gain a decent wage. A typical policeman has to work about approximately 1,800 and puts his life on the line. A typical teacher in a classroom works about 1,000, and you wonder where the inefficiencies come from?
Finally, there are a lot of details that have not been worked out, and I reinforce that, but we must move forward.
I will give you one item specifically in the bill that does disturb me. In the definitions in the front, and it was passed by the previous government, are school advisory councils. Oddly enough, in the front of this bill there's no definition of a school advisory council. It defines everything else under the sun but not the school advisory council.
The reason I bring that up is that I am involved in two and I have very serious reservations as to how the school advisory councils work. In one of the ones I am currently involved with, out of 17 members only five are true elected parents with children in the school. Six of the 17 are direct, known board employees and another one or two have spouses who are employed by the board. The elected parents cannot move forward. In other words, we are held up to ransom by this particular board, the principal and the union. They decide what to do. Is that fair?
The last thing I'd like to say is that everything I've seen in the last two weeks all starts with the first sentence, "Education is a responsibility, not a business." I agree it's a responsibility. I just hope the teachers take that seriously, do not use my children as pawns and do not go out on strike. However, should that happen -- and God forbid, I hope it does not, for all our sakes -- then I would be the first to urge the government to stand up to it. I don't care if the whole province walks out. I will put up with however long it takes to get education back on the right track. Therefore, I support Bill 160 in principle.
The Chair: Mr Christoff, your time has elapsed. On behalf of the committee, I thank you for taking the trouble to assist us here today.
We had the one blank. Kathryn Blackett? I don't see her in the room. We will proceed to the next one. We can come back in the event that she appears.
EDUCATORS' ASSOCIATION FOR QUALITY EDUCATION
The Chair: Barry Kavanagh, please take a seat, make yourself comfortable and proceed.
Mr Barry Kavanagh: Thank you very much for the opportunity of presenting a paper. I believe it's being distributed now.
My name is Barry Kavanagh. I'm co-chair of the Educators' Association for Quality Education. I have a permanent residence in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the second-prettiest town in the world, apparently, and the prettiest town in Canada.
Our organization was formed in 1992. Its members come from all levels of education. We have no ties to unions, faculty associations or anything else. Our only concern is the quality of education in the province and how to improve it.
We see Bill 160 as an effort by the government to retake control of provincial education in order to provide the taxpayers and the students with education leadership and accountability. We support such a government initiative as shown in Bill 160, although we would regret losing prep time, especially in this computer age, when extra prep time is needed by many teachers.
We title our paper Bill 160 -- A Modest Step Toward Effective Education, because once it is passed, either as it's written or modified, there is still much to be done. I would ask those of you with a copy of the presentation to look on page 1. We have listed five steps we feel are necessary to achieve effective education. The province of Ontario has not achieved any one of these steps in its entirety.
It has started on a well-defined and relevant curriculum. We've managed, from what I hear, to now have two subjects done, and at this rate it will be the year 2050 before there's ever a curriculum in this province. I think the bureaucracy is dragging its feet.
We recognize province-wide testing and applaud the previous government for implementing it. It's necessary, and the follow-up reporting that we're still waiting for in the last testing is also necessary. Something that refers to this that has never happened in Ontario is, what do you do with the students who are not achieving the results they should be? The present bureaucracy socially promotes them to the next level of education, a level for which they are not prepared and where further failure is guaranteed. The present bureaucracy condemns the student to a lifetime in school of further failure.
Item 3 is effective teacher training and meaningful credentials. We don't see that the province has effective teacher training at all. The faculties of education are still exclusively pushing holistic techniques. Project Follow Through, which is American research, the largest research project ever undertaken, has proven that these holistic techniques don't work. At the same time, it showed that techniques such as direct instruction, techniques that most high school teachers and most college teachers use, are effective, and proven effective. Presently in Ontario at the elementary level and at the faculties of education it's holistic techniques that are being pushed exclusively.
Item 4 is government control of the education system. We see that as what the present government's Bill 160 is trying to achieve.
The last one refers to the implementation of effective education policies, which we believe requires a bureaucracy primarily dedicated to academic quality and not to the implementation of social policies. We believe the present bureaucracy in Ontario, which is located at 900 Bay, the local board offices and the post-secondary institutions, is not dedicated to academic excellence. There's no indication they are.
As an indication of the problem, on page 7, when you get a chance to get there, there's a reference to the UK, where in 1988 they legislated a national curriculum and national testing. Those of us in the rest of the world who were also looking for effective education were extremely jealous and envious of those people who had moved ahead so quickly, but on the Internet in recent days there's a lot of controversy; a lot of observers say the UK has not moved one inch towards effective education in the 10 years since they've legislated both the curriculum and the testing. The problem again is the bureaucracy, who refuse to implement the government's policies. We see this as the major problem in Ontario.
The problem, which we've defined on page 2, is the level of effectiveness of education. International testing puts us at a fairly low level; national testing puts us at a mediocre level. The quality isn't there and the cost of education, 70% of the tax dollar going into education, is reported as one of the highest anywhere in the world. We're not getting value for our dollar.
What caused the problems? Traditional wisdom indicates it was the teachers; the government; the parents who don't read to their children; the immigrants who somehow or other have sabotaged the system; and the media who distort the results of international testing. We feel these are groundless.
The teachers have been forced by the bureaucracy to implement experimental and untested social policies in the classroom almost on an annual basis here in Ontario. New fads had to be introduced even before existing fads could be evaluated. We consider this to be pedagogic insanity. We wonder if anyone remembers how many versions of the Common Curriculum they tried to foist on the students.
Teachers have been blamed for the mess in education, and never before have teachers been so demoralized. If Bill 160 is weak in one area, it is that the government has not indicated in the bill that it is aware of who and what is responsible for the mess that education seems to be in. Although teachers are the easy target, they are as much the victims of our dreadful education system as are the students and the taxpayers.
The source of our problems can be found in the bureaucracy I've mentioned. They've continually failed to admit that their social training experiences don't work and continue with them despite solid research-based studies that prove them to be a failure. The teaching of reading is a good example. California, which introduced North America to the whole-language approach to reading, recently found that grade 4 students fell from among the best in the USA to the worst, beating only Guam and Louisiana, two areas that have extremely weak systems.
The founder of the whole-language approach admitted that the experiment was a failure. In response, direct instruction using phonics for reading was legislated. There are two bills in the California legislature. Legislation was required because the bureaucracy and the convert teachers refused to cooperate, defending whole-language as if they were religious fanatics. A gentleman by the name of Bill Honig, who was a former superintendent of education in California, the man who spearheaded the original holistic program in 1986, says now that watching schools teaching reading using whole-language techniques is like watching doctors bleed their patients.
We support using qualified people in schools whether they have teaching credentials or not. We believe early childhood education people, those with diplomas in that field, can be used in kindergarten and junior kindergarten, especially since these levels of education don't include any academics. If the province moves, as it should, to introduce academics to the kindergarten level, that should be reviewed.
We see guidance people with industry contacts and real work experience as better able to help most of the students who go directly to work than teachers with very little outside experience. We also agree that people with library diplomas or degrees can be better utilized in the libraries than people with teachers' credentials.
The unions and the newspapers complain that those without teaching credentials are unqualified. We question just what are these credentials that the teachers presently have. Essentially, it's a four-year degree in any field and eight months at a faculty of education, where they have three to four weeks of practice teaching. They then have exposure to holistic techniques that have been demonstrated not to be effective. Direct instruction, which has proven to be the most effective technique, is essentially banished in Ontario at the elementary level and at the faculties of education.
We feel the primary credential for any teacher is a mastery of the knowledge of the subject matter for which he is responsible. At the elementary level, we consider that to be the range of subjects. We feel a bachelor of education program, instead of being four years of an unrelated degree with eight months in the faculty of education, should be four years in length. It should include matters such as educational philosophy and a range of effective teaching techniques, including direct instruction; it should include broadening subjects; it should include exposure to math, science, English, history, geography and social science, all the core element subjects that are included at the elementary level. We feel this would effectively prepare teachers for the profession and give them credentials that are in fact relevant. It would also save tax dollars by reducing the time at university by one or two years -- they're proposing an extra year -- for each individual.
The Chair: You only have about 30 seconds left, Mr Kavanagh.
Mr Kavanagh: Okay. I'm just about done. Thank you.
The problem, once again, in Ontario's education is a Teflon-coated bureaucracy that refuses to use effective teaching techniques in elementary schools and in the faculties of education. They're now sitting back, no doubt, smiling as the unions and government prepare for battle, a battle that wouldn't be taking place were it not for the long-time bureaucratic bungling in administrative and pedagogic matters.
One final word not included in the brief but as an afterthought: We urge the government to give serious consideration to splitting the ministry back to education and colleges and universities. The problems at all levels are too extensive for one minister and one deputy minister to handle effectively.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr Kavanagh.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Kathryn Blackett, our volunteer. Ms Blackett, could you please come up to the podium, take a seat and proceed with your presentation.
Ms Kathryn Blackett: I'm sorry this is a hastily prepared submission.
The Chair: We understand. It's very good of you to take the time to do that.
Ms Blackett: My name is Kathryn Blackett. I have lived in Toronto all of my life. I am a homeowner and have three children in the public school system here. I have taken this slot because I feel the great weight of all these people who applied and were not given a hearing. The idea that this slot would go unfilled seemed a travesty in view of this. I really think this is just an appalling lack of organization and abrogation of democratic procedure.
Unfortunately, this is no more a travesty than this whole process appears to parents across the province. This government, which has proclaimed so loudly and for so long that they are listening to parent, have shut us out, have shown their contempt for us by favouring business groups over the thousand individuals who applied. I feel I represent the 103 parents from Clinton Street public school who requested speaker status and were not called. Most of all, I represent the interests of my children, the true stakeholders, who are not consulted in this process and are the innocent victims of this government's attack on the education system of Ontario.
I have been on the phone over the last week. I have been talking to parents out of town, in case you want to characterize this as a local protest. I don't know about seven to one calls in favour of your government's actions, but the parents I have talked to are deeply, deeply concerned and perhaps antagonized by the deep cuts they have felt in their schools, the eroding conditions, the lack of materials, the ridiculously overcrowded classes, the loss of support services and special ed programs.
They're antagonized by three aspects of the bill. One is class size. My daughter Claire back there, who is shy, is in a grade 6 class with 36 students. Apparently this class is counted officially as 34; the two special needs children are not counted, though there is no education assistant there for them. This is called an integrated class of 34. Her teacher is heroic. I cannot fault him for anything. The children like and respect him. He is creative. But, frankly, there are too many children in the classroom. Bill 160 does not address this problem.
Parents don't want a cap figure either that is not a realistic number; that is, perhaps because it's integrated or because the special needs class of four down the hall has been averaged into the number. Parents don't want to see libraries disappear to pay for class caps either.
Another deep concern is teacher qualifications. We want our teachers to be qualified and properly trained in the teaching of children. We do not want low-paid babysitters. This is a very serious concern for us and democracy. We decry what we have understood as the principles of democratic process being railroaded. We knew our trustees; we do not know people in the cabinet, nor do we think for one minute that our concerns will be listened to. We have tried to speak, for instance, with Mr Snobelen for over 12 months, to no avail. We have made countless attempts. I know PTAs all over Toronto that have asked to speak to him and have not been given the courtesy of an answer. So why you think parents should be happy and comfortable with even less contact with the power-making and decision-making machines of education in this province I don't know.
Parents also decry the way this government has attempted to vilify teachers and characterize them as self-interested. We entrust the care and the teaching of our children to these people and know them to be hardworking, caring and generous with their time. They're dedicated and professional, and parents resent the government's attempts to drive a wedge between us and teachers.
By trade I'm an editor, and as an editor I have a few problems with your bill's name. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with quality, improvement or education; it has to do with money and power. You have not comforted the parents of Ontario in the least. You have given them no facts to go on and no faith that there will be forthcoming a funding model, that there will be forthcoming adequate consideration for their children's future education.
I will finish by saying that parents are watching this process, and in case you hadn't noticed, parents are voters. It would seem to me that a party that was 16 points down might be a little bit more sensitive to what parents across the province are upset about, and believe me, they are upset.
The Chair: There really is not time for questions. Does anyone wish to make a 30-second statement? That's all we have time for.
Mr Wildman: I'd just like to thank you for taking the time.
Mrs McLeod: I was just going to reiterate your own comments, Mr Chairman. In the attempt to make sure that at least the available spots were filled, you were put under tremendous pressure. I think if you look at Hansard, even as an editor, you'll not be unhappy with your presentation today.
Ms Blackett: I was a Hansard editor.
Mr Rollins: We on the government side want to say thanks too.
The Chair: Thank you, ma'am.
ETOBICOKE HOME AND SCHOOL COUNCIL
The Chair: The next presentation is the Etobicoke home and school association, Debbie Gilbert. Welcome, Mrs Gilbert. Do you have a handout?
Mrs Debbie Gilbert: Yes, I do.
The Chair: I'd ask you to proceed.
Mrs Gilbert: Just a point of correction; it's the Etobicoke Home and School Council.
Members of the panel, since the September introduction of Bill 160, the Etobicoke Home and School Council members have extensively discussed the contents and impacts on Etobicoke children. Our members represent home and school associations at local public schools in Etobicoke. A strong majority of our members are also chairs or members of their school advisory councils. The Etobicoke Home and School Council is also part of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations and has been in existence in Etobicoke for over 30 years.
We can all agree that change is a good thing. Certainly our home and school council does not disagree with that statement. However, there is a need for a very clear understanding of how all of the changes will fit together to provide quality education for our Etobicoke children. Parents want to be well informed and participants in the decision-making process in order to be a meaningful part of this entire process.
In discussions surrounding Bill 160, the following areas were raised as ones of great concern, the first one being the centralization of authority and decision-making. One of the great strengths of local decision-making processes has been the involvement of parents. Parents have participated and have been actively consulted in the development, implementation and evaluation of education policy. Representation through local boards of education is essential for parents to be able to access the decision-makers in education. With movement towards centralized authority, commitment to ongoing consultation with parents is negated. Parents are very concerned that the unique needs and strengths of our Etobicoke community will no longer be addressed as in the past.
Point number two is educational democracy. We all try in the course of our daily lives to instil in our children the basic tenets of democracy to enable them to function and participate effectively in the democratic process. We urge them to use these processes throughout the course of their day whether it be in their schools, in the community or in the playground. How can we, as parents, explain to our children why we have no way of influencing operations at their schools when all these decisions rest in the hands of the minister and the cabinet?
A further area of concern related to educational democracy is the wide-ranging authority that has been given to the appointed body of the Education Improvement Commission over democratically elected school board officials. The fact that "the orders of the EIC are final and shall not be reviewed or questioned in any court" raises many issues and concerns. Why is the EIC not liable for decisions they make? Are there criteria in place to enable both formative and summative evaluations of the effectiveness of educational reforms? These changes cannot easily be reversed. They are important and will impact on our children and their futures.
The final point is funding. The biggest piece of the puzzle is the funding model, which has yet to be released. How can Bill 160 be passed without a clear understanding of what the funding model will be and allow for parental and other stakeholder involvement in the process? Parents want full access to accurate information on the funding formula, with impact analyses of programs that affect both the quality of education and school operations.
Bill 160 is not just about prep time, class size, length of school year etc. Bill 160 is about creating an environment for excellence in education. Issues surrounding the potential for allowing non-certified teaching staff in classrooms will impact our children's learning environment. Teachers' competence and understanding of our children's development and learning styles, in addition to their teaching credentials, must be respected.
Within Etobicoke there are many children with special needs who are enrolled in ESL and special education programs, while other gifted children benefit from gifted and early French immersion programs. Home and school stands for all children. Does the government? Assurances need to be given that your government will provide funding to ensure a level of classroom support that meets the needs of all Etobicoke students.
As we have stated in the past, it is not mere little widgets who will be affected by these changes. Our children will be affected. They are the future of this province.
Before we parents can fully understand and believe the promised improvements, we need to slow down and spend some time to build consensus. Then and only then, with calmness and assuredness, can we develop together a plan for change that will be successful. If we as parents, government and educators are not able to demonstrate a positive and enabling environment for change to occur, we have missed an educational opportunity for an entire generation of students.
We thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of Etobicoke children and their parents.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Gilbert. We have a little over a minute per caucus. We'll start with the third party.
Ms Lankin: I take it, given that you're the Etobicoke home and school association, you're an association of all of the home and school --
Mrs Gilbert: We're a council.
Ms Lankin: You're the council of the associations, the umbrella.
Mrs Gilbert: We're the umbrella group for the associations that operate within our local schools.
Ms Lankin: So this presentation is a compilation of the views of all the parents who are involved in those home and schools through consultation.
Mrs Gilbert: Yes.
Ms Lankin: That's a pretty powerful statement.
Interjection: Speaking for all of Etobicoke.
Ms Lankin: Speaking for all of Etobicoke, exactly. Overall, the concerns you have raised come down to powers that are going to be exercised behind closed doors; lack of clarity about what the government's actual intent is; a suspicion that it comes down to fiscally driven decisions; and a call for the government to put the budget and the funding formula on the table before proceeding with this.
Do you think there is merit in just putting the bill to the side and, "We'll look at it later"? Let's deal with the issue of what the budget and funding formula is because it's within that bundle of information we have yet to receive from the government that we will find the answer to many of the concerns you've raised.
Mrs Gilbert: Yes, I believe so. We need to have that piece of the puzzle. Once that's in place and parents have had an opportunity to review it and have a good look at it and have some positive input into it, then perhaps the legislation can be brought back, once that final piece is in place.
Mr Smith: Thanks for your presentation. I appreciate the comments you've made. I would be interested to know, because Bill 160 mandates advisory school councils, is that something you agree should be a mandated component of legislation?
Mrs Gilbert: I have no disagreement with school advisory councils. Any method that will involve parents in the school is certainly not something we would turn away from or consider inappropriate.
Mr Smith: Do you think there is a need for further clarification and consultation with respect to the range and role of responsibilities that advisory school councils have?
Mrs Gilbert: Yes.
Mr Smith: When I look at the first report of the Education Improvement Commission, I note that there are about 75 different school council reps who were consulted. I think it's an appropriate expectation that as we move ahead, that same type of consultation will be conducted to ensure that the very concerns you're raising with respect to centralization versus decentralization can be addressed. I thank you for your comments today.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): Listening to you reminded me of my own school advisory councils and how they struggled over the last year to try to find their focus. This bill must come not a slap but something very contrary to the whole idea of being able to have input. How would you characterize your members' feelings about their own involvement? From some of the comment I've had already, and I wonder if you agree, to me it seems more remote to have all the power of education now in the hands of the minister and the bureaucracy at Queen's Park rather than out in the communities where parents like yourselves and other members of your association can have some input. How is that viewed by the people who are part of the association when they see the power being centralized like that?
Mrs Gilbert: At the present time we can pick up the phone, call our local school board officials and usually within a day or two we have a response. One example we've had recently was at a curriculum night where a question was asked. The question could not be answered directly from the curriculum that was there, so the statement given to the parents was, "We'll go back to the board, the board will go back to the ministry and then we'll get back to you." It's two weeks now and they still haven't received a response.
The further away you are from the local area, the more difficult it is to know what the local needs are. I think that is the best way of putting it.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Gilbert, for your presentation.
ST MARY'S SECONDARY SCHOOL
The Chair: Our next presentation is Mr Gary O'Dwyer. I believe you should have all been presented with a copy of Students' Analysis of Bill 160, which is part of this presentation.
Mr Gary O'Dwyer: Mr Chairman, I'm just the contact person. It's the students who are doing the presentation.
The Chair: Okay. Whoever is to speak, make sure that we have their name for the purpose of Hansard. If you are going to try to get through all seven pages of this, you're going to go overtime, I would estimate. So either read quickly or I will have to cut you off at the 10-minute mark.
Mr Todd Blimkie: Our analysis is based on a number of different sources. We are members of a politics class at St Mary's Secondary School in Cobourg. I'm Todd Blimkie. With me are Kelly MacDonald, Erin Black, Kevin Cardoza and Darcy Fuller. We're all in a politics class. We're basing our findings on a number of different sources, one of which is the source you mentioned.
For a bit of an introduction: What strikes me, personally, more than anything else about the Education Quality Improvement Act is how it has generated and exposed a very serious lack of communication. Some aspects of the bill are quite promising. Two examples are school councils and student trustees on the board. It appears as though the legislation was created with noble concepts in mind. Yes, we need to cut spending, and yes, the education system could use a tune-up and a real housecleaning at the administrative level.
But where is the most important input as to what is good and bad about the system? Where is the youth perspective? We deserve to be the priority when it comes to creating a bill, updating and refining it and being aware of its implications. We have been left out in all these processes. This is an oversight larger than any part of the bill. The biggest question on students' minds right now involves the effects of the bill's passing both in the labour unrest and in the policy changes it creates.
