Mr Brian Weagant: Good afternoon, Mr Chair. My name is Brian Weagant and this is Cheryl Milne. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law, and in Toronto we operate the community legal clinic called Justice for Children and Youth.
Our clientele are exclusively young people who are in a position to give instruction, so that's generally young people between the ages of 12 and 18, and the one exception to that is we act for parents with education law problems, such as special education problems and hard-to-serve problems. It's the results of that experience in acting for parents in those types of situations that we wish to bring the committee.
Ms Cheryl Milne: What I'd like to do is just explain to you the pieces of paper that you have in front of you from us. The first thing that was delivered some time ago was our response to proposed amendments, and that's a lengthy document. It addresses a lot of issues that are probably beyond the scope of Bill 4. They're looking at the broader issues of how we think some of the things should be changed to better provide special education services to our clients. It also addresses the aspect of suspensions and the stay of suspensions in the request for an appeal, and so we have a recommendation with respect to that.
We've also got before you a pink piece of paper, which is really sort of bullet points. They're summary points and the focus of that document is really our arguments for keeping section 35 in the legislation for the time being until something better is put in place or until the whole context is examined, instead of just removing one remedy that parents have at the moment. That's what the pink piece of paper represents.
At this point in time, we think there are about six kids who have been declared hard to serve in this province. We've acted in four of those cases. We're quite experienced in how hard to serve works and what the realities of it are on the street level. We thought it might be helpful to just touch on the history of section 35. We've had someone sitting in on the committee hearings so far. We have heard of many different rationales about what section 35 is about and why it should be repealed and why it should stay, and a lot of the things we've been hearing -- leaving it in will open floodgates; we have to take it out because it's not been used -- are totally inconsistent rationales.
The one we'd really like to deal with in the context of history is what will the effect be on the other processes under the act if section 35 is removed. It's our understanding that section 35 was not put in there only to address developmentally handicapped children who may be in health facilities at the time of the passing of Bill 82 and would be moved back over to education at a cost to the Minister of Education.
There's a letter from Dr Stephenson to Mr and Mrs Thompson, who are parents of one of the hard-to-serve kids in Ontario. I believe Mr Thompson, when he appeared in front of you, put this letter to you. That is our understanding of what section 35 was meant to do. I've checked the Hansard.
It was Mr Sweeney who challenged Dr Stephenson on the point and she actually changed the wording of section 35 to include kids whose collection of handicaps or learning disabilities was such that they challenged the programs that the school could buy or that the school had. We're referring to a very small number of kids in the school system.
Now, the current rationale that we've heard for leaving this section in the bill is that school boards have money for special education and that they're not using it properly, that they should be able to educate everybody, that they've got the funds to do it and that they're just not allocating funding within their own boards properly. That may or may not be the case. We can't speak to that. What we can speak to is the issue of whether a repeal of section 35 will make any difference at all to how school boards allocate special education funding.
First of all, there are six kids, to our knowledge, in the province who have successfully used this process. This is not a floodgate argument. After the Thompson case, which was well publicized, we weren't deluged with parents saying, "We need our children to be declared hard to serve." Because of the definition under the act, we have to give proper legal advice about the children who were actually candidates for this.
The second thing you should know is that school boards don't make decisions about funding based on section 35. They don't think of it as, "Well, we don't have to properly allocate our funding within special education programs because we've always got section 35 to fall back on." The thing you have to know is that in all those cases, school boards resisted the use of section 35. This section was always accessed by parents. It was not accessed by the school boards. Even if, off the record, superintendents or the educators would tell you they didn't think they could help that particular kid, they sent their lawyers into that hearing to oppose the parents' application to have the kid declared hard to serve.
Ms Milne: Having acted on a couple of hard-to-serve cases myself, and also around the timing of the bill, especially with respect to the section that refers to June 2, 1992, I was left with the impression that the real issue that was being addressed in repealing section 35 is money and the allocation of money and who's going to pay for things.
The retroactivity of the bill is something that I couldn't help but interpret as being directed specifically at two successful cases that had taken place before June 2, 1992, and one that had actually been heard and was successful on June 18, 1992. The effect of having the retroactivity there was that the first two families would be cut off in a year's time; the other family would be cut off immediately. I believe that the issue of whether or not the money would be asked to be paid back has been addressed and that's been answered by the minister.
The families that are affected by the repeal of section 35 are disproportionately low-income families. I can tell you right now that families that have the money to put their children in specialized private school placements do so. They don't go through the hard-to-serve process. It's an extremely cumbersome process. It's not something that is an easy route to accessing funds. It's very difficult. Many cases don't succeed because the school boards feel that they can service many of the kids who seek a hard-to-serve designation. As Brian said, it's not a floodgate situation.
We can't help but see that the focus seems to be on funding and who's going to pay for this, and that no one wants to be providing funds to private school placement, even if those placements are the most appropriate for that child and may provide the only results.