We have hundreds of questions. For example, what will happen to our school year, our semester, if there is job action? Are there preparations for that? Is the government willing to let everyone who wants and deserves a say on Bill 160 to be heard or are they merely interested in getting it passed along by January 1, that being their goal?
We've heard that some issues in Bill 160 are non-negotiable. Are they non-negotiable? What are the non-negotiable issues? What if those issues have the potential to seriously damage our educational quality?
The students of Ontario have been passed over long enough. It is the responsibility of the government to interact with us on education reform, inform us about changes to our schooling and be certain of the implications that massive cuts and alterations can have. That's just common sense.
Ms Kelly MacDonald: My name is Kelly MacDonald. I'm a student from St Mary's Secondary School. I am a product of the Ontario education system. My concerns are about some of the proposals in Bill 160 which designate non-teachers to hold certain positions within a school that are presently held by qualified teachers. Furthermore, on page 2 of the education ministry's backgrounder the government proposes to hire non-teaching professionals to teach certain classes such as music and art.
The role of a teacher in a student's life can have a very important and lasting effect. A teacher is trained to educate a student. This includes dealing with different kinds of students who have various needs as well as assessing what those needs are. Teachers also assist students in their development as thoughtful and productive people within the community. This includes acting as a support base or mentor for their students both inside and outside of the classroom.
The only guarantee one has that a person can fulfil these expectations is if they are qualified, meaning that they carry a teaching certificate. The art and science of pedagogy require a great amount of training. A person without this knowledge and training will not be an effective teacher even if that person is knowledgeable in a certain area.
It should not be forgotten that teachers are professionals and cannot be substituted. Their jobs in every area of the education system are vital when it comes to the development of students. A qualified teacher is the best person for the job of educating Ontario's youth. Attempts to replace them in their present roles are by no means beneficial to the students or the education system.
Ms Erin Black: My name is Erin Black. I attend St Mary's Secondary School. I'm a professional student, with more than 13 years of experience in the education system. I feel that the concept of parent administrative boards has many positive attributes. It is a democratic form of representation, if elected; it is responsive to local needs; it is small enough to be flexible in its handling of local conditions -- social, economic and demographic. Parent councils, while a good idea in theory, in practice could have many potential difficulties. Thus there must be a series of checks and balances to monitor the potential difficulties inherent in this organizational form.
I ask you how Bill 160 will ensure that the following difficulties will not arise and so damage the administrative process: The council becomes a political rather than an administrative forum; majority coalitions on council overrule and ignore minority rights; council membership is representative of the community population rather than being composed of active local interest groups; councils focus on immediate needs in lieu of having a long-term vision; a non-uniform quality of education arises across the province relative to the administrative quality of the individual councils; councils do not have the educational background or the time to stay abreast of current educational research and its practical implications.
Problems such as these could weaken the quality of education in schools, therefore a method of dealing with this must be addressed. However, if these problems were tackled, school administrative boards could be very effective in improving the education system of Ontario.
Another related subject is that of student trustees. The idea of student trustees has many positive characteristics, including the following: It is a democratic form of representation if elected; the students can make their needs and concerns known to the parent council and administration. Consequently, they will have a say in their own education as well as their parents.
Along with parent administration boards, the concept of student trustees could have some possible difficulties, first and foremost being that of the student's actual power on the school board. If the student does not have voting power, it is quite possible that he or she will be overlooked in the decision-making process of each individual school. However, I believe that if this amendment were made, and if student trustees were elected by the student population of the school, student trustees would be a good addition to the education system of Ontario.
Mr Kevin Cardoza: I'm Kevin Cardoza, a professional student at St Mary's Secondary School, Cobourg. After reading Bill 160, a number of questions came to light. I will only focus on some of these, in the interest of time, as seen in my report. Looking back, I realize they all deal with power, the power of the Minister of Education which overrules any collective agreement the board has made. This power seems to be unfair in terms of our traditional sense of democracy.
For example, the bill states that the Minister of Education has the power to create and change the roles and responsibilities of any member of the board. He or she also has the power to have the board prepare any reports the minister might want, along with financial statements, without any questioning whatsoever. What reports might these be? What would he use them for?
In another section, the bill states that the minister also has the power to govern the size of classes as well as methods of determining the size of classes. This sounds unclear. Where are the numbers to accompany the regulation? Can they be changed afterwards? Exactly what methods could be used: ones that produce more favourable results?
It also states that he or she has the power to designate positions that are not teaching positions and allow non-teachers with minimum qualifications to take their place. Which positions actually are not teaching positions? What are these minimum qualifications? It goes on to say that even positions that do not count as non-teaching can still be replaced. Which positions then would you say require someone of a teaching profession?
These and other issues question the authority of the Minister of Education and whether or not he or she has too much power. These questions need to be answered and these issues need to be clarified before the bill should be passed.
Mr Darcy Fuller: I'm Darcy Fuller, also a student at St Mary's Secondary School. Just to wrap up our presentation, the government states that the purpose of the Education Quality Improvement Act is to create a more cost-efficient education system, while also bettering the schooling that students presently receive. Most would argue that this is a positive proposition. However, Bill 160 has given rise to a great deal of controversy and dispute between the teachers' unions and the provincial government.
Stuck in the middle are the students, the individuals who will be most affected by the proposed changes. Many of the concepts in Bill 160 are vague and indefinite and leave most people, students in particular, to speculate on how these proposals will truly affect Ontario's system of education and if they will really be favourable to students. Consequently, when one studies the bill, one is left with more questions than answers.
Legislation such as this should provide a definite plan for the future of Ontario's education. Instead, it provides rather ambiguous proposals, giving no direct course of action except to grant absolute power over the education system to the minister, without accountability. Decisions could be made that affect students without debate in the Legislature or public consultation, which seems somewhat less than democratic. This leaves one to make speculative predictions about what the education system will become in the next few years. The pressing question is this: Are the proposals made in Bill 160 truly meant to improve the quality of our education?
If this act is not just a façade to cut money from the education system, then it would be wise to state clearly and plainly exactly what the government proposes to do and how they plan to do it. If the bill is not intended to be undemocratic, then it has to be amended to ensure that the government must consult teachers, parents and students.
The aim of this bill should be to promote efficiency, to streamline processes and to improve the present education system so that students learn more effectively. Yet, the proposed legislation leaves questions about the fulfilment of these aims. Further amendments to this bill and consultation with parents, teachers and students are necessary steps to ensure that the quality of education will truly be improved.
The Chair: You proved me wrong. You completed your presentations within the 10-minute period. Well timed. Thank you very much for a very professional presentation to this committee.
Mrs McLeod: On a point of order, Mr Chairman, and I have a question perhaps to the parliamentary assistant: I understand that subsequent to the meeting between the minister and the teachers, the minister has indicated he may be prepared to delay the passage of this bill and that he may be prepared to write regulations into the bill. Should either of those eventualities occur, I would ask the parliamentary assistant if he would seek assurances from the minister that this committee could then adjourn its hearings until such time as we saw the amended bill with the regulations written in. We could then resume public hearings on what would be substantively a new bill.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr Blimkie: I would ask if that happens, would the students be made aware that it did as well? I think it's very important.
Mrs McLeod: Indeed. I agree.
The Chair: Thank you very much again.
Mr Wildman: You are certainly evidence that the system is not broken.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Chair, do I have that assurance from the parliamentary assistant?
Mr Smith: I haven't had an opportunity to speak to the minister today because, obviously, of being here during the proceedings. But if there are issues forthcoming that he feels should be made available to this committee, then we'll undertake to do that.
The Chair: Our next presentation is Keith Crysler. Welcome. Would you please proceed.
Mr Keith Crysler: I have been a resident of Scarborough for over 25 years. My children have attended publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Scarborough and received an excellent education. My daughter is a graduate of McGill University and my son is in his graduating year at Mount Allison University. Their Scarborough education prepared them well for their honours programs and their level of achievement has been well above average at both universities. I put those comments in because of the quality of education they have received in Scarborough, but you could see just from the previous students here the quality of education that is given throughout this province.
I'm also the principal of Lester B. Pearson Collegiate in Scarborough. The Pearson neighbourhood has a high percentage of residents who are new to Canada. The students and parents are dedicated to education as a way of realizing their goals in life and improving our society in Ontario. It is a school with a proud tradition of achievement and social contribution. The school staff, the students, parents and community members work hard to make the area a vibrant social community. Every attack on education and social services has had a detrimental effect on this community.
I'm indebted to Dan Newman, my MPP, who has facilitated my inclusion on the list of presenters to speak in opposition to Bill 160. Right now I feel the pressure to represent the thousands of people who have applied to speak at this hearing and who have been denied that democratic right as well as the tens of thousands who might have wanted to apply had the time lines for application not been so tight.
The process that has been set up for these committees and the timetable that has been developed to rush Bill 160 through the Legislature are completely consistent with everything that is wrong with this bill. We've heard more than enough from the previous minister about how our education system is broken, mediocre and in crisis and how it needs to be fixed up right away.
I'm turning to the next page, the third paragraph down.
However, Ontario has the highest rate of high school graduation in Canada: 88%. Ontario also has the highest rate of students proceeding to post-secondary education in Canada: 83%. These data are from Statistics Canada. Last year the Durham Board of Education entered the Carl Bertelsmann international award organized by Germany and was found to be the best school board in the world. Every news medium in the Toronto area reported extensively on this achievement, yet the ministry refused to acknowledge it. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has found, in its annual review of public attitudes toward education, that public approval for education in Ontario has increased for the 12th year in a row.
Why does this ministry constantly downgrade its own education system? Teachers, students and parents want an honest answer to this question. An ever-increasing number is convinced that the ministry wants to dismantle public education in Ontario in favour of a two-tiered system: a well-funded private system for the wealthy and a greatly diminished public system for the rest.
Teachers have lots of ideas for improving public education, but they have not been consulted about this. In The Road Ahead, the report of the Education Improvement Commission, the authors have said, "We regret the absence of a strong voice from teachers in our report." This is on page 33. What did they expect? They never did directly ask the teachers. I personally went to some effort to invite Dave Cooke to speak to Scarborough teachers in May and his office refused. Ann Vanstone cancelled at the last minute a commitment to speak to Scarborough teachers in February. The EIC hearings were held with little notice and little hearing time. This ministry with its commission sees what it wants to see and hears what it wants to hear.
Last year the ministry proposed a secondary reform package which proved to be unacceptable to the people of Ontario. Parents, students and teachers insisted on commenting on all aspects of the document, not just the four narrow questions that were asked by the ministry. As a result the ministry got the range of input necessary to improve the document. The time lines for the start of the program were extended by two years to allow for more feasible implementation and improved practice. A similar process is needed for Bill 160.
Bill 160 is not about improving the quality of education. The title of this bill is a classic example of Orwellian doublespeak. This bill is about centralizing power and institutionalizing the power to act without listening. It denies citizens their natural rights.
Teachers resent the campaign of misinformation the ministry is promulgating and the media are reporting about prep time. I'd like to direct you to the middle of the paragraph. Let's compare apples with apples. The ministry uses 200 minutes of prep time per week as the national average. Scarborough secondary school teachers get 187.5 minutes per week. That is 6.25% less than the national average. Teachers use their prep time to tutor and support students individually and to consult with professionals about individual students, as well as program.
Of course, these things can only be accomplished only during the school day. With marking, lesson preparation and co-curricular voluntary effort, teachers put in good 50- to 60-hour weeks and they need prep time to do their job properly. However, prep time is a superficial issue that obscures the real cause for teacher opposition to Bill 160. Likewise, there are concerns about the misrepresentation of the certification of teachers, the use of professional activity days and the capping of class sizes.
But what is absolutely unacceptable in Bill 160 is that every lever of power that determines what happens in education in this province will be buried in regulations that can be decided by cabinet without any legislative review, without any media coverage, without any public consultation.
Educational funding is currently the responsibility of locally elected boards to decide in consultation with their local constituents. According to Bill 160, this would be decided by cabinet without any public discussion.
Teachers' working conditions are currently a matter of local negotiations between teachers as employees and boards as their employers. According to Bill 160, neither the employer nor the employee would have any say in these conditions of teacher work and student learning. All of this would be decided in closed session of cabinet. The public, teachers and students would be cut out of this discussion forever.
This is an absolutely unacceptable set of rules for a democracy. The assumption of such arbitrary powers by cabinet is the most upsetting issue for teachers. The Teaching Profession Act requires, among other things, that "A member shall...endeavour to develop in his pupils an appreciation of standards of excellence; endeavour to inculcate in his pupils an appreciation of the principles of democracy." Bill 160 substantially erodes the ability of teachers to complete these duties.
Before I close, let me describe to you the reaction of classroom teachers to Bill 160. After more than two years of persistent attacks on their programs, professionalism and exemplary work ethic, teachers are convinced that the previous minister neither respected them nor trusted them.
With Bill 160 having been passed in principle, there is the very real threat that the cabinet would remove from teachers and all of society any vestige of participation in the conditions of teacher work, the conditions of student learning and the crucial limitations to educational financing.
This unprecedented exercise of power, applied exclusively to teachers, transcends routine union-management disputes. Human rights are at stake. I have observed in my staff an entire group of individuals united in fury and cold resolve, prepared to do whatever is necessary to restore empowered dignity to their profession and democratic participation to educational decision-making.
I have spoken to other principals in the Scarborough secondary and elementary panels and their observations are the same: Individual educators, who had previously focused exclusively on the day-to-day rigours of classroom instruction and cocurricular leadership, are now determined to express political protest to Bill 160, if that is what is needed.
Therefore I say to you we must amend Bill 160 to restore the normal processes of consultation, discussion and negotiation of educational structures that one would expect in a democratic society and that have been part of Ontario's educational environment for decades.
The Chair: I thank you very much, Mr Crysler. Your time has elapsed.
The Chair: Our next presenter will be Bronwyn Drainie. Please proceed.
Ms Bronwyn Drainie: Good afternoon. My name is Bronwyn Drainie.
This is the third time in nine months that I have appeared before a legislative committee here at Queen's Park. The first time was in regard to Bill 103; the second to Bill 148 and now in regard to Bill 160. This exercise has gone way beyond curiosity and novelty, which is what I felt the first time, and way beyond anger, which is what I felt the second time. This time I simply feel resignation. I am resigned to the fact that this government does not follow reason, does not listen seriously to its citizens and intends to push its noxious agenda through no matter what any of us says.
But I am also resigned to my role as an active, concerned citizen, a role that I never played before your government came to power, and I will not abandon this role until your government has been soundly defeated. Even then --
The Chair: Excuse me. That's enough of that nonsense. This is not a football game. This lady has taken the trouble to come here to make a presentation to this committee and her rights should be respected. Please proceed.
Ms Drainie: Thank you. Even then, after your government is soundly defeated, although it is difficult for me to imagine another government that would act from such profoundly anti-democratic impulses as yours, I will never again let down my guard completely. Your so-called revolution has accomplished this at least. It has transformed not just me but a huge sector of the Ontario population into critically thinking watchdogs on the democratic process. Somehow I doubt that was your plan when you took office.
I want to talk about two things today: about teachers and about democracy. I'm the mother of two boys who are in grades 9 and 12 in the Toronto public school system. Like many parents in Ontario today, I have been concerned about the quality of education my boys are receiving. We haven't heard very many specific examples here this afternoon and I want to give you two from my own experience.
Last year, at the school my son was at, his teacher informed me that there were five children in that class who were recent immigrants and spoke no English. They were from five different language groups as well. There weren't any two the same. There was no ESL support in that school -- none whatsoever. She was begging parents to come and volunteer their time to come and help teach these children English. I volunteered. I went in every Friday morning that year to help. But a few volunteer parents is not what is required to deal with that problem.
The second problem that I want to tell you about is this year. My son is in grade 9. In his science class there is no science lab for those students to study in. They are in an ordinary classroom with a blackboard at the front, no Bunsen burners, no work benches, no nothing. Chemistry in that class consists of the teacher describing experiments to these students rather than them doing any themselves because there is no room for them in the science classrooms.
You see, I am concerned about my kids' education, but unlike you and your government I do not lay the blame for the system's shortcomings at the feet of our teachers. If anything, I believe they should be given a collective medal for attempting to fulfil all the demands that our society heaps on their shoulders. We insist that they be family therapists, race conciliators, police, career counsellors in a world of bewildering change and instillers of values that we as a society seem incapable of giving to our children.
But that's not all. Our teachers also have to answer to the beck and call of an education ministry here at Queen's Park that is top heavy with theorists who probably couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag. I have watched over the years, during countless after-school conferences with my children's teachers, how these teachers struggle with more and more unreasonable demands placed on them by the ministry, measuring inputs and outputs, calibrating benchmarks, defining outcomes, doing almost anything, it seems, except teach.
This is not, I hasten to add, a problem that began with your government. It's been there for years, but your government's emphasis on turning education into a business, with clients instead of students and with quantifiable productivity as a goal instead of true education, is making the problem much worse.
My personal experience of Ontario's teachers is that they are a conservative, hardworking, responsible and dedicated group of people. The last thing any of them want, I'm convinced, is to be out on illegal picket lines rather than in their classrooms. But your government set out to create a crisis in education, as Mr Snobelen so candidly pointed out early in your mandate, and you have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. You have turned a small-c conservative segment of the population into an angry crowd who have marched on your Legislature, 24,000 strong, and who now threaten to walk out as early as Wednesday. Take a bow, folks, you did that. You can take all the credit.
I admire my children's teachers. They are doing a job I could not and would not do. I know from my own experience as a student that out of the few dozen teachers they will encounter throughout their school days, there will be two or three who will be as important in shaping their futures as their father and I are, and I'm not alone in these sentiments.
You're doing your own daily or weekly private polling, with our tax money, no doubt, and your polls are telling you loud and clear that the majority of the Ontario population stands behind its teachers and does not want you to bully them or threaten them or punish them any more. It wants you to withdraw the really nasty, punitive parts of this bill, the ones about class size and about teaching and prep time and about allowing non-qualified persons teaching in our classrooms. They just want you to get those clauses right off the table. They are all about saving money. They are not about improving quality. Nobody in this province believes Mr Johnson's empty rhetoric on this subject -- not any more.
But I am especially concerned about Bill 160, not on behalf of teachers, who are doing a perfectly good job defending themselves without my help, but on behalf of my fellow citizens of Ontario. This bill is one of the most blatant democracy-busters you folks have brought down in the past two years. I have read it from cover to cover and two phrases ring out over and over through its pages, like a death knell for our democratic rights.
The first phrase is this: "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting any matter that is referred to in this section as prescribed," which simply means that all the important substantive work on the future and funding of education in this province will be done behind closed doors by the cabinet and its ministry servants, with no public input and public knowledge at all.
The second phrase is this: "Jurisdiction is not open to question or review in any proceeding or by any court," not even a kangaroo court, not even a semblance or a charade of due process, of checks and balances, of the right of appeal. It sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it?
Bill 160 calls for the creation of special education tribunals, entirely appointed by the minister. Dispute resolution will be handled by arbitrators entirely selected by the minister. And of course the Education Improvement Commission, created by Bill 104, will hold sway over all important decisions.
Meanwhile our boards of education, the one place where parents and citizens could effect change in the education system, have been dealt a mortal blow by Bill 104. No one who needs to make a living will be able to run for school trustee any more, since your government has slashed the stipend for this work from $50,000 down to $5,000 a year. And the huge new size of the boards' boundaries will guarantee that the majority of us are effectively disfranchised as regards educational policy.
All of this just to pay for your 30% tax cut? A tax cut, by the way, for which there is almost no enthusiasm or support in Ontario any more since people have wakened up to the fact that anything they save on the tax cut they're going to lose again on the downloading on to their property taxes. I see much more than bogus financial reasons for your revolutionary attack on our education system.
The Chair: Excuse me, Ms Drainie. There's only one more minute.
Ms Drainie: Fine. I see a hatred of professionalism and a desire to humiliate teachers and principals. I see a wide-eyed, romantic vision of Ontario students being turned into gleaming foot soldiers of the computer-based technological revolution, sort of off into the sunset, and I see a callous indifference towards and ignorance of the roots of both education and democracy. Perhaps it's not indifference and ignorance but something more sinister. Perhaps you do understand, as have the best thinkers throughout history, that education of the population is the key to a healthy democracy. Perhaps you know that by eviscerating education you can also mortally weaken democracy. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone.
I have one final thing to say that I approve of that you have done: you have moved the education budget largely off our property taxes and on to the progressive income tax base, or at least you intend to do so. This move reinforces one of the basic building blocks of a fair society, that those who can afford to will pay more than those who can't, to protect and maintain an education system that benefits us all and guarantees the future of a civilized society in our part of the world. For that one move I thank you, as well as for giving me the opportunity of speaking to you today.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Drainie.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Bonnie Palmer.
Mrs Bonnie Palmer: My name is Bonnie Palmer and I'm a parent with three kids in the Scarborough public education system. I am not affiliated with any group, any union. I am just here as a parent and what you see in front of you is research that I have put together on my own over the last three weeks.
I am greatly concerned with Bill 160 and how it will jeopardize my children's education. This present government has two goals. A short-term goal is to save money from the education system to meet a huge tax and debt reduction targets. The long-term goal, to me, is radical education changes as their key to success politically. It is not clear what the agenda of this government is, because the minister clearly sidesteps any direct questions he gets in regard to Bill 160. I want to know if the minister wants to privatize schools, as they have suggested with other government agencies such as postal services. Is he going to run my children's education as a business to better meet their needs? School boards have already been cut to the bone. School boards are to be seen as the voice of school communities, but the government here feels it is the voice of the community. They forget that a huge majority is against the bill, or portions of it.
This government does not wish to acknowledge changes people or parents wish to make. The government, by taking control away from teachers is also taking away parental control over children's education. It gives the present or future government the right to change education on a whim, and this, to me, is very dangerous.
It's a lot more effective to me as a person to go to my children's school and talk face to face to professional, educated personnel and voice my concerns, whether they're big or small, and receive feedback rather than going down to Queen's Park and hoping to be heard. I feel my local school educators want us to work together as a team. This government wants to fly solo.
Bill 160 is not about educating my children or the quality of education. I see it as a big power struggle on who has power and who doesn't. To me, it's about slashing approximately a billion dollars from our schools. Again, that figure is not known, because we don't know the figures, but as it stood before, a billion dollars.
I think in the past school boards have represented the public. Teachers are employees and the boards are the employer. Within the standards set by the provincial government, they together determine usual things through contracts, such as class size and prep time. I don't see why this needs to be changed if it is working.
Bill 160 is made up of three main points:
(1) Limit the areas over which teachers may bargain.
(2) The Minister of Education and cabinet are to be given almost absolute power to determine both class size and amount of prep time granted to teachers and other decisions about education. It also gives cabinet members power to determine who can teach. The education minister, I feel, is playing on the emotions of parents. Why not just set a minimum or maximum amount in Bill 160? Why is it so difficult to come up with a number to give people to alleviate some of these worries?
Concerning (3), giving the cabinet power to determine who can teach, Tories have been recorded as saying: "Local sports figures could teach physical education, or public librarians could run the resource centres. Non-certified instructors can be used in computer labs and music and special ed." I think the government wants money control and that is all.
I, as a parent, want my children to be taught by people with experience who are professionally trained in all aspects of child development, such as mental, social, physical, and intellectual. People who are committed enough to become certified: I think that's an important issue and it's being overlooked.
I think some changes can be made, yes, and improvements can be done, but proceeding so quickly, radically and blindly to change an entire education system in such a blow is very dangerous.
Change is hard for anyone in the best of times. Changes so numerous, so vast, so intense can only be more devastating to the complete child. I think we need to work as a team. Teachers are professionals, as are doctors, nurses, newspaper editors, media reporters etc. Teachers have five years of university training. They must be recognized as skilled professionals in our schools and the laws that govern them.
I feel, like others, that the education minister is unclear why he needs more power and what he wants to do with it. Bill 160 sets no limits whatsoever on how the government can change qualifications with regard to work in our schools. To me this is very scary, the blanketing power that it allows you to have.
They want to eliminate or download the Ontario College of Teachers. Why would you do that? That was something that the previous government and Snobelen himself, before he was demoted, was in favour of. Why only have a regulatory body for some teachers? People who teach science and phys ed should have the same regulatory bodies as everybody else.
I'm going to move on, as time allows here. I have a lot to cover. I would ask you to look through this and realize that having all aspects of education and funding left in the hands of a minister is totally unacceptable and inappropriate. It's a public education system. Therefore, members of the public should have a say about their expectations and the direction they want the system to go. Bill 160 gives the government total control of education from funding to day-to-day operations. How do fewer teachers and more classes equal quality education?
In regard to prep time, the minister doesn't acknowledge the value of outside-the-classroom time with students to provide extra help and to run extracurricular activities or on call coverage. These things are not calculated into the national figures he is quoting. Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child's development. When one applies to university or college to further their education and to become an asset to our province or country, they are asked: "What are some extracurricular activities you have participated in? What are some of your hobbies?" Physical fitness is an important aspect of a child's everyday life. Educated people equal healthier people, and therefore would most likely equal money saved in our health care system.
Post-secondary institutions want to evaluate how someone can be or is a team player. This has many benefits to our community, province and country. One must have a combination of being a good team player but also be an individual who can think independently and make positive decisions on his or her own. This in turn would be beneficial, not detrimental, to everyone, no matter what their occupation, career path or destination in life. Public education as it stands today can and does do this. Bill 160, as it stands, cuts the heart out of education. It will be more detrimental to the overall development of my three children, of all children in our province, in our schools. It stunts their growth. It kills my input as a parent to have a say in their education.
This present government has shown me in a consistent and personal way that it's not listening to the people of the province. It is infringing on one's right to speak at Queen's Park. It was a very sad day last week when the Conservative MPPs of this committee voted to bypass the usual democratic process, which has been in place for many years and has proven to be successful, to stack the deck in their favour with people to speak in agreement with Bill 160, therefore not allowing a true picture of public hearing.
I want to state that I am very thankful that I was one of the chosen few who were allowed to speak today because I squeaked and was heard. I squeaked in through a process of being on a list of six out of 16 names, but many did not. Why? They may not have met the set criteria one must to speak to this government, which I thought was elected by a democratic process. They may not have been among have been among the government's élite group of 50 or were not on the final list brought forth by the eight committee members.
If this current majority government can in one afternoon take away my individual rights as a voting Canadian citizen of the province of Ontario to speak on an issue slated for public hearings, what else can they take away? This is very frightening to me. Can my complete democratic rights be totally wiped out? I guess so. Can they in one sitting take away my child's right to a fair and professional quality education? Can they in one afternoon take my child's teacher away from them and upset their ideal of a safe, comfortable, consistent environment in which to learn and to teach them on a path of direction and learning for many years to come? Bill 160 says yes, and behind closed doors, with little to no public input, recommendation, no parental rights. That's what Bill 160 currently stands for.
Dear caucus members, you are supposed to be the voice of all people in Ontario, regardless of age, sex, race, religion or marital status. Being a parent with three small children, I have a responsibility to provide the best care and safety and unconditional love for my children. This means being involved in every aspect of their lives, whether it's minor or major, and being involved in important decisions, either minor or major, in their lives. This includes education. You cannot take this away from me. I will stand up and I will fight for the best education they can have. They are in a system where for four years I have seen nothing but professionalism, love, trust, safety, concern and encouragement to learn from their teachers and other educational personnel.
Education includes and is not limited to -- I will use your jargon here -- many things like math, English, writing, reading, learning proper nutrition, singing, social development, such as recess, games, art and music, to increasing one's self-esteem. This can be done by winning third place in a music festival or by doing the best they could in soccer. They learn and are learning about good sportsmanship. It is instilling in them that it's not about winning but about trying to be the best you can be. Success is trying and trying again, not to give in or to give up.
I plead with you again, let's be the best that we can be. This can be done by listening, cutting, revamping and trying again. My children are not mediocre, as the education minister has said. My children do have an excellent education. Responsibility lies at home as well as at school to learn and improve their skills and abilities as their bodies and minds allow. We must work together as a united team to find an agreeable solution. Canada is free, well advanced and, contrary to what some in the government might think, well educated. Am I saying there is no need to improve? No. We need to strive to be the best we can be, but everyone is an individual and learns and develops differently. Putting a whole system in one box does not equal success; it will equal disaster.
Just one quick thing, please: Listen to all your people. If you remove your fogged glasses of denial and personal success via a personal agenda, you will see success. You will seeing willingness on behalf of people to negotiate. You will see harmony. You will see a majority of people who are not in agreement with Bill 160 as it is written today but who are willing to help you and in turn help my children and our children to continue having a successful, quality-filled education. By revamping certain areas of Bill 160, you will have graduated from flying solo to working as a team player. This is the only way our number one team will win: our children.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs Palmer.
Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, we have three more before our 6 o'clock recess. We took half an hour for lunch. It's almost impossible to have half an hour. What is the desire of the committee at this stage? We can proceed with one, two or three more and put the remainder over to the evening. We have a couple of cancellations in the evening, so it will be a shorter evening. Are there any suggestions? Think about it and we'll proceed with East York in any event.
Mrs McLeod: I'd just like to suggest what would work best for the three presenters, who have probably been here for some length of time. If there are cancellations in the evening, maybe we could have the three presentations before dinner and then start somewhat later in the evening.
The Chair: The difficulty is, there's no way of contacting the people who are going to be here at 7.
Mr Newman: Why not go through now, and if something hasn't been ordered, we'll order something and it'll be ready at 6:30.
Mrs McLeod: That would suit me fine.
EAST YORK HOME AND SCHOOL COUNCIL
The Chair: We'll proceed. East York home and school association, Laura Dark.
Ms Laura Dark: My name is Laura Dark. It is the East York Home and School Council and I am the past president. The current president, Trish Simmie, is also with me.
Mr Wildman: This is an umbrella group?
Ms Dark: Yes.
Dr Trish Simmie: I'll just start very briefly with, who is the East York Home and School Council?
The East York Home and School Council represents home and schools in two thirds of the schools in East York, 16 schools altogether. We have over 1,000 families who have purchased memberships in the home and school and many thousands more who participate in home and school activities. Our members are actively involved in their local schools, working in classrooms, fund-raising, running educational programs for parents and a myriad of other activities that enhance the education our children get in East York. Home and school council represents our members on board committees, borough committees and provides a link to other community groups and home and schools across the province. For over 50 years there have been home and schools active in East York.
This past Thursday evening, the East York Home and School Council passed the following motion:
"Whereas the East York Home and School Council fears Bill 160 will result in massive reductions in education spending in Metro Toronto; and
"Whereas the provincial government has not denied that up to $1 billion could be taken out of education funding in Ontario; and
"Whereas the Minister of Education and Training will not guarantee that any savings resulting from educational changes will be totally reinvested in the education system; and
"Whereas Bill 160 will result in a total loss of local autonomy through centralization of decision-making in key areas such as funding, class size, certification requirements, curriculum and government by regulation, leading to undemocratic decision-making;
"Therefore be it resolved that the East York Home and School Council demands that the Minister of Education and Training withdraw Bill 160."
Any of you who have ever had anything to do with home and schools knows this is a very unhome-and-schoolish motion.
What is it that has driven the East York Home and School Council to come up with a motion like that? We had a lot of discussion. We like to be balanced. Let's look at the pluses and minuses of this bill. We talked about what we didn't like. That was pretty straightforward. The fact that there is no funding formula -- this is the middle of October. How can we discuss these issues when we don't know what the financial implications are going to be?
The transfer of authority to the Minister of Education for virtually all areas of decision-making is just unconscionable. The authority to make changes by regulation, such as firing an elected school board if they don't do what the minister wants, is not a power we want this Minister of Education to have, nor the next minister, be she Liberal or NDP. This is not in the best interests of our students.
Removal of local control over education spending, with the added insult of the mega-board in Metro Toronto, means we no longer have any say in what types of programs we want to see in our schools. Localized initiatives are critical for a community to meet local needs and many of these local initiatives will be lost.
The issue of class size is unresolved but the act uses 35 students as a loading factor for space allocation. The former minister has indicated the desire to have a maximum class size. How can the minister cap class size at a reasonable level when the loading factor is already determined? How will the board manage without the flexibility to have smaller classes for groups such as special ed students when they have no flexibility in class sizes?
We then turned to what we liked about the bill. There was rather profound silence. Somebody pointed out that in fact it does give us student numbers, so that the students would be able to move from school to school. This was a positive, but really there was nothing much else we could come up with that we liked; hence this motion.
I should say that as we were debating this motion, there wasn't a single parent in that room who felt that after all these changes -- all the time and effort trying to put the parents' viewpoints across, the chaos that is going on in terms of leaks and amalgamations and everything else -- their children will benefit from these changes. In fact, for children in the public school boards in Metro Toronto, the implications of these changes are universally negative.
Ms Dark: I want to start by relating something I heard last week from the Jane Jacobs Ideas that Matter conference. Ann Medina asked Jane Jacobs what she thought of our government. Without a pause she said: "They're making my life absurd. We all have better things to do." Jane Jacobs, as you know, is a very straightforward and clear-thinking octogenarian and an internationally recognized thinker. You, ladies and gentlemen, could learn a lot from her and I hope that some of you attended.
As a home and school volunteer I feel that you are making my life increasingly absurd. I worry that the same is also happening to my children and their education. The present Bill 160 is poised to allow our government to change direction at will. We are cutting $1 billion from education, or maybe we're not cutting $1 billion. I wish Jane Jacobs knew. At least we could get a straightforward, honest answer.
Your constant insistence that the school system is broken and the barrage of commissions, boards, task forces, reforms, bills, committees, papers, acts, hearings and consultations have all community and education-based volunteers reeling and dispirited, yet you maintain that volunteerism is the road to the future. What was once done institutionally is now to be undertaken by volunteers. Volunteers are to fill the gaps where funding is withdrawn. Volunteers are to fill the position on mandatory school councils. I have been the president of a local home and school association, the president of the East York home and school council, the chairperson of the East York community breakfast club for children, the co-chair of the East York community advisory committee, and now I sit on the East York Collegiate school council as well as attending the EIC consultations, the LEIC meetings and the weekly parent-community-student subcommittee meetings.
This list includes hundreds of committed volunteers who give parts of their lives to make the community and the education system better, for free. They are tired of what you are doing and how you are doing it, and so am I. I am tired of the misinformation or complete lack of straightforward answers. I am tired of arrogant ministers willing to push the system to the brink by creating one disaster and conflict after another in an attempt to paint teachers and school boards as the bad guys. I am tired of an escalating tension between teachers and the government which will see my kids out of school. You are showing little or no managing or resolving skills for these crises.
I am tired of the commissions that mandate volunteerism from above without a clue of how successful volunteering is really created. I am tired of spending hundreds of hours trying to explain to my associates what you are doing, with the limited information that you give me. I am tired of being called on Friday afternoon at 5 pm and told that I have 10 minutes to speak here on Monday when I can't get my MPP to show up with weeks of advance notice of a meeting. In short, folks, you're making my life absurd, and I have better things to do.
I want to give you some advice for the future: There are thousands of people already volunteering at no expense to taxpayers in our education system. Treat them with some honesty and respect and listen to what they are telling you. They are miles closer to the front line than your ministry or ministers. Stop picking on the local aspect of education. It seems to us that the province-run portions of the system may be mostly problematic. Start giving us straightforward answers. Show some leadership and management skill by cutting the macho rhetoric and reduce the current conflict into a meaningful, constructive and useful discussion on what is best for our children's education. Invest in our children's education; don't use education as a cash cow to fund tax rebates.
Remember we have better things to do than participate in the ideology of your revolution. They include our kids' education and our communities.
The Vice-Chair: Thanks for being right on time.
BRUNO PILEGGI LYNDA CLIFFORD-RASHOTTE LOUISA DECIANTIS ANTHONY BELLISSIMO
The Vice-Chair: The next presenters are Bruno Pileggi, Anthony Bellissimo, Lynda Clifford-Rashotte and Louisa DeCiantis. Sorry for the pronunciations. State your names for Hansard and you're on.
Mr Bruno Pileggi: I'm Bruno Pileggi. We welcome the opportunity to appear before this committee.
Ms Lynda Clifford-Rashotte: Lynda Clifford-Rashotte. I am proud to be here as a grade 2 teacher and the mother of three school-age children.
Mme Louisa DeCiantis : Louisa DeCiantis. J'enseigne le français cadre et le français immersion aux 7e et 8e années. I teach over 200 students.
Mr Anthony Bellissimo: I am Anthony Bellissimo. I teach children with complex learning disabilities.
Mr Pileggi: I teach in an early intervention and prevention program. I teach students with severe social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural difficulties.
We are teachers, professional, well qualified and well educated. We have the understanding, knowledge and experience to appreciate the impact this bill will have on children.
We believe this bill should be about understanding: understanding the difference between what benefits children as opposed to what will eventually destroy them. We believe this bill should be about knowledge: knowledge that the right of children to an excellent education is the most important consideration.
The government believes this bill is about quality and improvement. Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997: Where is the quality? Where is the education improvement?
If this bill is truly about improving the quality of education in this province, one would think it would be imperative to include the valuable insights of classroom teachers. It is a cruel irony that even though Ontario's teachers are among the best trained and the best educated in the world, teacher-bashing has been elevated to an art form. This government has led the charge right to Bill 160. Bill 160 forever excludes the voices of teachers.
We believe that Bill 160 should be withdrawn. Any future government initiative that presumes to better the quality of education in this province should begin with the input of those closest to the system. After all, we are partners. From our perspective, Bill 160 fails to include our understanding and our knowledge about how best to address the needs of children.
Ms Clifford-Rashotte: I am pleased to have my voice heard at this table today. I am accustomed to speaking to seven-year-olds and in a lot of ways that's a tougher room than even this one.
In the almost 20 years that I have been teaching, I have come to many important realizations about my profession, two of which I believe are relevant to our discussion of Bill 160. The first is that as a teacher, I have an awesome responsibility and a powerful impact on the children I teach. On a clear day I can see that in their eyes.
The second realization is that teaching as a profession sure isn't what teaching used to be. Teaching today is so much more than what teaching used to be. Some days I know the children can see that in my eyes. After almost 20 years of teaching I still love it. I love teaching because I care about the children I teach, and if I may say so, they love me too. On that basis alone a computer could never replace a teacher.
I love teaching because it is a challenging and important profession. Teaching has never been an easy job, but it has never been as demanding as it is now. I look at the difference between the time I started teaching and today and I think it's akin to the difference between Andy of Mayberry and NYPD Blue. The job description for teachers has grown immeasurably and teachers have grown right along with it. Our professional competencies and our areas of expertise go well beyond the traditional expectations of what a classroom teacher does.
Teachers instinctively adapt to change. We continually adjust our programs to implement a curriculum that seems to change just about every year now. Planning time has never been so essential. But in the 1990s it is the changing social and emotional needs of children that are presenting the greatest challenges for classroom teachers. It is in meeting these tremendous needs that we teachers often experience our greatest successes. But these amazing achievements and minor miracles cannot be measured on any standardized test.
The world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Families are facing unprecedented pressures, so it is not surprising that the children coming to our classrooms are coming now with unprecedented needs. The question is, how can we be making unprecedented cuts at this time and ignore these social realities? To this complex mix we add Bill 160.
Ms DeCiantis: This bill disregards the current complexities of our classrooms. It dismisses the expertise of teachers. It dispenses with the necessity of having certified teachers teaching our children. In effect, it destroys the teaching profession in Ontario. But more than that, it has the power to close schools, abolish boards, seize reserve funds and wipe out programs. It concentrates all power over children, schools, teachers and school financing in the hands of the cabinet. It looks more like tough luck than tough love for the children of this province.
Ms Clifford-Rashotte: For example, one provision this bill proposes is that uncertified or unqualified persons may teach. In our view, it is tantamount to allowing uncertified or unqualified doctors to practise medicine. When it is your child or my child in the doctor's office or our children in the classroom, it is surely the professional that we want to care for them. We want all the professional training, all the ongoing professional development and all the experience we can find.
Ms DeCiantis: If we don't trust our cars to uncertified mechanics, how can we possibly rationalize entrusting our children to teachers who are not certified?
Ms Clifford-Rashotte: The fact is, we wouldn't. But every child in my classroom and every child in this province is deserving of and is entitled to the same quality of education I want for my own three children.
Mr Bellissimo: As teachers we are advocates for the children of this province. We know that for some of our students the classrooms we create are not only places to learn; they are a home away from home, or what their home should be.
As teachers we know and understand the impact of Bill 160. This bill is a disservice to the children of this province. It robs them of a quality education. Teachers will stand together to defend the right of all children to an excellent education. We will take whatever action we believe is necessary to guarantee that right for it is the teacher who shapes the classroom in which our children learn and grow.
Bill 160 purposely disfranchises teachers and takes away our ability to offer professional input into the system. It destroys our ability as teachers to preserve the integrity of our classrooms. We have always done that through our collective bargaining process, a democratic process, a democratic right. It is not a coincidence that since Bill 100, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act, learning conditions have improved dramatically. By denying our input, Bill 160 will destroy publicly funded classrooms in Ontario.
Henry Adams said it best: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." As teachers, we believe it stops with Bill 160.
The Vice-Chair: Thanks for that presentation. You've used up your 10 minutes.
Mr Pileggi: We're not finished. We're still under 10 minutes.
The Vice-Chair: According to my clock here, it's 17 after and you started at 6:07. Thank you.