It's interesting. As I was going through our files on special education in our office, I came across a newspaper article -- I've had copies made; I think it should be in front of you -- that refers to the Thompson case, and the headline was, "`Inhumane Attack': NDP Deplores Province's Fight to Avoid Payment to Dyslexic Boy." The NDP, in opposition at that time, was taking the position that fighting the Thompson case was something that was unfair to the family, and we can't help but see the irony and sort of the reversal now, with the government putting forward a position of repealing section 35, which in fact has allowed certain families within the province to access funding for private placements.
Mr Weagant: There's another irony in the way this bill is constructed, and that's in the provision that gives authority to the Minister of Education to pay for educational programs for youngsters who are getting OHIP services out of the country. I couldn't get all the information, but I'm sure government researchers have access to it.
I found out, for example, that basically this was to address a problem with nine or ten students who are in a Yale program. It's a locked psychiatric program on the Yale campus. It costs Ontario $250,000 a year of OHIP money to pay for that program, and education is not provided. The educational cost is $25,000, plus there's been an issue about these students, and this provision would now allow the Ministry of Education to simply pay that money.
These parents don't have to go through any educational process, IPRCs, hard-to-serves, but not only that; Ontario's law concerning locked facilities doesn't have to be observed either. I found out that in order to get into this program, you simply need the preapproval of a fellow named Dr Ecclestone. You can simply call him and find out whether he has to apply the law under the Child and Family Services Act about who gets into these programs and who doesn't, and he doesn't have to, because local law will apply.
There's a double irony in this, that the Ministry will simply fold and pay this cost without any process involved. You can add it up yourself, the amount of money being spent on these institutions. We act for parents in these situations. Good for parents who can get their kids the services they need. But the question must be asked, why are we spending, on these 10 alone, several million dollars a year when comparable facilities surely could be built in Ontario and employ Ontario labour, given what's happening with psychiatrists and cutbacks on OHIP?
I think between October 1991 and April 1993, $4.6 million was spent on kids who go into programs where the per diem is less than $200 a day. These students do not need preapproval if that is the per diem at the American institution, and the education cost is rolled into that $200 a day, so it's automatically paid through OHIP. We have to go to court, it seems, to get $5,000 for one learning-disabled kid who wants to remain in Ontario to be educated. We would like to know why we shouldn't simply now advise parents to have a doctor declare the learning disability to be an OHIP-related matter, and send them to a school in the United States and have OHIP pay the whole cost and the parents don't have to go through any of the processes under the act.
Ms Milne: Just as one concluding point with respect to the hard to serve, we've heard the rationale that the removal of section 35 is to put more pressure on boards to provide the programs that are necessary and appropriate for the children within the local schools. We agree with that. More pressure can and should be put on boards to provide the services. But the safety net is still needed for those children who cannot be served by the board.
Removing section 35 right now without looking at the whole context is putting the cart before the horse, and removing a safety measure right now for parents who have tried for years to have their child educated within the board, and there's now an acknowledgement that it can't be done -- they're 14 years old and they have to have a remedy now. Especially when kids get to be that age, you just can't play around with programs any more. You have to find something that works.
Just a last point, and then we can open up for questions, is with respect to the suspensions, and it's sort of a separate issue to the hard-to-serve question. What Bill 4 does is remove a stay, or makes it clear in the legislation that a request for an appeal of a suspension does not stay the suspension.
It's our position that this effectively removes the right of an appeal for a suspension. Usually, by the time the appeal is heard, the suspension has been served and it's history, and for children in school, the whole point of appealing the suspension is that they don't want to have to serve it, and to remove the stay removes the appeal.
We agree that there might be circumstances in which it's not appropriate that the child remain in the school because the child may be a danger to others, and our recommendation contained in our brief is that the stay automatically happen when a student appeals a suspension. But if the principal or administrator is willing to put in writing that in fact it's a situation that involves safety within the school, the child may be a danger to others, then the suspension would not be stayed pending an appeal, so that there is a stopgap. It is power that we would recommend go to the principal, but the way it's worded right now, there's no point in even appealing a suspension, ever, because usually they're for a fairly short duration, and by the time the board meets to hear the appeal, the suspension has been served.
Mr Weagant: Our office is experienced with suspensions and suspension appeals. This isn't going to be another one of those flooding problems. We do very few suspension appeals, and generally they fall into two categories: I guess the civil rights type of complaint where a student is disciplined for something they think they shouldn't be -- there's the hat case going on in the London area right now -- and more recently where students are being disciplined for behaviour that's associated with a specific learning disability and the suspension is being used as a form of programming. But other than that, you don't really need to worry that all of a sudden schools are going to be shut down by the number of suspension appeals; they just don't exist.
First of all to the parliamentary assistant with respect to the OHIP issue that was raised, could you look into what they have said and perhaps just find out what the facts are there? I don't know myself, but I think there was a question around how that all worked, and I think it would be useful for the committee if we could get that information.