TOGETHER IN EDUCATION, REGION OF WATERLOO
The Vice-Chair: The next presenters, Together in Education, have 10 minutes. Would you just state your names as you speak.
Mr John Ryrie: Members, my name is John Ryrie. I am this year's chair of TIE, an organization made up of the five local federations in the region of Waterloo who have worked together in education for more than a decade. The five people you see here today are the five local presidents.
In the two minutes I have I would like to make three important points. My first point is that this bill is unnecessary. As the purple and blue sheets at the back of your package will show, there is incredible excellence in all our schools in Waterloo county and there has been year after year, ranging from provincial athletics to national and international academic contests. The degree and range of student and teacher excellence is incredible. Mr Snobelen deceitfully chose to ignore all of it. His goals were built on a phoney crisis. Most of this bill is based on the same phoney crisis.
My second point is that the bill's premise that centralized authority will improve our schools is nonsense. Ontario's history proves this point. Three decades ago the ministry pushed open-concept classrooms on elementary schools. They did not work. This centrally mandated idea failed. Bob Rae four years ago forced destreamed grade 9 classes on every board. It was a disaster for every level of student in Waterloo county. It produced frustration, not better learning. The ministry's flip-flop on the Common Curriculum has caused untold millions of dollars of waste in time, money and resources.
More recently your own government's cuts have killed junior kindergarten in dozens of boards, even though early childhood education is the single most important investment we could make to improvement the learning of Ontario students. You have killed adult education as well, a program with a track record for getting adult learners into paying jobs. Given the obvious major mistakes of the past, the idea imbedded in Bill 160, that centralized authority will help students and schools, is very much a bogus idea.
My last point is that the bill is seriously misnamed, as other people have already indicated. It has nothing to do with improving education in Ontario schools, because it says nothing about supporting teachers or improving classroom instruction and delivery. It does not advocate smaller class sizes or maximum class sizes, improved teacher training, better-qualified staff, better buildings, money for new textbooks or resources for students who suffer poverty, mental illness or destructive parents. If the bill were really about improving education instead of gutting schools of money, talent, resources and support systems, the bill would be filled with such a vision. In the absence of such a coherent vision, the bill is a sham.
Ms Diane Greenhalgh: My name is Diane Greenhalgh. I'm president of the local which represents FWTAO.
One core aspect of Bill 160 with which we have difficulty is the centralization of decision-making power to a group which is not directly responsible to the people who will be affected. We implore you to recognize the complexity and uniqueness of communities across our province and uphold the public's democratic right to make local decisions with a mechanism to directly affect those decisions. Working conditions should be part of a locally negotiated solution to unique situations. How can a cabinet in Toronto, for example, understand the special circumstances of delivering an effective learning program to a school made up entirely of old-order Mennonite students, for example, without knowing the local culture?
The lack of specifics in Bill 160 with respect to the undefined powers it grants to an unreachable decision-making body flies in the face of democracy. If Bill 160 should pass unchanged, critical decisions which profoundly affect the education of individuals can be made without input from key stakeholders and experts.
The key aspects of this bill -- centralization of power, reduction of funding, elimination of certified personnel, dismantling the rights of local boards to negotiate their working conditions -- do nothing to reach this government's stated goal of achieving excellence in education. We can only conclude that funding cuts are the real motivation for crafting the bill as it exists.
The public has been assured that any cuts will not directly affect the classroom. This results from a misunderstanding of what a classroom is as we approach the millennium. Excellence in education requires working as a team to meet the educational needs of students who make up today's eclectic, integrated classrooms. This government wishes to dismiss the critical role of such resources as librarians, special education support personnel and curriculum consultants in ensuring this excellence. Our classrooms in Waterloo county have definitely been negatively affected by cuts to these types of teachers which have already been made because of reductions in provincial grants.
Lastly, in considering further cuts to education, please realize that these decisions do not stand alone in affecting the lives of children. Government cuts to other social programs have had an indelible and negative effect on the lives of children. Further cuts to their diminishing support systems will have a catastrophic effect on those most clearly in need.
It does indeed take a whole community to educate a child. Do not remove the power of our community to make decisions about how to educate our unique and precious children, whom we understand and the provincial government does not even know.
We, the teachers and citizens of Waterloo region, cannot support Bill 160 because of its unprecedented power in the absence of specifics and the lack of the ability of the public to affect or appeal future decision-making. Please repeal the bill.
The Vice-Chair: The first speaker has used five minutes, so use your time accordingly.
M. Yves Bouchard : Mon nom est Yves Bouchard. Je représente l'AEFO et je représente un groupe de 45 enseignantes et enseignants francophones de la région de Waterloo, répartis dans deux écoles élémentaires et une école secondaire. Les coupures des dernières années ont grandement affecté nos écoles de langue française malgré un accroissement de notre population étudiante. Elles ont privé nos écoles élémentaires de deux positions à mi-temps d'enseignants bibliothécaires. Nous avons subi une augmentation de nos ratios. Malgré une augmentation des besoins particuliers de nos élèves, nous avons perdu les services d'une demi-position en enfance en difficulté.
Le projet de loi 160 dans sa présente forme menace l'éducation de langue française dans la région de Waterloo. Laissez-moi porter à votre attention le pouvoir que le cabinet se donne à designer des postes qui peuvent être comblés par du personnel non enseignant. On parle de remplacer les enseignantes et les enseignants du cycle préparatoire, éducation physique, arts, musique, technologies etc, sans oublier la réduction du temps de planification au secondaire. Pour un groupe comme le nôtre, on parle d'une perte de sept à 10 positions, donc du quart de nos effectifs. Comment peut-on maintenir un enseignement de qualité dans de telles circonstances ?
Le cabinet se donne également le pouvoir de déterminer la taille des classes et les méthodes de calculs utilisées. Nous avons vécu une expérience similaire dans notre conseil. Sur papier, les résultats ne semblent pas catastrophiques mais en réalité, il en est tout autrement. Pour notre école secondaire, la perte d'enseignantes et d'enseignants aura des conséquences désastreuses. Il est très difficile de mettre en place une école secondaire dans un milieu où les écoles de langue anglaise sont en place depuis longtemps et bénéficient déjà de plusieurs services et programmes. Le projet de loi 160 ne donne aucune garantie aux francophones dans les milieux minoritaires.
Comment pourrons-nous garantir la protection et l'épanouissement de l'éducation de langue française et de maintenir un enseignement de qualité sans une garantie du gouvernement ? Sans aucune garantie pour nos petites écoles secondaires on parle d'une mort lente, car elles ne pourront plus offrir les services de base par manque de personnel qualifié.
La liste pourrait s'allonger mais ces points constituent la plus grande menace a l'éducation de langue française dans la région de Waterloo. Il m'est impossible dans de telles circonstances d'appuyer le projet de loi 160 qui se dit pour _l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation_. Pour plus de 20 ans, les francophones de la région de Waterloo ont donné le meilleur d'eux-mêmes pour bâtir une éducation de langue française de premier plan : participation au projet CANOLAB de l'Agence spatiale canadienne, le prix Matthieu Da Costa et autres projets provinciaux et locaux.
Les enseignantes et les enseignants francophones cherchent constamment à améliorer leur travail et à donner à nos élèves un enseignement de qualité. Nous sommes toujours ouverts aux changements qui profiteront nos élèves, mais le projet de loi 160 ne répond pas à nos critères d'amélioration. Si le but de ce projet de loi est de mettre nos élèves premiers de classe, ma conclusion est que l'argent a malheureusement un long pas d'avance.
Mr Brydon Elinesky: We represent approximately 80,000 students and more than 4,800 full-time teachers in the region of Waterloo. All the students and teachers in the region have been adversely affected by the reductions in funding over the last few years.
Libraries have been closed for a portion of the week in some schools; students have lost opportunities to access outdoor education facilities; there have been reductions in extracurricular activities; music programs have been reduced; students have fewer opportunities for individualized assistance; junior kindergarten classes have been cut in the public board and class sizes have increased in the Catholic board; class sizes in all grade levels have increased; teachers have fewer supports for developing curriculum; teachers have fewer supports for teaching needy students, all this because more than 500 teaching positions have been lost in areas such as special education, consultants, teacher-librarians and classroom teachers. As well, reductions in support staff in the form of noon-hour supervisors, teacher assistants and outdoor education staff have had negative effects on the teaching of students in Waterloo county.
Bill 160 would allow the Minister of Education and Training to make further reductions to the teaching complement through regulation. The government's insinuations that it intends to reduce planning time and use unqualified people in areas such as phys ed, kindergarten, guidance, computer teaching, art, music, technology and library will result in the loss of another 600 teaching positions in our schools in the region of Waterloo. Will this improve the quality of education for students in Waterloo? Absolutely not.
Ms Pat Cannon: My name is Pat Cannon. I represent the Catholic teachers in Waterloo region. We, all the teachers of the Waterloo region, are very concerned about the scope of changes recommended in Bill 160 and the speed with which the government wishes to implement them. Our education system, simply put, cannot withstand any more cuts. I would like to add a little bit of a personal nature to some of the points that Brydon has just mentioned.
A grade 6 teacher in our system recently told of how she had 33 students in a classroom designed and built for 24. She was considering having bleachers installed into the classroom. If a new student is being escorted down the hall to the junior class wing she holds her breath and then gives a sigh of relief when the secretary takes the student on to the next room.
Another teacher related the story of overcrowding in his class. Last May while he was teaching in his portable, two technicians arrived with the new class computers. He was asked where they should set them up. The teacher looked around at his class of 34 and asked the technician where they thought the machines would fit. Needless to say, the computers had to be set up somewhere else in the school. So much for being able to provide for the new technology in the classroom.
Teachers want to teach. They want to do a good job. Quality programs are currently being delivered by qualified teachers daily, across the province. If changes are necessary to improve the curriculum, teachers are willing to work collaboratively to adjust the programs as needed. They do this on an ongoing basis. If teachers are going to be required to come in a week early in August, to tell you the truth, the majority of teachers I know already do that.
The Vice-Chair: You are running out of time. If you'd wrap up, please.
Ms Cannon: Teachers have made more changes over the past 50 years than you could possibly keep track of, as each subsequent Ministry of Education and Training puts its own mark on curriculum, program and funding. Teachers have adapted and worked with many of these changes, those that actually have pedagogical strengths and purpose. Don't ask them to make changes that only satisfy some specific financial need. The job of teaching is just too important to waste that kind of time. On behalf of the nearly 5,000 teachers in Waterloo region, we all ask that you reconsider your direction and withdraw this destructive piece of legislation. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Is it the wish that you people come back at 7:10? That would give us about 40 minutes for supper.
Mr Froese: Mr Chair, I believe we have three openings, so I would recommend --
The Vice-Chair: It's only two.
Mr Froese: Only two. Then I would recommend that we take the full hour for supper and then go right through to the end.
The Vice-Chair: Is that what you want to do? Bud, before you leave, do you want to take --
Mr Wildman: I'm willing to do whatever you like. I don't think I need an hour for supper. Frankly, I don't think we'll have enough time to get supper.
The Vice-Chair: You don't need and hour? Okay, 7:10?
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Make it 7:15.
The Vice-Chair: All right, 7:15.
The committee recessed from 1828 to 1913.
SCHOOL ADVISORY COUNCIL CHAIRS, BOARD OF EDUCATION FOR THE CITY OF YORK
The Chair: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the committee and ladies and gentlemen of the audience. We will proceed with our first presentation, the School Advisory Council Chairs, Board of Education for the City of York, Cathy Zeleniak.
Ms Cathy Zeleniak: Good evening. My name is Cathy Zeleniak and I would like to thank you very much for inviting me here tonight to speak on behalf of the School Advisory Council Chairs.
First of all, I would like to comment on the selection process for this hearing. If it wasn't for the fact that the city of York council of SAC chairs held our first meeting last Thursday, I would not have been given a mandate to voice York parents' opposition to this bill. I had very little time between the phone call on Saturday afternoon and tonight's presentation to consult with the parents I represent.
Thursday's meeting was my last as chair. At the meeting a motion was passed that the executive write a letter to the Minister of Education expressing our disapproval of Bill 160, of the lack of negotiations with the teachers, and a request for him to withdraw the bill. This motion was passed by representatives of 87% of our schools in the city of York. I should also add that the 14 or so community guests were in full agreement with the directions to be sent to the minister in this letter.
I am sure many of the concerns the city of York parents have about Bill 160 have already been voiced here today by other groups. First and foremost is the concern about the lack of open consultation with parents, teachers and the education community in general as to what may be needed to improve the education system. True consultation may have resulted in real improvement rather than a threatened withdrawal of services by teachers across the province. Parents and their children are caught in the middle of this present conflict between the province and the teachers' federations.
A vast majority of parents fully supports the teachers' proposed job action because they fear the changes Bill 160 will bring. They also worry about what will happen to their children if the teachers are forced to strike. Parents do, however, realize that the passing of Bill 160 and the anti-democratic processes it sets in place will do more harm to their children and grandchildren's education than a teachers' strike will. As well, this bill sets up the possibility of other similar bills outside of education that will fundamentally change the democratic processes we have all come to rely on as a guarantee of equity within our society.
A large part of Bill 160 is really labour legislation that nullifies existing contracts with teachers' federations. How will this improve our children's education? Bill 160, because of the labour component, allows the government to cut millions out of the education budget. Where is the money going to come from? Education budgets have been cut back every year for the past seven or more years. As many have said, there is no fat left to cut. Instead, these new cuts are aimed right at the heart of education, the classroom.
The city of York is a large working-class area with one of the largest ESL student populations. We enjoy what many parents consider the best education system in Ontario, based on fairness and equity for all our students. The equal funding of school boards across the province will not recognize the unidentified special needs of a community such as York. What will happen to the unique educational needs of our community after Bill 160?
Bill 160 does not in any way lay down guidelines for improving the education system. Most of what the bill does is dismantle the present system and transfer the power and control of the system into the hands of the provincial cabinet and the appointed Education Improvement Commission. The regulations set in place by these governing bodies are final and not subject to any democratic procedure of appeal. This means that as parents we have virtually no say in the passing of regulations that affect our children's education, unless we can afford to send them to a private school. Is that the real agenda, to create a two-tiered system?
Schools are already increasingly identified as have and have-not schools. The demographics around the location of a school and the ability to raise extra funds for the school already contribute to a widening gap in the inequality of education. This access to equal education for their children is what parents fear Bill 160 will take away.
There are many programs within the city of York that are sponsored by the board of education that support the needs of the community. Many parents are afraid these programs will either disappear or become out of reach of those who need them the most because of the introduction of user fees. Under this government the increasingly clear message has been, "If you want more than the government will provide, then pay for it yourself." Bill 160 supports this agenda, even though the government constantly says that the result will be an improved system for every student in Ontario. Well, we don't believe it. Parents do not believe Bill 160 is about improving education. Instead, we know it is about power and control over money.
We want the bill to be withdrawn or drastically amended immediately to ensure our democratic right to have a say in our children's education; and we want the minister to know we fully support the job action by the teachers, even with the hardship it may cause many of us.
I could go on and on listing concerns parents have voiced about many parts of Bill 160 that make drastic changes to every aspect of education, but as the government has consistently shown, they really don't have the time or motivation required to listen to what the electorate has to say.
I have brought the vice-chair of the current executive of the council of SAC chairs for the city of York, Bill Worrell.
Mr Bill Worrell: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to this committee. My name is Bill Worrell. I am the vice-chair of the York Board of Education Council of SAC Chairs and the chair of the Rawlinson Community School Advisory Council. I don't have much time so I will try to be brief.
I'd like to comment first on the consultation process. As a parent who has many job- and family-related responsibilities, I find this consultation process undemocratic and offensive. I learned yesterday that I would have the opportunity to speak to this committee. By no stretch of the imagination could this be considered adequate notice to prepare a meaningful deputation to this committee.
The text of Bill 160 is huge and complex and filled with language that is challenging to understand. Preparation of presentations such as these demand concerted effort and time. Sharing a 10-minute time slot can hardly allow for any meaningful analysis or debate to be developed. Indeed, the process of choosing deputants raises many questions. Why were hundreds of requests to appear turned down, while my colleague received an unsolicited invitation?
The Rawlinson School Advisory Council and Bill 160: Our SAC has discussed the major points of the bill, "SAC" meaning the school advisory council. Our major concerns about the bill are as follows.
(1) Accountability: Major decisions about funding, organization of services and programs will be made through regulation changes in orders in council. Parents will have no input on these changes, which could include huge funding cuts. Thanks to the elimination of local school boards through Bill 104, our very part-time school trustees will be inaccessible. Under this bill these same school trustees will have no power to raise funds and will be essentially powerless to make decisions about major education policies. Parents will have nowhere to turn to influence the decisions that are being made, not even their own MPPs.
(2) Funding levels: Local financial control is eliminated under this bill. Bill 160 creates the capacity for cabinet to implement major funding cuts to many highly valued programs in our city: heritage language programs, special education services, support to newcomers, community liaison officers, not to mention bus transportation and the use of teachers' aides in our schools.
It will be left to the schools, already stretched to the limits, to increase fund-raising capacities to continue these programs. Cuts to these very vulnerable programs directly hurt parents in my school, largely working-class and with many newcomers. We probably have one of the most diverse populations of any school in Metro. We do not have confidence that this government will understand the needs of our school. Should a central government be allowed all this power?
(3) Unqualified teachers: Replacing teachers with individuals with little or no classroom training will not improve the quality of education; it will only save money in the short term. The education system can only be improved with the use of certified teachers in every classroom. I am a parent who has long advocated for teacher accountability and high-quality education for my children and their classmates. I have never once contemplated in all these years that we should be lowering the teaching requirements in our classrooms.
The Chair: Excuse me, sir. You only have about 40 seconds left.
Mr Worrell: I'd like to speak to the role of parents. As an active parent in my school, I believe in parent involvement. This bill mentions parent councils as a means to involve parents in schools, but is vague on the exact role of these councils. In my daughter's school, there are many barriers to parent involvement, whether it be shift work, being a single parent, trying to survive on two and three jobs, language and cultural barriers. Our volunteer members devote many hours working on school issues that are important to us, but as all volunteers will tell you, we have our limits.
Our council is very clear. We don't want to run the school; that's the principal's job and it's the school board's job to ensure the job is well done. We want to advise and we want to be able to influence policies. But we will not be part of a government plan that will "hand over" power to parents in schools. We don't want that power and without a well-funded infrastructure to support the council's work, parents would have no clout to really affect policy-making. In the end, the schools that have more financial means to harness volunteer participation could benefit from such power, while schools such as Rawlinson will be left behind in the inter-school competition.
This is the first step, we fear, towards the development of a two-tiered education system, an underfunded public system for the unlucky ones and a growing private school system for those who can afford it.
Our council supports teacher opposition to this bill. We call on the government to withdraw the bill so that reasonable time will be allowed for negotiations with teachers and a truly democratic consultation process can occur.
The Chair: I thank both of you.
The Chair: We'll move on to our next presentation, Joanne Clarke. Good evening, Ms Clarke. Please proceed.
Ms Joanne Clarke: Good evening. Thank you, members of the committee, for the opportunity to speak to you about Bill 160. I am here tonight as a parent, as a mother of three young children, two of whom are presently in an elementary school within the Toronto Board of Education.
I am a former president of the home and school association at my children's school. I am a founding member of the East End Parent Network in Toronto, a Girl Guide leader, a Sunday school teacher and a music teacher in a nursery school. My life is filled with helping to meet the needs of my children and other children in my community.
I am also married to a Toronto high school teacher, but I address you tonight as a mother who deeply loves her children and wants the very best for them as citizens of Ontario. I want nothing less for any of the children in this province.
It is in this context then that I have read Bill 160, and I have read it cover to cover several times now. As a parent and as a citizen of Ontario I find the bill to be deeply disturbing in that it offers absolutely nothing to guarantee quality education for the children of Ontario.
Even though the bill is entitled the Education Quality Improvement Act, I found not one clause in the 219 pages of the act that ensures our present standard of education in Ontario will even be maintained, let alone improved.
However, while the bill gives us nothing, it takes away plenty. It takes away the rights of parents, students and teachers to have any kind of meaningful participation in developing the educational agenda in Ontario. It takes the education system of this province away from the people of Ontario, away from the people this government was elected to serve, not to control, and it hands it over in total to the Minister of Education and the other members of cabinet.
The bill states that all school board members, officers or employees must "comply with any order or direction of the minister," and those who fail to do so will be guilty of an offence. Attention. Welcome to education in the new Ontario.
The bill gives the Minister of Education, through regulations, the total power to do such things as sell schools, close schools, fire teachers, eliminate programs, use non-certified teachers or even dramatically increase class sizes without any discussion or debate in the Legislature.
The main purpose of an order in council or a regulation is that it allows the government to act hastily, needing only the approval of the cabinet and the signature of the Lieutenant Governor. However, the power to act hastily and without opposition has in the past proven dangerous for Canadians and has allowed our governments to take steps that we as a people have later regretted.
On January 19, 1943, Canadian member of Parliament Ian Mackenzie, under Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, sought cabinet approval for the dispossession of Japanese Canadians. On January 23, four days later, the cabinet agreed and under the War Measures Act an order in council was passed that granted the custodian of enemy property the right to dispose of Japanese Canadian property in his care without the owner's consent.
While Bill 160 is not the War Measures Act, it does give the Minister of Education the power, with great speed and no debate in the Legislature, to virtually dispossess our children and all Ontarians of our public education system. Like the War Measures Act, Bill 160's orders in council cannot be challenged in a court of law. No effective opposition, no accountability.
Giving the Minister of Education such total control and the power to move hastily is not good for education in Ontario and it is not good for democracy in Ontario. As one Canadian historian recently stated, "The Harris government forgets it scored an election, not a coup." Running our schools like an army, which is what could happen under Bill 160, is bad social policy and will dangerously erode our democracy.
In countries like Chile, for example, where democracy was stripped away from the people, one of the first acts of General Pinochet was to take rigid control of the education system and to privatize the schools.
Dave Johnson and the Harris government have abused democratic process and with this bill are attempting to legislate autocracy. Bill 160 is full of loopholes you could drive a Mack truck through. The minister has offered almost no guarantees of funding and essential details are absent in the legislation.
Personally, I wouldn't buy a car with this kind of contract. It would be like a car salesman saying, "Sign here today and tomorrow I will tell you how much the car costs and what condition it's in." None of us in our right minds would sign a contract under these conditions, yet the Ontario government wants us to hand our entire education system over under the same conditions.
While the Minister of Education has been telling the parents of Ontario that under Bill 160 we will be able to participate in our children's education like never before, the bill only states that the minister, by regulation, will have the power to establish school councils and to determine who will have the right to be on those councils and what role those councils will play: total control by the minister and dangerously devoid of details.
As parents we will no longer have any input into significant issues such as the method of school funding and the rate of education tax we pay. These issues will not even be debated in the Legislature. This means our education system will only be as good or as bad as our Minister of Education and the other members of cabinet.
If Bill 160 is not about education quality, what then is it about? Over 100 pages of the bill are devoted to education finance issues. I think that strikes at the real agenda in this legislation. If one reads this legislation through the lens of a financial agenda, the agenda of economic growth in the marketplace, it all makes sense. Why would the Ontario government set up the Ontario College of Teachers to ensure our certified teachers meet certain professional standards and then, under Bill 160, legislate the use of non-certified teachers in any teaching position? Because non-certified teachers can be paid less money.
Why cut teacher preparation time if quality is the agenda? Because it isn't. Downsizing is the agenda here because fewer teachers can then teach more classes, enabling the government to save money by firing thousands of teachers.
Why give the minister the power to govern class sizes? Because you can either put 60 to 80 kids in a class or cap class sizes while eliminating music, gym, special education and by putting these teachers back into the classroom. If boards or schools want these programs, they can raise the money by themselves. While Bill 160 calls for equal funding, there is no guarantee this means each board will be funded to the level of the very best of what any board now has. It could mean each board's funding will be reduced to the bare bones of education finance.
Even the minister's handling of these hearings gives us some clues into the government's agenda with Bill 160. It is now public knowledge that the Minister of Education himself handpicked most of the participants at these hearings. While thousands of Ontario citizens and education organizations applied, the minister actually invited several business organizations to speak, including the Ontario Home Builders' Association, the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It's my guess these organizations will (a) encourage the minister to run our schools like a business; (b) tell the minister how our children need to be educated to meet the needs of the marketplace.
As a mother I find this abhorrent and think the values of this government need to be reversed. For the sake of my children, for all children and all the people of Ontario, the demands of business and economic growth need to be managed and qualified so that they meet the needs of our children and human development in general.
To the Minister of Education, I offer this in closing: You are not just dealing with the opposition of 126,000 teachers across the province. I react to Bill 160 like a mother bear whose cubs have been threatened. You are hurting my children and the children of Ontario with Bill 160. You are hurting their schools; you are hurting their democracy. There are thousands of mothers and fathers like me across the province and we will not back down until you kill the bill.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
The Chair: Our next presentation is the Ontario Association of Catholic Families, Brian Taylor.
Mr Brian Taylor: As a general statement, classroom schooling is a public service provided to parents by the church and by the state, through their respective public institutions, as required by the principle of distributive justice and within the limits of the principle of subsidiarity. While it is true, because of the principle of distributive justice, that funds have to be collected by taxation, it does not follow that public authority may override the duties and rights of parents in the education of their children.
The slogan that "It takes a village to raise a child" is being fostered nowadays to advance a mentality which does not properly take into account the responsibility and role of the family, and right relations between the family and the larger society. The idea that educational policy and curriculum may be determined wholly by public authority, presumably in the best interests of the child as estimated by the state, flies in the face of the parental duty and right in education.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, assures us in article 26(c), "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given their children."
I have to apologize at this point; I failed to pick up from the table as I left the house tonight copies of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, which I wished to place before you at this point. Is there a way I can hand them in? I'll have to ask about that later on. This charter was drawn up by the Holy See at the explicit request, in the fall of 1980, of Catholic bishops from around the world and was published on October 22, 1983.
As it says in the seventh paragraph of the introduction, this charter is addressed principally to governments as a point of reference for drawing up legislation and family policy. It cautions that attention to human rights "cannot ignore or permit violations of the fundamental rights of the family." Because "these rights arise, in the ultimate analysis, from that law which is inscribed by the Creator in the heart of every human being, society is called to defend [them] against all violations and to respect and promote them in the entirety of their content." Both of those are from the introduction.
The preamble of the Charter of the Rights of the Family states, among the givens, "that the family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman which is constituted in the freely contracted and publicly expressed indissoluble bond of matrimony, and is open to the transmission of life; that the family, a natural society, exists prior to the state or any other community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable; and that society, and in a particular manner the state and international organizations, must protect the family through measures...which aim at consolidating [its] unity and stability so that it can exercise its specific function."
Among the family's specific functions -- and not limited to these -- are education, which is dealt with in article 5 of the charter and its role in the construction of society, in article 8.
The right of parents to educate is connected to the transmission of life. Parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate their children because they have conferred life on those children. All parents have the right to educate their children in conformity with the reality of the family as expressed in the preamble of the charter, as I mentioned a minute ago, and in the context as well of article 3 of the charter.
Speaking as a Catholic, this fact is implicit in the marriage ceremony, wherein the two persons about to marry are asked, before they exchange their vows, "Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His church?" The public acceptance of their duty and right to carry out this mission, with the assistance of schools which meet the criteria of the Catholic Church, absolutely must be respected and protected. This education encompasses not only the revealed truths of the Catholic religion, but also the moral law and the social doctrine of the church.
I began by mentioning two principles: the principle of distributive justice and the principle of subsidiarity. The application of the principle of distributive justice to education is expressed in article 5(b) of the Charter of the Rights of the Family. This also supports the right of parents to home school, as does the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Section 112 of Bill 160 makes changes to section 234 of the Education Act under the heading of "Legislative and Municipal Grants." The bill proposes that regulations governing the distribution of grants for educational purposes are to be allotted in a fair and non-discriminatory manner between public boards and Catholic boards and are to respect the rights given in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 23 deals with the language rights of Canada's English-speaking and French-speaking citizens. One must respectfully insist that education according to religious rights be respected and fostered according to the consciences and needs of the parents.
A concise statement of the principle of subsidiarity, which is expressed in the remaining subsections of article 5, is as follows:
"A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."
The way in which education reforms are being managed by the government of Ontario is in direct violation of the common good, the principle of subsidiarity and the right of families to exercise their social and political function in the educational endeavour and in the construction of society.
Bill 160 is a case in point. This bill proposes the centralization of power and closed-door decision-making at the highest level of government. This could be challenged as being ultra vires. The bill is being rushed through with a minimum of public input, despite the fact that changes in education have a profound effect on persons throughout their whole lives, not to mention the lives of those who are yet to be born and who will constitute future generations.
The concept of the classroom teacher functioning in loco parentis no longer has any truth to it if the teacher is now to be acting in the place of the Minister of Education and Training. This, in effect, defeats the rights of parents in the education of their children.
Removing the power to tax at the local level and re-establishing it at the provincial level means that taxes go into the provincial coffers without a specific amount being applied to education as such. These taxes become general revenue, some of which is then allocated to education as the government sees fit. This means that both curriculum and funding are subject to the whims and needs of the party in power and not to the needs and rights of parents.
I must respectfully urge the members of provincial Parliament to take a cue from these words of Tony Blair, the new Prime Minister of England, who said in a speech to his own party on September 30 of this year, just about three weeks ago:
"We cannot say we want a strong and secure society when we ignore its very foundation: family life.
"....I am a modern man leading a modern country and this is a modern crisis: nearly 100,000 teenage pregnancies every year. Elderly parents with whom families cannot cope. Children growing up without role models they can respect and learn from. More and deeper poverty. More crime. More truancy. More neglect of educational opportunities. And, above all, more unhappiness....
"I give you this pledge. Every area of this government's policy will be scrutinized to see how it affects family life, every policy examined, every initiative tested, every avenue explored to see how we strengthen our families, and you will have a ministerial group to drive it through."
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Your timing is also impeccable. It's exactly 10 minutes. Thank you very much, Mr Taylor.
Mr David Caplan (Oriole): Mr Chair, by my watch the length of the last presentation and the one preceding it were under 10 minutes.
Interjection: Under nine minutes.
Mr Caplan: Under nine minutes.
The Chair: No. By my watch the last presentation was exactly 10 minutes and six seconds.
Mr Caplan: Ten minutes and six seconds? I'd appreciate if you could let us know the exact starting time of each presentation.
The Chair: Thank you, sir.
Mr Caplan: I have a question of the --
The Chair: Mr Caplan, excuse me. That's not a point of order. You're wasting our time.
The Chair: Fiona Nelson, please.
Mr Wildman: Perhaps the clerk should invest in a stopwatch.
Ms Fiona Nelson: I have a stopwatch which I'm about to start.
The Chair: Good idea.
Ms Nelson: Mr Chair and members, although I'm grateful to have been given a chance to speak to you, I feel that these hearings have been overtaken by events today. We're now on the verge of a totally avoidable strike, one which will create a losing situation for all of us.
This bill, in spite of all the government protests to the contrary, has nothing whatsoever to do with the improvement of education. The phrase, "Lieutenant Governor in Council," a chilling phrase, means that no amendments to the details of the bill will expunge the essentially disrespectful and centralizing flavour of this bill. There is nothing that can save this bill from the stench of an effective coup d'état, even though we all know that you have the constitutional power to do this -- and more.
But an important question must be asked: Because a thing can be done, should it? This is an ethical question, not a political one, and what this bill proposes is fundamentally unethical. I propose that you (1) withdraw the bill. Don't amend it. You cannot eat a rotten fish, no matter what spices you use to mask the smell. (2) Reinvest all the savings, if there are any, which I doubt, in the investment in young children. There is a mass of excellent research to show the big payoff this would produce. (3) Reintroduce a bill that will genuinely improve education but not until the funding model has been made public. Doing all this without knowing where the money is coming from and how much is absurd. We're electing a whole covey of trustees who haven't got the slightest idea what the scope of their job is. Then we will know that improvement is what you have in mind.
I was a participant in a Metro task force called the First Duty. This was our report, which we published in May. It's called the First Duty because it quotes John Ruskin: "I hold it indisputable that the first duty of a state is to see that every child born therein shall be well housed, clothed, fed and educated till it attain years of discretion." I do not see that happening as a result of this bill; in fact I see the opposite.
Trustees, teachers and parents have long understood this and have designed many programs to get children ready to learn and benefit from their schooling. My board, the Toronto Board of Education, spends millions a year on these programs. We've even produced a book to explain them. The previous Minister of Education felt that they were not instructional programs and therefore would probably not be funded. We have full public support for these programs. This bill would put these programs in jeopardy. I am talking about programs, such as child care, parenting programs, parent-child drop-in centres, school food programs, that sort of thing.
Please kill this bill and, in a spirit of genuine concern for this province's children, start again. I'll be happy to deliver a print copy of my remarks with a couple of appendices tomorrow. I apologize for not having time to get a copy ready for you tonight. I commend your staff, who I must admit must have worked all weekend to get the hearings ready. I would be happy to answer questions in my remaining seven minutes.
The Chair: Thank you. We have approximately two minutes per caucus. We'll start off with the government caucus.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation. I appreciate the comments you've made. Certainly the issue in part for you centres around funding, and I would agree with you that there has to be a different approach to how education in this province is funded. I respect the comments you've made about the regulatory powers of the Minister of Finance in this regard, but certainly this bill contemplates a new approach to finance. I appreciate as well the comments you made about the funding formula. You as a trustee will know that we as a government have been working since approximately May to secure technical input into that funding model, to ensure that it adequately meets the expectations of all people who would be recipients of that.
I appreciate your comments. I feel strongly that the bill in part is addressing -- I'm obviously not going to convince you of some the issues that you felt very strongly about in your presentation, but the proposal to move to a different funding alignment with respect to education in this province I think is overdue and needed.
Ms Nelson: Presuming that was a question, I'll answer it.
Mr Smith: It was a statement actually.
Ms Nelson: I think the assessment changes that have been made have changed a long-time stable form of revenue, property tax, into a highly unstable one. I am extremely concerned about how the funding is going to come about. The fact that the government itself has taken the precaution of assuming there will be 600,000 appeals tells me that even the government agrees that it is highly unstable and unreliable, and I think that's a great pity. I certainly hope that when the funding model is published, it will take into account some of that. As well, I think it's extremely important for the funding model to take into account that in this vast province there are huge differences among communities, and one size, I can tell you as a fat woman, does not fit all.
Mr Caplan: It's interesting, particularly in light of the comments of the last committee member, that I recall that in second reading the parliamentary assistant claimed there was nothing in this bill about the financing of education. It was strictly about the title of the bill, which was quality improvement in education. I find that somewhat strange. I can get Hansard for you, if you'd like, sir.
Mr Smith: Please do.
Mr Caplan: The so-called Education Quality Improvement Act gives the government, as you have said, unilateral powers. Is it your view that not only is the direct result of these powers and the control by the Ministry of Education contrary to the title of the act, but that there's a deeper motive on the part of the provincial government in exercising those powers and granting itself those kind of powers to deal in the affairs of education?
Ms Nelson: I don't particularly want to speculate about motives. I've heard of a billion dollars being extracted to pay for the income tax rebate bruited about. I can't imagine that people would deliberately destroy a perfectly good system in order to fulfil a silly promise, so I can't believe that rumour is true.
I suspect that there is a very strong motive to control things and that they appear out of control simply because different boards in different parts of the province have responded in different ways to various problems. I don't see anything wrong with that. It used to be called democracy and I think it's a perfectly reasonable process.
Certainly at our board, we've had no provincial grants for 12 years at least, and so we've been on our own as far as paying for things out of local rates is concerned. Representing the same ward, as I have, through nine elections, I have had no complaints from constituents about the amount of tax that is required to run the system. I have had letters from parents saying, "Please tax me more and add this program." I have certainly heard from a great many people about the need for enhancement of the programs we have. In Toronto we presently feed 22,000 children a day. We know there are more children who need to be fed.
Mr Wildman: I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that this bill is about power and control. It's about vesting control over the education system in the hands of the Minister of Education and Training and the Minister of Finance and the cabinet.
You've talked about the power to make regulations. I'd like to deal specifically with the changes in the financing. We don't know what the funding formula is and we won't until after this is passed, it seems, which is certainly putting the cart before the horse. What studies has your board done in terms of what you think will be the ramifications of the changes in funding? As you've said, for the last 12 years the Toronto board has raised its own rates. Under this bill, the Minister of Finance will set the mill rate and will determine what grants are available. Obviously this means taking money out; it has been speculated up to a billion dollars. There's a number going around this place now of $600 million, not $6 billion. Most of that money is going to come out of Toronto and Ottawa. Has your board done studies as to what it may mean in terms of less money for educating students in your board?
Ms Nelson: We have done some studies. It's rather difficult, because our board, for over 100 years, has integrated a great many programs that the minister's KPMG study said were not related to the classroom and that we feel were. We did them often in conjunction with the board of health in Toronto and that sort of thing. It's difficult to disentangle the costs. But we feel that the estimate of about a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of programs in Metro are likely to bite the dust and these are largely programs that support young children and their families in getting ready for school. I think it's tragic if those things, which have been around for many, many years, will bite the dust. For the Metro board, it's difficult but the estimates are around a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of programs that are not considered instructional, in-class programs.
The Chair: Sorry, our time is up. Ms Nelson, thank you very much for assisting us this evening.
The Chair: Doretta Wilson is our next presenter. Good evening.
Mrs Doretta Wilson: Good evening, committee members. I am a parent of three school-aged children. I was born in 1954. This is truly unremarkable except for one thing: I feel fortunate to have been born that year. It meant that I got to graduate from elementary school in 1968, because in 1968 the Hall-Dennis report, Living and Learning, was released. I personally narrowly missed the mess this gross error of pedagogical thought made of education in Ontario. Until now, that is, now that my own children attend Ontario schools.
The child-centred, progressive thrust that followed has been attributed to the decline of Ontario students' academic achievement and spiralling costs of education to the taxpayer. This led to the formation of the education reform movement and is ultimately why Bill 160 needs to pass today.
It is ironic that when the Hall-Dennis report was released, the Ontario Teachers' Federation criticized the report for its vagueness. Study after study has shown that child-centred, progressive education, as opposed to direct instruction methods, is responsible for the massive erosion in literacy and numeracy in our students. Our Ontario education system, now the most expensive in Canada and one of the most expensive in the world, produces some of the poorest achievement outcomes.
Child-centred learning requires small class sizes. After all, you can not have 40 children working in groups, exploring, discussing, chattering. It's just too noisy and downright chaotic for the teacher to monitor everyone. Over time, with increasing numbers of students being identified now as learning-disabled, we needed more teachers. They needed more special education programs. Programs required more consultants and they needed more resource people. All these people had to be supervised. When this generation of poor learners hit high school, the same thing occurred and teachers asked for more and more preparation time to handle the work of trying to get through to their pupils. More and more money got spent, now in the billions of dollars, and things got worse, not better. You get the picture. If the OTF didn't like Hall-Dennis in l968, you can be sure they love it now.
I quote from the book Could Do Better:
"Over the decade to 1990 the school-age population in Ontario dropped, and the number of students increased by barely over 0.5% annually. Yet local government spending on education tripled, with school board employment showing average yearly increases of 2%, and remuneration growing close to 9% per year_supervisory officers and consultants increased by 22%," and non-teaching clerical and paraprofessional staff by 84%. "In the secondary system, the number of consultants grew by 80% and the number of teachers and principals working outside the classroom increased by 128%."
In the Toronto board, only 46% of staff work in the classroom.
The need for Bill 160 to pass is urgent. It is time this juggernaut and its administrative excess is stopped. Someone has to take command over the direction education in this province is going to go. No one giant special interest group mainly concerned with its own self-perpetuation should set their education agenda in this province. We must make increased student achievement our top priority.
In the past, all three parties have acknowledged that our students are not achieving as they should and that education reform is necessary. Nor is it the first time a government has tried to implement change. The Liberals tried it in 1981, the NDP got the ball rolling again in 1992, and now we have Bill 160.
Two amendments to this bill are crucial, however, to lead to academic success for our students. I urge you to consider this possibility before the passage of Bill 160.
First, principals and vice-principals should be removed from the teachers' collective bargaining unit and be a separate unit. Principals are the first level of middle managers in the school board hierarchy. They are solely responsible for implementation of education policy. They are the key to success in schools, but they are never accountable for school failure. Lumping them in with the teaching staff perpetuates this lack of accountability.
Second, remove the word "advisory" when describing school councils. The councils can have the ability to make schools accountable for their results. They can ensure that programs of study are effective through observing the results of student assessment. They can hold principals accountable for policy implementation. As it stands, "advisory" will mean poorly performing principals can continue to pay lip-service to parents and the community with no recourse.
It does not matter what party's government is in power. Education reform will not go away. Parent reformers like myself have gone before each of the last three governments to ask for improvements to the system. My children are not getting any younger. I might have been lucky to have missed the effects of Hall-Dennis but they have not been so fortunate.
The Chair: We have approximately one and a half minutes per caucus.
Mr Wildman: Thank you for your presentation. Can you indicate to me what in the bill specifically you believe will increase the quality of education for your children and will help to improve that, keeping in mind that throughout the bill the control and power over decision-making is concentrated in the bureaucracy at Queen's Park and in the hands of the minister and the cabinet rather than there being any real local control?
Mrs Wilson: Quite frankly, education reformers like myself consider issues like class size and preparation time irrelevant to quality education. It doesn't matter how much preparation time a teacher uses if they're teaching the same old same old. These are not important issues to us. These are important issues to the teachers' federation --
Mr Wildman: You say, "If they're teaching the same old same old," but if they are actually using their prep time to innovate --
Mrs Wilson: But they're not.
Mr Wildman: Teachers are not?
Mrs Wilson: Over 30 years we've known they haven't done that, so teachers' federations and their ilk seem to stymie every move at education reform. Every time a government comes out with a curriculum or some form of change, it is usually met by a negative response from teachers' federations.
Mr Wildman: I wasn't talking about teachers' federations; I was talking about individual teachers using prep time.
Mrs Wilson: And I'm telling you that is not an issue for education reform. That is probably a small point to us. It is a matter of control.
Mr Newman: Thank you very much and I appreciate your coming down before the committee today to speak from the heart on education. You spoke in your presentation about appearing before the last three governments with respect to education reform. I'm wondering if you might enlighten us all and compare and contrast what this government's doing to reform education versus what the previous governments have done.
Mrs Wilson: This has been the only government that has actually tried to implement the changes everybody's been talking about. It's been the only one to actually have the guts, if you want to put it that way, to do it.
Mr Kennedy: You identify yourself as being part of parent reformers. I presume there are groups and affiliations that you might have in that regard. There seems to be a hostility or at least some questioning of teachers in this whole process and I'm wondering --
Mrs Wilson: Not teachers.
Mr Kennedy: I want to give you an opportunity to clarify that, because I think it seems anybody not perhaps as versed as your group -- some of the teachers, some of the others -- that if there's going to be an education system that really puts children at the centre here, there's going to have to be some collaboration, some cooperation. Is it not at least a little disconcerting to you to see that teachers are in the kind of outlook they are? They were described earlier today as one of the most conservative groups in society and here they are, very upset, prepared to lose income, to leave their jobs, to do things because they want to see that those interests aren't put second. Do you not think that cooperation and collaboration of teachers is going to be necessary to get some reform or do you think it can be done without them?
Mrs Wilson: You've made two interesting comments. You talk about teachers, and I don't confuse teachers with the teachers' federations.
Mr Wildman: You didn't say that, though, when I asked you the question.
Mrs Wilson: Excuse me. My own sister is a teacher and I've heard comments from her and her co-workers who say: "They're not listening to us. We just want to do our jobs. We just want to go in and teach the kids." I think the other point you mention is very important: putting the children first. Everybody here has to remember to put the children first.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Wilson.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Gay Young. Welcome. Everyone should have received a copy of Ms Young's presentation.
Ms Gay Young: My name is Gay Young and I'd like to begin by asking the question, is a government acting in good faith when it introduces sweeping legislation and then pushes it through second reading and to public hearings in just a few short weeks?
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today when a thousand others won't be heard, but I must respectfully question this government's right to limit the number of people who will be heard and then to set aside the usual process and invite those the government wished to hear speak on its own bill first before inviting others who had signed up to speak. I am deeply troubled by this erosion of democracy and I am losing a lot of sleep over the changes this government's making so quickly.
Today I will speak from both my head and my heart. I speak from my head as someone who has read Bill 160 and from my heart as a mother who cares passionately about my own two children and our public education system. I've always been an active volunteer in my school and I'm on the executive of our parent-staff association. My own community school is full of wonderful, hardworking, dedicated teachers, like my daughter's teacher, Mrs Flemington. Teachers do care about children, and it's a good thing too, because our kids spend as much of their day at school as they do at home. My daughter's in a grade 2 class of 30 children. Her teacher does teach child-centred learning in small groups very successfully and it's been very difficult for her to do that this year with 30 children compared to the 26 she had last year. I support our teachers in any of their efforts to change this legislation.
There's a huge difference between speaking and being heard. I know that because I spoke at the Bill 104 hearings too. So I've come here today to outline specific areas of the bill which I respectfully ask you to amend. I also pose several questions to the government members of this committee and I'll keep my points as brief as I can. I hope to allow time for answers.
The bill in its present form absolutely terrifies me. If it passes, this will likely be the last time I will have the opportunity to express my concerns across the table to anyone who will have the power to make changes or decisions in education, because all the power is going to be here at Queen's Park. The scale will be tipped. Power will be taken from our trustees, our boards of education and our teachers and bestowed upon the province and its appointed Education Improvement Commission whose orders, according to the bill, could not be reviewed or questioned in court. I am opposed to the loss of this local level of democracy and I reject unquestioned authoritarian power.
Equally frightening is what has been left out of this bill, mainly the details of how it will actually work to improve education for my kids and the other kids in Ontario. In its present form, this legislation allows for all those details to be figured out later behind closed doors without ever having to be debated in the Legislature or through public hearings. Using orders in council, you, the cabinet, will be able to govern through regulation.
(1) My first suggestion. You're asking for concrete things; here it is. All the sections of the bill that begin, "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations," need to be struck out and amended to include specific details of what you will be putting in those regulations.
(2) What is the new, fair and equitable method of funding education? The funding details are missing from this bill. It must be amended to include a full funding model so parents will know which programs will still be funded and which ones will not. For example, will my neighbour, and indeed all four-year-olds in this province, be able to attend junior kindergarten next September? I don't know that. It's not in the bill. Ernie Eves says he doesn't think the net result will be $1 billion out of the education system, so I'm asking you today, specifically, how much is the government aiming to cut?
(3) Which subjects is this government going to allow non-teachers to teach? The present Education Act is very specific in this regard, and I'll read part I, subsection 8.1(10):
"The minister may grant a letter of permission to the board authorizing the board to employ as a teacher a person not qualified as such if the minister is satisfied that no teacher is available, but a letter of permission shall be effective only for the period, not exceeding one year, that the minister may specify therein."
In contrast, in Bill 160, subsection 170.1(3)(e), it reads:
"The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations designating positions that are not teaching positions and duties that are not teachers' duties and prescribing the minimum qualifications for the designated position or for performing designated duties."
It's wide open. Any position could be designated non-teaching.
If Dave Johnson really isn't planning to use this power, as he recently assured the Ontario College of Teachers, then this section should be struck from the bill. If this section is not to be deleted, then it must be amended to include a list of what subjects can be taught by unqualified teachers as well as detailing what qualifications these individuals will require. I think it's fair for parents to know what qualifications you're going to allow non-teachers to have.
(4) Class size. If your intention is to cap class size, the bill must be amended, as there is no minimum class size protected in the bill. The bill simply says in subsection 170.1(1), "Every board shall comply with such requirements as may be prescribed under subsection (3) concerning the size of classes in its schools." Subsection (3)(a) states, "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations governing the size of classes in schools of boards and governing the method of determining the size of classes."
After deleting "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations," I'd like to see the act amended to set a clear maximum class size. The method of determining any average class size should also be clearly set out in the bill to avoid misrepresentation. It should not include special or unusual classes, such as special education classes of fewer than 10 students. I think that's how you came up with the average class size of 25 right now for grades 1 through 8. Any parent in Ontario can tell you that their child is not in a class that small. What would the maximum class size be for grades 1 to 8? I hope it would be between 20 and 25 students, and that, I hope, would be the actual class size, not the average.
I have enclosed my address and I would like to receive a copy of the amendments that you make to this bill. I hope you will answer my questions now, but should any of my questions remain unanswered today, I hope you will send me the answers by mail.
The Chair: We have approximately 40 seconds per caucus and we will start with the government.
Mr Froese: If you had those things clarified, like class size and what the role of, for lack of a better word, uncertified teachers would be, would you support the bill?
Ms Young: If you took out all the sections that begin, "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations," and if I knew what the funding model was and I knew whether education would be funded properly or whether your intention is simply to cut --
Mr Froese: If you had all of that, would you support the bill?
Ms Young: If it was clear that, yes, you were going to fund a good education system such as the one we have now, I could support it, if you gave me the information so I could know that you were honestly setting out to improve education in Ontario.
Mr Caplan: Thank you for your presentation, Ms Young. I doubt very much that you'll get those answers to your questions from the government. It says here that you're an executive on your school advisory council. Many have thought that part of this bill is an agenda to effectively co-opt parents into running the school system for the Minister of Education in association with his edicts. Are you interested in doing something like that, being an active parent yourself? Do you want day-to-day hands-on running of your school?
Ms Young: Definitely not.
The Chair: Your time is up, Mr Caplan. We must move on.
Mr Wildman: I'll be very brief so that you'll have a chance to answer. Basically, you're saying to take out the regulatory power and put in the specifics on class size and funding, and then we'll have a better opportunity to judge this bill. That's the main point you're making.
Ms Young: Yes, that's the main point I'm making. We cannot say whether we would support a bill that doesn't have any information in it to give us what we need to know about whether schools will be funded properly, for instance.
Mr Wildman: I'm sure we'll get the funding formula before the end of these hearings.
Ms Young: That would be wonderful.
Mr Wildman: It'll be $600 million less.
The Chair: Ms Young, thank you very much for attending.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be Angela Kennedy. Please proceed.
Mrs Angela Kennedy: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to speak to you this evening. I am a parent of seven boys, four of whom at present attend Catholic schools. I respect and admire teachers. My mother was the first woman principal in York region and two of my sisters are teachers. I graduated from Notre Dame High School and St. Joseph's School of Nursing. I have a strong union background, as I was a founding member of Local 115 ONA and local president for over 10 years. At present I sit on two school councils and have been affiliated with the provincial Catholic parent organization for over 10 years.
Since I am an independent thinker, a futurist and a strong proponent of change, I do support Bill 160 for the most part. I remain somewhat worried about the future of Catholic education and the ability of Catholics to maintain control over the governance of their school system.
I understand why the Education Improvement Commission has recommended that the ministry be the all-powerful body to oversee education. It is because the school boards have done a less-than-adequate job on behalf of ratepayers, parents and students. There has been no accountability. There has been only limited access and minimal communication with parents.
I believe that this government has already, through progressive thinking and through Bill 104, done some very good things for our children. Standardized testing, standardized report cards, school councils, board advisory committees, these are key cost-saving measures and key to improved quality education.
I am in agreement with qualified professionals in fields other than teaching being part of a team who would teach my children. My own children from as early an age as JK have recognized that the music, art, physical education and computer technology curricula have been taught by teachers who have little or no expertise in these areas. This leaves the children with feelings of frustration, boredom and embarrassment.
Do we really need to have professional teachers doing yard duty and lunchtime supervision? Can the safety of the children not be addressed in any other way? I like the idea of teams. Teachers could take on the role of leader, coordinator, facilitator. Teams could be made up of a yard duty person, a secretary, an artist, a musician, a physical education instructor and perhaps three or four teachers. The teachers would deliver the curriculum perhaps to all the grades but maybe in only one subject, and the computer technologist would teach this course to all the grades.
I have on many occasions been frustrated by the absence of accountability to parents. If a teacher is not doing their job or is doing a poor job, there is no avenue whereby parents can receive satisfaction. I believe that the person who has the right to hire and fire should be the person who is directly accessible and accountable to the parents.
If class size was capped, then the school boards would have no choice but to design policies to address maximum enrolment numbers, thus equalizing student numbers, thus addressing school closures and overcrowding. We would have remapping of the boundaries, and then perhaps we would have classes of fewer than 35 students. Perhaps at some point after this happens parents might get an explanation of the resources allotted or not allotted to each classroom.
I would encourage the ministry to hold fast on taking control of class size. The unions have been able to influence class size through negotiating other benefits, and the boards have invented a formula for teacher allocation per student that allows for cloaking of services with no accountability. I had firsthand experience recently of the MSSB negotiations with the union to negotiate for the teachers their social contract, to regain their place on the grid, their loss of the social contract days, and now they have regained them on the backs of our children. PTR has been increased.
I believe that the legislation must be strong enough to support the boards in their negotiations, that class size, prep time, learning time and extracurricular commitment time must be detailed and clear so that the promise of equity and fair funding can become a reality. You cannot, for the sake of good-quality education, leave flexibility in these areas to the boards and to the unions.
I share with others in the Catholic community a concern about section 243, fair funding. However, I feel that the government does recognize the uniqueness of our Catholic schools and will continue to allow for the preservation of that unique education in a fair and equitable system.
It is appreciated by anyone who works in a professional capacity that prep time is very important. I believe that teachers should have paid prep time but that it should not impact on the learning time. I believe that involvement with the children in what are currently termed extracurricular activities should be deemed to be intracurricular activities and should be mandatory and shared equally among all teachers in a school for ultimate quality education.
As the primary educator of my children, I feel that I deserve to be consulted more often, I deserve to be communicated with more often. I would like the legislation to address regulations around communication technology to improve access to teachers. Teachers need to be in the classroom, yes, but they also need to spend considerably more time with parents. Parents should be sharing more often in the decisions that directly affect their children's education. It is very unsatisfactory to spend two weeks playing telephone tag with a teacher. That is no way to run a business, especially when the product is a human being. All teachers should have voice mail and there should be many more telephones within schools for the use of the teachers and students, and teachers should have access to fax machines.
I applaud the move towards local school governance, but I am not sure that parents are quite ready for this responsibility. There is a great deal of work involved in sitting on a school council. Parents already have two jobs, raising their children and raising enough money to live on. To weaken the power of a board of trustees by offering them meagre token honoraria seems to me to be incongruent with the government's aspirations on behalf of our children for better-quality education. Governance at the local level will be fragmented, inadequate, shoddy and without strength and support from a strong trustee governing structure. However, this structure and these people should be there for parents, children and ratepayers, not for the unions and not for the ministry or for the other partners in education. It is the local school councils that need them.
As a parent, I feel that we owe it to our children to give them the best education possible. It is my hope that the teachers, rather than seeing these proposed changes as a threat, will welcome the opportunity to influence the reforms in a positive way. These proposed funding cuts will only impact on the classroom if we parents and educators allow them to. If we try to do things in the same way with less money, we will be defeating the purpose. We must think differently, act and react in a new way.
I would just like to remind the government in closing that in order to keep the best interests of the children always in mind, you should remember that children like consistency, familiarity, continuity, caring, kindness, minimal disruption, security and comfort. What is important to children is what matters to parents.
The Chair: I calculate we only have about 30 seconds each.
Mr Kennedy: You seem to be saying in your remarks that you're happy with parts of the bill and you're not as happy with getting rid of school trustees and local consultation. Is that correct?
Mrs Kennedy: That I'm not happy with getting rid of --
Mr Kennedy: Getting rid of the powers of local trustees and not being able to have effective school boards?
Mrs Kennedy: Right. I think we need --
Mr Kennedy: I'm just wondering. The general tendency of the bill is to give the power to Queen's Park bureaucrats and to the minister and to not even let elected officials, let alone local elected officials, have any access to the shape of the system. How do you see that as fulfilling your goal of having parents, you in particular, having more to say about your children's education?
Mrs Kennedy: I don't think that money is power or that power is --
Mr Kennedy: But it's the powers part we're talking about in the bill, which puts all of what used to be in the hands of your local school board into the hands of the minister and outside the reach of the Legislature.
Mrs Kennedy: I'm not sure that's right, because I think the money is in the hands of the ministry and that local decisions will be made by trustees.
Mr Kennedy: Sadly not.
Mrs Kennedy: I have confidence that they will.
Mr Kennedy: I wish that many in this province could have that level of confidence.
Mr Wildman: I'll try to be quick. I found your presentation, I must say, a little confusing. I'll explain why. You say that you want teachers to spend more time with parents, but you seem to be saying you support the cuts in prep time. You say that you want to have more decision-making locally, but the bill gives control over not just the funding but curriculum, class size, the organization of schools, the organization of the school year, the school day, to the bureaucrats and to the minister by regulation. They're not made locally. I'm a little confused. I'd like you to clarify.
Mrs Kennedy: There will be some decisions made locally.
Mr Wildman: Yes, who runs the cafeteria -- which is important.
Mrs Kennedy: But I think there will be some pretty important decisions that the trustees will be making. There will be caps.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation. If you would briefly elaborate on your experience with class size and the negotiation process, please, because earlier today we heard from OECTA and clearly they indicated to this committee that that wasn't the primary motive or practice of their association.
Mrs Kennedy: Recently there were negotiations between MSSB and OECTA where the PTR was increased from 16 to 17, and that's impacting on class sizes. Our class sizes went up by one.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Kennedy, for your presentation.
Mr Wildman: Just as a matter of clarification, Chair: I'm sure we wouldn't want to leave the impression on the record that increasing PTR by one is increasing class size by one. In fact it would be increasing class size by substantially more than one.
The Chair: Thank you for that clarification.
Mr Caplan: Mr Chair, I want to clarify as well --
The Chair: Excuse me. If you wish to speak to me, it's got to be a point of order. A point of clarification is not acceptable.
Mr Caplan: You accepted the last one.
The Chair: By whom?
Mr Caplan: By Mr Wildman.
The Chair: Yes, because he spoke too quickly and I couldn't get it in. I'm sorry, Mr Caplan, but I think we've decided a little way by that a point of clarification is not a proper order to raise.
STUDENT TRUSTEES FOR THE ETOBICOKE BOARD OF EDUCATION
The Chair: Mr Scott McDonald is next. Could you identify those others at the table with you, Mr McDonald, and proceed.
Mr Scott McDonald: Can I allow them to introduce themselves?
The Chair: Certainly.
Mr Aaron Richards: My name is Aaron Richards and I represent Thistletown Collegiate Institute.
Ms Leslie Gross: I'm Leslie Gross and I'm the student council president of Etobicoke Collegiate Institute.
Ms Kelly Maguire: My name is Kelly Maguire and I am the secretary of the ECI student council.
Mr McDonald: First of all, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to voice the concerns of Etobicoke students. My name is Scott McDonald and I am a student trustee for the Etobicoke Board of Education and chair of the Etobicoke student council, a position shared with Monica Butta, the other student trustee.
I would like to present the results of a student-prepared referendum open to all Etobicoke secondary students regarding Bill 160, and I'd like to read from the Toronto Star. This is in A16, Saturday, October 18. The title is "Etobicoke Students Vote Against Education Bill." It quotes me as saying, "Our objective is to bring Etobicoke students closer to the issues that affect them," and it goes on, "But he added that there has been far too little public consultation on such a weighty matter." He quoted me quite accurately.
The referendum was preceded by information assemblies run by students in some of the schools, and three announcements in each of the secondary schools. We tried to keep the announcements as factual and as impartial as possible, but I must admit that we found it very hard to support the positive points of this bill. Reading now the results are the three students I have brought representing the secondary schools across Etobicoke.
Mr Richards: From Central Etobicoke High School, 87.2% of the voting body voted against Bill 160. From Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, 92.2% of the voting body voted against Bill 160. From the Etobicoke School of the Arts, 94.4% of the voting body voted against the passing of Bill 160 and from Kipling Collegiate Institute, 89.2% of the voting body voted against the passing of Bill 160.
Ms Gross: From Lakeshore Collegiate, 92.8% voted to withdraw Bill 160; from North Albion Collegiate Institute, 92.6%; from Richview Collegiate Institute, 91.1%; and from Scarlett Heights Collegiate Institute 87.8%.
Ms Maguire: Silverthorn Collegiate voted 88.1% to withdraw Bill 160. Thistletown Collegiate Institute voted 91.4% against Bill 160. West Humber Collegiate Institute voted 92.7% against Bill 160.
Mr McDonald: The total for all of Etobicoke: 8,020 voted, 732 students voted against it. That's 91.3%.
I'd like to read from Bill 160, section 257.45. This has already been addressed, but I don't think it can be overaddressed. It's called "Powers to enforce orders":
"Where a board fails to comply with any order, direction or decision of the minister under this division, the minister may, on the notice, if any, that he or she considers appropriate, do or order done all things necessary for compliance with the order, direction or decision, and may exercise all the powers of the board for the purpose, under its name."
Other students who have also read this are very concerned that there is way too much central power and far too little local democracy. This issue of local democracy is very critical. As a student trustee I know how much information trustees have to cover in each of their board meetings, and often these meetings run very late into the night. This is just Etobicoke. No doubt at mega-board meetings the amount of information dealt with will multiply radically. This fact, coupled with the increase of trustees' area represented and the capping of trustees' salaries at $5,000, will violently diminish any and almost all power and capabilities of a trustee.
Why would the minister want to rob the decision-making power from the trustee? No doubt to make space for the ministry's new policies and proposed education changes. This is terribly frightening. If the government wants to impose their structures and policies throughout the Ontario education system, we will come near to a form of standardized education in Ontario. None would disagree that a program running in northern Ontario would be radically and ridiculously out of place in inner-city Toronto schools.
The point I'm always hearing from students is that we the students have firsthand experience of education. We sit in the classrooms, walk the halls of our schools and spend our days in these schools. If we as students have this sort of insight, why has there been no consulting with us? The crux of this argument is that there is far too little public consultation, especially with students.
Some students also believe that Bill 160 is not about education quality improvement, as it is titled, but rather about money and power. Why can't the government just say this? As a student I feel like I'm being lied to. I'm going to leave you with a few thoughts. Time has shown that change does not always equal progress and, furthermore, if it ain't broke don't fix it. I think if you ask any students anywhere in Ontario they will agree, and my referendum results validate this statement.
The message is "Get your hands off our education and don't you dare balance your budgets on our backs." Some students have also put it this way. The government has a copy of Bill 160 under one shoulder, a copy of their personal agendas under the other and a copy of Orwell's 1984 in their back pocket, and they don't know which document is which. Thank you for your time. Are there any questions regarding the concerns raised?
The Chair: We have one minute per caucus and we'll start off with Mr Wildman.
Mr Wildman: You said, if it ain't broke don't fix it, and I think, as I said to one other student group today, that your presentation is an indication that the system isn't broken, but the previous minister spent two years trying to convince the public that the system was broken. Why are you so concerned as students about the concentration of decision-making at Queen's Park as opposed to local boards? I realize that you're a student trustee and represent your fellow students on the board, so why do you think students -- your referendum obviously shows they've got some serious concerns.
Mr McDonald: I think the point, and I did address it in my presentation, is that standardizing of education will not work in Ontario because programs are different throughout Ontario. We have programs running in Etobicoke that I know wouldn't work in Scarborough and vice versa. Furthermore, programs running in individual schools are very different. All this diversity means that if we standardize the education, we'll be losing so much and gaining so little, and I just don't think that's a positive step. I don't think, and this is the point, that's a quality improvement of education; maybe a tax cut, but why isn't it called that then?
Mr Rollins: I've got a couple of things I'd like to ask and you probably aren't going to have a chance to answer them all, but one of the things that the regulation states is that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations. It doesn't say he has to make regulations. He may make regulations. I ask you who should make those regulations and I don't expect an answer right at this second.
I also wonder, when your voting was going on, what member of the Progressive Conservative Party and supporters of Bill 160 spoke at your assembly previous to your voting or whether it was just the teachers that spoke in favour of Bill 160 and those definitions.
I also want to know what role in the responsibility to improve the Education Act you would have to make a life better for you that I'm sure all your experience with grey hair and experience in life would lead you better off down the road?
The Chair: Mr Rollins, your time is up. We will move on to -- do you have a point of order?
Mr Caplan: In point of fact those comments were out and out rude to the presenters.
The Chair: That is not a proper point of order.
Mr Wildman: He's just saying father knows best.
The Chair: Who is representing the Liberals? Mr Caplan has the floor.
Mr Caplan: I'd like to thank Trustee McDonald and the other students for coming and making an excellent presentation. I would like to ask you about your referendum results. I wonder if you'd tell us a little bit -- almost two thirds of students came out and of those over 90%, 91%, a very significant and overwhelming number of students, have said this bill is wrong for them. You've outlined a number of reasons. Tell me a little bit about who was speaking to the students and what the students were saying. I'd like you to answer the previous speaker's questions about representation at your meetings.
Mr McDonald: This referendum was conducted purely by students and for students. There was no involvement of teachers in the structure of this referendum. That was carried out quite well, and for obvious reasons.
Mr Caplan: Right on.
Mr McDonald: It was a student goal, and that's what we met. Furthermore, the assemblies and such that were held were a collection of students sharing ideas and students sharing their own opinions. We did ask for the government to send whatever information they could from their own perspective. I know the students' league asked this government if they could come to one of their meetings. Both times there was no response.
The Chair: I thank you very much for your excellent presentation.
The Chair: Our next presenter will be Jann Flury.
Mr Jann Flury: Mr Chairman, committee members, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jann Flury. I am a retired management consultant to the offshore oil industry. I have conducted business in various parts of the world. I am familiar with standards of education in many countries. I am speaking as a concerned taxpayer and grandparent here tonight.
The bitter rhetoric and resentment over Bill 160 poses a question: Are there conflicts of interest in the bill that can't be resolved? To avoid confusion and cut through the haze of partisan bias, let's establish some facts and basic priorities.
(1) We must all recognize and respect the importance of teachers and elementary education, because what we teach our children today will become the philosophy of our nation tomorrow.
(2) Aside from the mother and family, the teacher is the most influential person in a child's early life.
(3) The top priority in considering Bill 160 should be the improvement of our children's elementary education, primary and secondary, grades 1 to 12, nothing else.
(4) The object of elementary education is to give students an academic foundation that lets them progress to higher learning or to a rewarding position in the workplace.
(5) The most fundamental objective of elementary education is to teach our kids the three Rs in the first four to five years: to learn the English language, to read, write and spell, and to do basic arithmetic, including memorizing the multiplication tables. I'm sure everyone agrees with that, because without this foundation, the student can't effectively progress to other academic studies.
There are two basic issues raised by Bill 160, as I see it. The first is how to improve our kids' education, and the second is centred around power, whether teacher unions and educators or the ministry should call the shots. Unfortunately, the issue of improving kids' education has been buried under a rubble of rhetoric and propaganda, and the power struggle is the only significant issue left and recognized by educators.
In order to make rational sense of Bill 160, one only has to look at the picture of elementary education in Ontario today. One has to ask the question, is something really wrong with our education system in Ontario? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding yes. Large numbers of students today have to take remedial classes and many allegedly have learning disabilities. By international standards, our students' performance is mediocre at best. Our universities complain about the lack of literacy and math skills that high school graduates demonstrate when they arrive at their doorstep. So there is something wrong with our system that needs fixing.
Who is at fault? Unfortunately, in the cold light of day, one would have to point the finger at the classroom. That puts the onus clearly on the teacher. This of course is not entirely correct and totally unfair. After all, the teacher is only the messenger. No one can deny that our education system has been, by and large, left in the hands of educators and regional school boards over the last 20 or more years. It has been an unprofitable venture, and the management has been less than professional, sort of like letting irresponsible juveniles house-sit for you. Educators have let us down badly. They dropped the ball.
The problem becomes evident if we look at the varied curriculums and subjects taught across Ontario. There is a lack of emphasis on academic learning, and no consistent criteria for measuring achievement exist. Our schools have become swamped with fuzzy curriculums that somehow, through politically correct thinking, are supposed to prepare our kids for life in the next millennium and the global village, whatever that is. Teachers and students spend much time, effort and taxpayers' money on these many counterproductive courses. All this is done at the expense of the traditional academic subjects needed for the workplace or for higher learning.
These modern and vague pseudo-philosophical curriculums are foisted on our educators by a selfish education industry that produces studies, reports and statistics as marketing tools to peddle an unending line of new educational products, including curriculums, books, videos, films and other visual resources. Their motive is profit, pure and simple, not quality education. They are like a parasite plugged into the taxpayer-money cow, and our educators have become the unwitting host.
However, in the final analysis, teacher unions, school boards and, to a lesser degree, our teachers must be held accountable for the cost of education and the lack of student achievement. Most troubling is the fact that none of these groups admit that there is anything wrong with our present education system, much less accept any kind of responsibility.
How do we fix our education problems? Is Bill 160 the magic bullet? From the track record, it is evident that in some cases boards and administrators have been careless with the stewardship of our children's education and played fast and loose with taxpayers' money. They have been misled by the education industry into making bad decisions and purchasing useless curriculums and resources. In view of all this, no logical argument can be raised against the need to overhaul our system and make changes in leadership roles.
This finding is further reinforced by the fact that neither teachers, administrators nor elected school boards are willing to accept responsibility for the failure of our education system. In fact, none openly admit there is a problem, and they insist that in any case, if there is a crisis, it has been instigated by the ministry and not them.
The contentious parts of Bill 160 seem to centre around working conditions, number of jobs and job security for teachers. None of the hotly debated issues have any direct bearing on student learning, and many of the arguments raised against the bill by the unions are transparent, showing little interest in improving education standards. The unions want more money spent on education and claim that less is bad. I think it's a rather irresponsible reaction under the circumstances.
Here are some conclusions and recommendations:
Morally and rationally, in view of past performance, our education establishment cannot object to the ministry taking a more active leadership role in elementary education through the implementation of Bill 160. In the past, not enough attention has been paid to results. Our system is failing not because of insufficient funds or bad teachers but because of vague curriculums and overspending on expensive, non-academic resources. The solution isn't more money, but a focused academic curriculum.
We must standardize curriculums and testing across the province and hold schools and district boards accountable. We must -- and I'm talking about the taxpayers -- adopt a policy of one bona fide textbook per subject per school year. This will cut preparation time, simplify teaching, raise standards and cut classroom costs dramatically.
Outcome-based education methods, child-centred learning, the whole-language approach to reading and all the non-academic frill curriculums must be scrapped in favour of a better grounding in the academic subjects.
A good education is the inherent right of every child in Canada. Our country has been judged the best in the world by the United Nations. Our goal should be to ensure that our children receive the best education in the world by the year 2000.
Finally, we must not lose sight of the fact that the beneficiaries of our education system are supposed to be the kids, not the education industry.
Teachers, please join parents and the ministry in support of Bill 160 and deliver quality education to win back your professional reputation. Thank you very much.
The Chair: My calculation only has 30 seconds per caucus, so you have time for a statement, really, not a question.
Mr Wildman: I noted that you pointed out that the United Nations has judged Canada to be the best country in the world. The components of that are education, health care and standard of living. That's how they make those judgements. They consider our education system to be one of the best in the world.
Mr Smith: Certainly you've raised a number of issues with respect to quality initiatives, particularly around curriculum, and I would say that the government is moving in the direction to deal with that. In your opinion, does Bill 160 compromise the quality of education in this province?
Mr Flury: Not at all. I support Bill 160. We're in a situation where we're sort of at the last gas station before the desert and we're running on empty. So it's pretty logical --
The Chair: Thank you. We have to proceed.
Mr Flury: Okay.
The Chair: It's very difficult.
Mr Kennedy: We note with interest your comments about the education industrial complex being responsible for all the ills, but we wonder if it's that simple. The attitude towards teachers seems to want to put them out of the picture, and yet you talk about outcome-based education as being a bad thing. That was what this government put in place with its curriculum. The minister has always had the power to control the curriculum and it's been there. I guess we have to say that in your presentation it's hard to say where you can see that taking money out of the system --
Mr Flury: Your statement is incorrect. Pardon me for interrupting.
Mr Kennedy: Excuse me, sir.
Mr Flury: This government has not put outcome-based education in place, so get your stuff square.
Mr Kennedy: Grades 1 to 8 curriculum, sir. It's hard to see how taking money out of the system is actually going to improve quality.
The Chair: Sorry, Mr Kennedy. Our time is up in any event.
Mr Flury: You're totally out of line.
The Chair: Mr Flury, thank you very much for your presentation here this evening.
SCARBOROUGH PRINCIPALS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: We are now proceeding to the next presentation, the Scarborough Principals' Association. Welcome. Could you identify yourself and proceed. We have allotted 10 minutes.
Mrs Vera Taylor: Good evening. I'm Vera Taylor and I'm principal of Sir John A. Macdonald in Scarborough, and this is my elementary colleague, Jack Madden. We are here on behalf of the 167 schools in Scarborough and the 83,000 students we represent. We are a little sorry that the democratic process here only provides us 10 minutes to comment on the wellbeing of these students, but we will attempt in a succinct way to give you our personal observations as principals of what will be the impact of Bill 160. I'm going to call on my colleague Jack to present the elementary picture first.
Mr Jack Madden: Stop me when I get to my five minutes.
First, it's hard to resist the temptation to debate the previous presenter, so I'll try to succinctly --
Mr Madden: Yes. Obviously one of the concerns from the elementary panel is junior kindergarten and kindergarten, junior kindergarten because it's not being funded and therefore will probably disappear, and kindergarten because the government obviously doesn't think it's very important. They didn't supply us with any curriculum or report card, and have indicated that unqualified people could be teaching in there.
On a day-to-day basis we see with our own eyes, and we have a huge body of research to indicate to us, just how very important these grades and the primary division are in terms of a child's entire education. The first decade of a child's life provides learning opportunities that will be lost forever if we don't seize them.
I've never had the courage to teach kindergarten, I'm sorry to say, but I did teach in the primary division and it was the hardest job I ever did. A primary teacher -- and a kindergarten teacher is a primary teacher -- has to program, track, assess and teach all of these highly energetic, curious, filled-with-enthusiasm youngsters. It takes skill, expertise and training. I think we need to be putting our best teachers with our youngest students, not unqualified people during these critical years.
We have research to establish that although success in the primary division doesn't guarantee success in secondary school and post-secondary school, failure in that area almost guarantees failure later on. There's a huge correlation between dropout rate, delinquency and poor academic performance. So these are hugely important areas.
Scarborough has a very diverse population, and so these programs, along with early identification and interventions as well as special education and our ESL programs, these sorts of things that would be victims of budget cuts, help to give us at least some semblance of a level playing field when kids start their educational career. I think these would be lost, and they are critically important and are not frills.
The other thing I'd like to address is the proposed capital funding model, which seems to be very simplistic and based across the board on a snapshot at a given moment in time. A school has a life cycle that reflects the demographics of the community it serves. It may start off being nicely full, then be overcrowded, then underattended, and then over again as the community changes. It would be very sad to apply this formula and have some schools that are overattended telling students that they need to go someplace else, not the community school, or a school like mine, which is currently grossly underattended by the formula, being given away, assumed by the province or whatever. I think my community would have a very difficult time with that. I fail to see how that would improve education.
When I divide 80 square feet into my school, which is a senior school for early adolescents, we end up having a suggested population of 850. We currently have about 340. That's because my school has a gymnasium with change rooms, two shops, two family studies rooms, a cafeteria, a lab and an arts studio. That's not taken into consideration, and I know this isn't atypical. So I think the funding formula, the specifics that we do have about that little piece of it, is arbitrary and unfair, and until we see the whole funding formula and have the facts, it seems unfair to carry on with the bill.
Lastly, and stop me if I'm going too long here, we have a great deal of problem with the absolute unchecked power that the government wants without really giving us any indication of how they are going to accomplish this stuff. I think elementary teachers, principals, students, parents and the community are the stakeholders here. They are the ones who should be rolling up their sleeves and working in partnership with the government to do the things that we all want: improved standards, accountability, and the biggest bang we can get for our educational buck. We want that. We'd like to see legislation that would put a framework in place for that partnership to work and not just to isolate the power centrally.
Mrs Taylor: I'd like to pick up by discussing some of the main issues that impact on the secondary school: to begin with, the concept of prep time.
"Prep time" is a misnomer for learning support time. It originated in the 1970s when we began to change from rote learning into more activity-oriented learning. We needed this time not only to prepare the lessons and the activities, but as stresses increased on our students, we needed this time to support them personally and emotionally and through the tutoring that is required to close the gaps in the widely diverse population we serve.
Scarborough is an interesting location because it is the global village. There are students there from 90 countries of origin, more than 60 first languages, and more than 35 religious affiliations. So we need to be able to respond to the specialized students in the global village. It is not fair to only have the time to prepare a very sanitized, standard lesson when you know that the children you serve represent a broad variety.
I could schedule a 25% or 50% reduction in prep time, and I have calculated in the package for you what that would look like in my school. A 12.5% reduction would cut off 12 of my 96 teachers. Moving on, you can do the math for yourself. At the level that's being suggested, the number of students in my school wouldn't change, but the teachers would be cut. How will that affect class size? Simple mathematics will show you.
The other thing that is not being at all quantified in Bill 160 is the whole issue of the cocurricular program in school: the sports programs, the clubs, the enrichment activities, all of these various factors. We have done research in my school and we know that the average teacher at my school spends 286 hours in the cocurricular program. This is where students learn race relations, leadership development, responsibility for large projects and tasks. These are the skills for the new millennium. They are not learned sitting in rows in a classroom, writing on a blackboard. They are not learned in the traditional ways that are implicit in Bill 160.
I cultivate in my school a "willingness quotient" among all my teachers. I look upon that as the major job of a secondary school principal. If you read your package, you will see that there are 58 programs provided in the Mac menu. These programs are the ones that produce the social connectedness between the secondary teacher and their students.
I have also included for you in the package the research that's been provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association on the largest and most extensive longitudinal study on the wellbeing of adolescents. This study clearly indicates that where there is social connectedness between the student and the teacher, this is the greatest protection factor in high-risk behaviours that cost society a great deal of money.
This whole issue of why the teachers are rising up in response to Bill 160 has to do with, what is the societal value of the educator in the year 2000? I can change back to the pedagogy of 60-minute periods and I can structure one more class for each of my teachers. They would then have, instead of 180 students, 225 to serve in a more standardized, impersonal way. I could do that, but that would mean devastation in Scarborough. It would lead to a two-tier system for the haves and the have-nots, and the programs that we have come to revere that save, that assimilate immigrants, that teach the very best in citizenship in Ontario would be lost.
I want to speak to decertification. Decertification of the seven subject areas that are referred to in The Road Ahead would take 34 of my 96 staff members away.
I want to speak about finance, because we are already at the financial brink in secondary schools. I have 37% less to run my classrooms on, my computer collection is half obsolete, textbook prices have doubled in the last five years and we cannot continue any more cuts.
Also, as leaders -- all my principal colleagues share this -- we have worked our whole career looking at educational research. Research shows that class size, lengthening the school year and lengthening the school day, which are the factors in Bill 160, have no correlation with improvement.
What does have a correlation over decades of educational research is investment in early childhood education, which Jack has already referred to; tutoring and individualized help; the cocurricular bonding that happens in the cocurricular program; and the home support and parental involvement. All of these are attacked by Bill 160. I do not have faith in this bill on a research basis, because what matters is attacked and what doesn't matter is structured.
I believe all the members of Parliament understand that this bill has been put in place, or one very similar, in Alberta. You know now, three years later, what is the result: larger class sizes, integrated disabled students without teachers' aides, inadequate busing, with children walking along country roads to pickup spots instead of being picked up at their homes, and the cocurricular program in Alberta has collapsed. You can find that out for yourself. That is why the teachers are taking to the streets.
The Chair: I'm sorry. I let you go over a minute -- I signalled you and unfortunately you've gone over a minute. I must cut you off right there.
Mrs Taylor: May I just wind up? The problem is not --
The Chair: That was the signal. You've already gone over a minute. I thank you very much for your presentation.
The next presentation is Mr Ken Lauder.
Mrs Taylor: May I leave one document with the committee?
The Chair: You certainly can. Just give it to the clerk.
Mrs Taylor: We invited the members to attend our Scarborough forum. Some 850 parents have sent their message on this videotape.
Mr Newman: I'm from Scarborough and I can tell you I never received an invitation.
Mrs Taylor: Mr Crysler called you.
Mr Newman: What he did was he invited me to go to the meeting. He did not invite me to stand before the meeting.
Interjection: Mr Chair, is this in order?
The Chair: I am trying to get Mr Lauder to proceed.
The Chair: Welcome, Mr Lauder. I'd ask you to proceed.
Mr Ken Lauder: I did not bring you a written presentation. I figure you're going to get an awful lot over seven or eight days.
I'm a teacher; I've taught for almost 30 years. I'm a parent. I have a daughter in grade 8 and I have a son in high school. I'm a taxpayer.
I don't want to deal in detail with Bill 160. I am in opposition to Bill 160, probably for the standard reasons you're going to hear over and over, including the idea of allowing the Minister of Education so much power over the system and all the other things with the prep time, the firing of teachers and things like that.
I also recognize that you've got yourself in a position where you solidly believe this. You're not doing this just for the fun of it; you believe it's the right thing to do, so you have to do this. I recognize that's a tough position.
I don't know how governments work. I'm sure you get together and once you've figured out that you can make it not only cheaper but better, you have a moral obligation to do that. If you can get rid of 10,000 teachers or 6,000 teachers and make the system way cheaper, one way or another you've got to do it. That's just the way it is. Clearly I think that's a ridiculous idea. Then you've got to sell it and say, "More teacher contact time." You know what that means. You'll have the teachers teaching longer, to bigger classes.
I have been teaching forever. In some ways, that's an easy way to teach. We've found out over the last two years that you measure success in the school system by standardized tests. If you give a guy like me a chance to teach to a standardized test, that's a piece of cake, if you give me the curriculum ahead of time. That's the school system I went to in the 1960s. My mother taught in that school system; she started in the 1930s. It's a great school system if you're just preparing for the age of steam or the Industrial Revolution. For the 21st century, to memorize the longest river in South America -- I can still remember, from 1962, the six causes of the First World War, the Schlieffen plan. I know there were six causes.
Mr Wildman: Some people might confuse you and say there were seven.
Mr Lauder: Incidentally, we beat both France and Germany in that last international test, where the Slovenians beat us.
What I really want to talk to you about, what worries me tremendously -- I know you guys know what you're doing; you've got the right idea, without a doubt. I don't have all the facts and figures. I teach in the system and my kids go to it, and I'm not going to engage you guys in a debate. I've watched this before. I don't have the energy for that.
I think a lot of the problems come from the Common Sense Revolution. I went through this. Two years ago, 28 months ago, a lot of the people I worked with were really excited about this. They really were. Some were neutral; some weren't too sure about it. A lot of people were really excited on my staff. They turned to page 8, where they talk about maintaining classroom funding. Then they found out that they didn't mean music, art, drama, guidance, tech, computer teachers. They're not real teachers. Adult education is not a real classroom; you only have to fund it at one quarter the level.
Mr Wildman: Now there's junior kindergarten.
Mr Lauder: Or junior kindergarten, although I have to admit you guys were honest on junior kindergarten. In the Common Sense Revolution you said you'd make it optional.
When I look at this document now -- I can't look at it without my glasses -- I feel pretty foolish, because in the areas that deal with health care and law enforcement, you actually did say you would take the savings and reinvest them, but you didn't say that in education, and I missed that. I didn't miss it three weeks ago when Hugh Segal, who I really admire, said on TVOntario that your idea, Bill 160, is unsellable in Ontario unless you get in front of a microphone and say you'll do what you did with health care, and that is reinvest the money you save. You've got to reinvest it.
I'm a big-time phone guy. I phone all the time. I've never got an answer, when I phoned, on why you won't reinvest the money. You soothe people's fears on health care by saying: "It's okay. We're going to close hospitals, but it really is okay. We're going to have community care, we're going to have this, we're going to have that, and the money will go back in." With education, it's just: "We can take it out. We can make it cheaper and better."
I'm taking a long time to get to my point, but what really worries me is that you've got 127,000 people who don't agree with you. On one of these pages in here, I think it's page 12, you've said you're going to be the first government that does its business like a business. This is not doing things like a business. You don't systematically beat up on your workers for over two years and then say, "Okay, we're going to put it through."
I have no doubt you'll put it through. I mean, 70% of people in Toronto didn't like megacity; you passed it. I think you've got the integrity and the guts to do that, and if you've got to fire 10,000 teachers to make it a better system, open the door and fire them. If you know in your heart that's what's got to happen, that you can make this a better system, I don't understand why you hold off. Get rid of them. Don't wait. Fire them now and make the system better a hell of a lot faster.
I've got a daughter going into grade 9 next year and I don't want her in the system that you say is the worst in Canada, the caboose of the Canadian educational train. Incidentally, she asked me an interesting question the other day. She asked if she could take next year off. I asked her why. She's a smart little kid, she's also a bit of a wise guy. She said: "If I go next year, to Malvern, I'll graduate in June 2003 from a broken system. If I sit home for the whole year, I'll graduate in June 2003 in the new and improved system." I'm not going to let her sit home because I'm a responsible parent.
What I'm saying is you've lost the workers. You've beaten up on us so bad. When I go into work now -- I've taught for 30 years and it's hard to ruin my enthusiasm -- it is. Mr Snobelen's aide is here; he knows. I'm the guy who phones John Snobelen's office -- it's very childish -- at 7:30 every morning to let him know I'm at work, because I actually go to work at 7:30. I'm not an easy guy to destroy the enthusiasm of, but you're beginning to get to me. I work with people, believe it or not, who have given up.
When the dust settles on this thing -- you're going to run this business as a business, you beat the hell out of your workers -- let alone Bill 160 and what's in there -- as a strategy, I think it's a damn poor strategy. General Motors last year had a strike with their workers. They might have been furious with those workers. The American president came up for a Canadian meeting. I bet that guy was mad as hell, and what did he say when he gets off the plane? "The best cars in the world are produced in Oshawa. The best workers we have are here in Canada, the most productive workers."
Maybe behind closed doors he wanted to grab Buzz Hargrove by the neck and wring the life out of him, I don't know, but he never knocked the system. For 28 months there's barely a day goes by that you guys haven't knocked the system. When I leave in the morning -- I'm glad I leave when it's dark. My neighbours know I work in the worst damn school system. In this document, we're at the bottom. We're below Portugal. I don't want to insult anybody from Portugal, but we're at the bottom, and yet we are the number one place in the world to live. I want to know where the hell those people come from. When I drive on the Gardiner, do I have to worry that highway is going to collapse? I know I'm kidding you guys a bit but it's so silly, the overkill, what you've done, and now you've got to work with us.
You want to hire new teachers. Ernie Eves said in the budget last year -- and I admire that man -- that he was going to set aside $250 million -- and you guys don't set aside money for nothing -- to bring 6,000 new teachers into the system. Seven thousand teachers retired in June; you don't need a cent to bring in 6,000, unless you want to get rid of 13,000.
You ask for ideas. If you really want two areas to work on -- one area that we don't do a good job of right now is, we don't do a great job of educating the poorest kids in this province, and there are studies to show that. If you want to look at middle class and above, we meet national standards or we beat them in international standards. I'd love to see the government and the teachers and the parents and trustees get together and develop a plan for working with the poorest kids in the system.
Also, I'd love to see you guys throw yourselves at adult education in a wholehearted way. What I don't understand is why you don't want to fund that. It fits your model. It does such a job of getting people back to work. You guys don't have to believe me, because you've got studies. I taught a co-op class last term for adults and by June, 16 of my people had full-time jobs. I figured out the savings from my class to the taxpayer at over $300,000, and all you had in that room was a teacher. You didn't give me a computer, I didn't have a phone, I didn't have a fax machine.
I have a neighbour who makes a great living as a headhunter, works out of her office. When I told her what I did, she told me she wouldn't deal with any of those people because they didn't have Canadian experience; that's not who she works with. It works. Then I find out we're not going to fund it; it's not a real classroom. I don't understand that. Yet I know you guys can explain it to me. When Mr Snobelen was the minister I used to phone him all the time and I was always getting explanations, but they just didn't sound right somehow.
You might wonder why I'm here. I'm one of those guys that Ernie Eves is going to let retire with dignity. Clearly, I have some concern for the system. I figure that you're probably going to shorten my teaching opportunity by two or three years. So I shouldn't worry about it, leave the system behind.
I didn't want to talk for a whole 10 minutes. I was hoping somebody would talk to me.
The Chair: Mr Lauder, I think you missed your calling, with your enthusiasm --
Mr Lauder: That's what a teacher does.
Mr Wildman: That's exactly what a teacher does.
Mr Lauder: Really, that's what a teacher does. I know I can't get across to you guys -- I know that you know you have to do what you've got to do -- what goes on on a daily basis and I know you don't want to hear about it, but you also know it's true. You guys went to school, you had coaches. I can't do it any more because I've gotten older. Cross-country season lasted two and a half months. I never slept in bed. I slept on the couch because cross-country practice started at 7 o'clock and I had an hour to get to school. I didn't want to wake anybody up in the family.
I'm not saying that because, "Oh my God, you guys do something, so I'll help you out." But that is the reality and that enthusiasm -- you're right, I could sell cars, I could sell mutual funds. Like most teachers, what do I do? I also work in the real world. I run a small business, and so do about a third of the people I work with. People are fond of saying to teachers, "Get in the real world." If you freeze our salaries for another two years -- it's been six years now -- you'll have all the teachers working part time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. It is the real world and our time is up. I know I speak on behalf of all members of the committee in thanking you for your presentation.
Mr Lauder: Thank you. I figure I did pretty well if nobody yelled at me over here.
ORDE STREET PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS COUNCIL
The Chair: Our next presentation is the Orde Street Public School Parents Council, Mr Jose Freire-Canosa. Welcome, sir. Please proceed.
Mr Jose Freire-Canosa: I have with me the president of the parents council, Lucy Camposano. I speak three languages and it's reflective also of the school community.
I'd like to begin by saying that time and time again history has demonstrated the value and strength of local autonomy to resolve local issues. In this respect, the proposed changes to the Education Act run counter to this experience by concentrating the power of decision-making in a few hands, primarily with the Ministry of Education. The planning of education will henceforth be centrally planned.
Our school, Orde Street, is centrally located in downtown Toronto at College Street and University Avenue, a few steps from this Legislature. Orde Street school, however, is not an ordinary school that will fit to any standardized school system. It is a vibrant, multiculturally integrated community school. The students come from many varied backgrounds. It serves the Chinese community downtown, which is its major component. It also has a sizeable component of Canadian heritage students, along with a distinguished black, Spanish and Muslim community. Also contributing to the success of this school is a sizeable component of Canadian-born students whose parents have a diverse professional background.
On a statistical basis, the Chinese-descent background of the student population is about 30%. The student community comes from 48 countries and the students speak 29 different languages. English as a second language affects 51% of the students. There are, however, problems and issues of typical inner-city schools due to socioeconomic factors such as single-parent families and lower socioeconomic levels. Nevertheless, the school has a successful student body, with 13 out of 20 students yearly making it into the gifted programs and scoring in the 98 percentile. Many of our students have achieved excellent scores in the recent provincial tests.
The school also has a well-integrated day care program which currently occupies six rooms in the school. There is a lunch program and a breakfast program with Mount Sinai Hospital. As well, the school community has demonstrated leadership by securing green space adjacent to the school which is currently under construction. This was partially due to the relationship the school community maintains with its trustees and community leaders.
If there is an appropriate term that can best describe our school, it is "distinctiveness." This distinctiveness of our school makes our concerns and problems particularly personal to Orde. Some issues are, however, common with many downtown area schools, hence the importance of having a board such as the Toronto Board of Education that, by covering the current area, is familiar and attentive to our local problems. A larger board will in this instance be counterproductive because our problems and needs require a local understanding. This local dimension can only be done when our institutions live within our environment. Hence the need for local solutions and autonomous decision-making as expressed earlier on. This autonomous decision-making contrasts with the centralized, impersonal decision-making being espoused in Bill 160, decision-making by a ministry that by its very nature is far removed from our local traditions and environment.
We need the personal contact with our trustees. We are free people and we need free trustees to represent us. Our problems might be unique enough that their solutions might require radical decisions which could, in cases, be controversial to the standardization espoused in Bill 160. However, under section 257.45, the trustees will not be allowed to vote against ministerial decisions, even though this could be the better and only way for our needs to be heard. In other words, Bill 160 does away with that freedom and autonomy.
We said our relationship with the trustees is personal and amiable. They are well respected in our school and we look up to them for leadership. Under the new proposal, the remuneration being suggested of $5,000 will make this personal contact nearly impossible, since their time will be at a premium and the remuneration will barely cover their meetings.
Bill 160 goes a step further in allowing decision-making to take place electronically. This impersonal decision-making, whether by computer or video, would render the board even more remote and truly become the ultimate virtual reality. A board where personal contact no longer takes place becomes subreal.
There are, of course, other areas where we will be impacted negatively in a practical way. Teacher morale is of immediate concern. Others include class size; prep time, which will have a significant impact on our students' extracurricular activities; security and safety of our children as we lose control of our caretaking staff to a third party; French as a second language -- these programs are uncertain as the supporting network collapses into a mega-board; international languages, as minorities lose rights to their heritage under Bill 160; our kindergarten program; the quality of assigned teaching staff as proposed in the bill to persons without a teaching certificate; scarcity of supplies; support for programs which might become outside the ministry standards, such as the lunch and breakfast programs, the Chinese, Spanish and black heritage programs that currently are part of the curriculum of the school.
The act will also institute a student number, and section 266.5 prescribes that personal information is to be collected "other than directly from the individual." If this be the case, matters of confidential nature can be accessed without due regard to the right to privacy. Section 257.44 gives total powers to the minister "to have access to all records." This will unnecessarily contribute to a breakdown in the special relationship that we have developed at our schools, since this section and some others in the act will restrict staff freedom of expression and in fact breed suspicion.
There are also punitive measures of a criminal nature for students who fail to attend school; section 12, subsection 5 of the act. We wonder how an individual being forced to be in a situation for which an adequate solution has not been found will help. It will actually contribute to an explosive environment, to the detriment of everyone else. We fail to see the wisdom of this measure.
We have focused on a few but pertinent articles of this act. We could have concentrated on many others. We could show in how many other ways this act will negatively impact our school and, we are afraid, our land.
Bill 160 is not a user-friendly act. The explanatory notes are 260 pages long, yet the changes are for the most part called "housekeeping."
The act is proclaimed as leading to protecting classroom funding, enhancing accountability, consistent with the government's education quality agenda. However, there is no preamble to the act that defines what is meant by "quality education." The reader wonders what is the vision and mission of this act.
The Chair: Excuse me, sir. There is only one minute left.
Mr Freire-Canosa: Thank you.
From its beginning, a first reading leaves one with the impression of a prescriptive and regulatory act for administrative matters in education. In fact, the so-called housekeeping changes are a radical departure from established understanding. For instance, the public school board is replaced by the "public board." A cosmetic change, you say, only that when reading is done of the Human Rights Code, Statutes of Ontario, 1981, chapter 53, article 18, page 7, it becomes clear that "public school boards" and "separate school boards" have a legal meaning and are granted certain rights under the British North America Act of 1867. We at Orde prefer the designation of "public school board." We see no wrong with it, and in fact moving away from it might remove rights enshrined in the BNA.
In closing, we want to extend an invitation on behalf of the principal and staff of the school, and of myself as president of the parents council, and on behalf of the parents council and parents, to visit our school and appreciate at first hand its uniqueness and how, in so many other ways, you could continue contributing positively to our school. Thank you very much.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you for your presentation here today.
The Chair: Our next and last presentation of the evening, Marion Endicott. Good evening.
Ms Marion Endicott: Good evening. I'd like to begin by thanking you for the opportunity to present to you today. Also, I am somewhat dismayed by the shortness of time that I and all the other presenters have to make our points. I was actually only notified a short time ago that I was even going to have the opportunity to present so I haven't even had that much time to pull my points together.
My name is Marion Endicott and I'm here as a parent. I have three children in the public education system here in Ontario: one in grade 5, one in grade 9 and one in grade 13.
I would begin, although I don't like to, on a negative note, and that is to question the value of me even being here. I've made the point about the shortness of time. One thing that I can't help but think about as I sit here is that the usual response by this government to anybody who has a note of criticism to it is that the view represents that of a special interest group. "Oh, don't listen to that. It doesn't matter. It's just a special interest group opinion." I wonder, will you take my concerns and the concerns of other people seriously, or will you just shelve them on a shelf labelled "special interest group -- parents." I hope not, but I can't help but fear that that's the case.
The second problem is not only the shortness of time that we have to present to you, 10 minutes, but also the lack of scope for these public hearings. Seven days across this province to cover a bill that purports to have as much impact as this one does, I believe, is simply inadequate on such an important subject as the education of our children.
Thirdly, who are you? This standing committee, I don't believe, is the standing committee that usually concerns itself with education matters, and I have no idea whether you have any background whatsoever in this bill. I can only hope that, as the committee on the administration of justice, you will see the injustice in Bill 160.
All of this leads me to my first recommendation, which is that you greatly increase the amount of time you will be putting into these public hearings. I urge, along the lines of the previous speaker, that you include in that time an actual hands-on approach where you visit schools, where you hold town council types of meetings, where you have groups of parents who you can see engage in debate, and you have pedagogical experts come and speak to you about the importance of early childhood education and all those kinds of theories that were included in the recent royal commission. I truly hope that you will do that. I think that if you take your job seriously, you must do that.
What does this government say that it does hope to achieve in Bill 160? It claims that it wants to improve the quality of education. This, of course, is a laudable cause. No matter how much I may criticize this particular bill, I would be the first to say that there's always room for improvement in the education system and all sorts of programs that we have in this province. But what kind of improvement does this government want to give? I looked around and I tried to find something where this government indicates what it plans to do with Bill 160. There really isn't very much information.
But there is this brochure called Putting Students First: Back to School; Your Guide to the New Face of Education. That seems like a pretty good document to go to, published by the government. When I look through it, there's very little that has to do with Bill 160, but I think page 6 is really the page that deals with it. What it says is, "Student-Focused Funding: Focusing Dollars on the Classroom." There's actually very little here. There's a nice picture of a boy with a computer, there's a graph showing the supposed average class size in this province and then there's an about three-quarters text column that talks about the actual goals of the government.
The thing that really bowls me over when I look at this is the last paragraph, which talks about the funding for the whole thing. What it says is, "To ensure a smooth transition, Ontario will invest more than $13 billion a year -- the same as last year -- in the province's education system right through to the end of the 1997-98 school year." It's worded as though that's a tremendous commitment. I think we all know -- and I'm sure it has been pointed out to you a thousand times already -- that the $13 billion already includes a $1-billion cut. We were previously funded at $14 billion, so there's nothing wonderful about that $13-billion mark.
In addition to that, it suggests here that there is absolutely no commitment to $13 billion in the future. This leaves it open -- and I believe Bill 160 certainly does that -- for a substantial decrease in the amount of funding that's going to go to our education system. Whether or not we could maintain our education system on that level, I kind of doubt, but certainly we cannot improve it without increasing resources to it and certainly we cannot improve it by cutting the financial resources that are available. That's really all that stands out to me from what the government is proposing; that is, no improved funding and probably a decrease.
I would like to mention that the $1-billion cut that's already been introduced is already being felt in the classroom. In my youngest child's school, for example, the PA system does not work. It used to be that when the PA system broke down, a note would go into the board of education and it would be top priority to get that fixed, because the school can't function well without a PA system. In fact, it's dangerous. The PA system has been broken for two weeks. That was unheard of in the past. But now it happens.
I was talking to another teacher who has been teaching for many years. Although there were problems in the heating in the school from time to time over the years, it was always a top priority to have that fixed. When it happened, it would be fixed within hours, or at least by the next day. In the last two years she and the whole school have had to go home because the school was too cold. There have been school days lost due to the lack of heat in that school.
Another funding cut that my children have noticed is the lack of field trips. They have noticed, through the years, that the number of field trips that they have been allowed to go on have been dramatically reduced. I'm sure there are many others, but those are just a couple.
What the funding cuts tell us is that there's really no commitment to improving education, and I urge this committee to accept any recommendations which will ensure that funding is improved or at least not cut through Bill 160.
There's very little in this newspaper about what the government really intends, because it doesn't want to be explicit about its plans for fear of public backlash. Once Bill 160 is passed, profound changes can be made behind closed doors. The Education Improvement Commission has been set up, and it has a number of subcommittees. I have been told that one of those subcommittees has already recommended that there be cuts in the maintenance area by $60 million just within the city of Toronto alone. Those same cuts over Metro will amount to $200 million. What do those cuts mean? Those cuts mean schools which are less safe, are less healthy and will be less pleasant to be in.
Another point is, surely one of the things that we want to teach our children is how to be fully involved members in the democratic aspects of our society. As such, our government should set the standard. What lesson are you teaching our children through Bill 160, which proposes to do things by regulation, which does not require any public scrutiny? You're teaching our children not to consult, not to bother with investigations -- certainly the results of the royal commission are not being taken into consideration; don't invite participation; just do what you want and be damned with anybody who doesn't agree with you. I urge you not to forget that an important ingredient in making Canada one of the most desirable places to live in is that very history of consultation, investigation and careful decision-making.
This government has alluded to some changes that it would like to make through Bill 160, even though Bill 160 itself is not specific as to those. I'll just comment on a couple of those. One of course is preparation time. I know you've heard a lot about that subject from teachers, but I'd like to speak to you about it as a parent. I'd like you to know that, as a parent, I value the preparation time that my children's teachers have. I know they use that preparation time in order to more closely look at the journal that my 10-year-old is writing and to reflect on his life and his spelling and his sentence structure and his fears even, so that the teacher can deal with him as a whole person and help him through his specific problems more effectively.
The Chair: We have one minute remaining.
Ms Endicott: Okay. This morning I drove my daughter to school to be there at 7 o'clock to participate in a basketball practice. She goes there a couple of times a week at 7 o'clock. Her teacher is there too. We know that teachers use their prep time for the benefit of the students and for the enhancement of the quality of education. We also know that cuts in prep time will actually increase class size, and that cannot improve the quality of education. I urge you to make sure the cabinet understands that parents -- at least the parents I've talked to, and certainly I do -- support prep time and want to see it kept as it is.
I want to just very briefly speak about school councils --
The Chair: It will be because you only have 10 seconds left.
Ms Endicott: Okay. I'll skip the school councils. I would just ask you to think about the fact that this bill was initiated by a minister who, unfortunately, had to publicly say that he was going to do his business on the basis of inventing a crisis. I do not trust a bill that was ushered in by a minister who had that proposal. I urge you, even those of you who are from the same government, not to trust a bill that is written by a minister who did so on the basis of inventing a crisis, and I urge you --
The Chair: I thank you, Ms Endicott. Your time has elapsed.
Ms Endicott: -- to understand that -- as a member of the public, I just want to --
The Chair: No. I've given you a minute and I've given you 10 seconds. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Our committee's work has at long last come to an end this evening. We're adjourning until 9 am in this room tomorrow morning.
The committee adjourned at 2139.