Mr Weagant: The fellow who wrote the cabinet submission was a fellow named Don Warner. He may be a good place to start. Carol Appathurai at Community and Social Services may have some information, and I found Dr Ecclestone himself quite approachable, although he didn't have the information. I can give that to you later.
Mr Beer: So we will be able to get that. The next thing, with respect to the date of June 2, 1992, do you know why that particular date is in the act in terms of the limit for when a student could be deemed hard to serve?
Ms Milne: I guess the answer would be, we don't know. It seems to have been plucked out of the air. The only rationale -- it appeared that one of the bills, Bill 37, was introduced on June 2, 1992. The first version of this proposed legislation did not include a date at all. We met with the then Minister of Education, Marion Boyd, about that section and she assured us that they wouldn't be repealing section 35 until a further review had been done of all the procedures for special education under the act, and that was on August 7 that we met with her.
Then the bill died, and when it was reintroduced by Mr Silipo, the date appeared then. What had happened in the interim, though, was two successful hard-to-serve cases, and it was in the fall of 1991 that there were two cases where two kids had been declared hard to serve, so that there was a difference in that there were now real people receiving money. That's the only reason we could figure that there was a date introduced that made this retroactive to cut them off the funding.
Mr Beer: Finally then, if I might, to the parliamentary assistant with respect to the date, I guess, which appears in both 15(2)(a) and 15(2)(b), is there a possibility that those dates could be changed? Is the government considering any change, because it does seem a rather arbitrary date.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The minister has stated in the House that if the hard-to-serve provisions are passed in this bill, no parent will be asked to pay back funds which have been paid out by the ministry for education under the hard-to-serve piece of the legislation.
Ms Milne: That doesn't address the issue of continuing funding for those students who are now receiving money for their hard-to-serve placements; it addresses the issue of whether they're going to have to pay money back that they've received. But these are kids who are now in placements that are succeeding, they are working for these kids, and they are now faced with the prospect of being cut off as of September.
In fact, one child I know, they won't have a placement for him as of September 1. They will not have a place for him to be educated. This school board has acknowledged that they can't educate him. He's been in a placement that is successful, and the parents do not have the money to continue him in the current successful placement. So we need some reassurances that they are not going to be cut off prospectively. This child needs the placement that he has.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I would like to thank both of you for this expert presentation and to share a little bit of sympathy with you, because it does depend on which minister you're talking to, meaning one of the three ministers of education, whether they are sympathetic to the views on behalf of the hard-to-serve students. So thank you for an excellent document. I hope that members of the government will read it. It's helpful when it's read.
I'd like to ask you a hypothetical question right now because it's my understanding that it's the school boards, through their IPRC committees, that recommend to parents that there's no placement within that school board or within a neighbouring board where the school board can purchase the service. It's at that point in time, and I'd like to be corrected if I'm incorrect here, that the hard-to-serve designation and process would jump in. So I need some clarification on that.
Ms Milne: At this point the hard-to-serve process does not automatically happen through the IPRC. If the board is admitting at the IPRC level that they don't have a placement, then it could be up to the parent to request a hard-to-serve hearing or the principal of the school can institute a hard-to-serve hearing, but it's a separate process from the IPRC.
Generally what happens, it's been our experience that the parents have gone through the IPRC process. Some of them have gone through appeals of IPRCs. Usually the child has been in special education placements for up to five, sometimes eight years without any noticeable academic gains, and so the parents have really tried utilizing the system that's there and is available. They reach a point where they say, "We have to do something," and so they have then requested the hard-to-serve because they've had the history of the child not making the academic gains. It's been a process separate from the IPRC, but it's never been a situation where the parents have never utilized the IPRC process in the first place. They have always, in my experience, been utilizing the special education services within that board for some time.
Mr Weagant: No. In fact, it will never be initiated by the school. Our experience is that because of the way the law is stated, the school has to have learning disability classes; it has to have behavioural classes. It's a label on a door. I've never seen an IPRC that says, "We can't serve this kid." The second they are identified as learning disabled, they automatically fit under one of those labels. In fact, the superintendents uniformly take the position that any kid can be served, on paper. They may tell you off the record, "We can't do what you want for this kid," but you'll never catch them saying they can't serve a kid.
That's why this process has only been accessed by parents. It's never been used to exclude a kid. It's been parents who have gone to the school and said: "Please exclude my kid. You've got him; he's not succeeding. He's a casualty."
Mrs Cunningham: You're quite right when you talk about floodgates to the private schools. This is what the minister is understanding, this is his concern, and he's obviously been advised, because he wouldn't know that this was happening unless somebody within the bureaucracy told him.
Mrs Cunningham: -- you're quite right -- is that this provision within the Education Act now isn't being used. So you're absolutely right on. Where the minister has not been well informed is that he still believes that if in fact a student cannot be placed through the IPRC -- and I want you to respond to this because it's very important what you say, because then I can take it to the minister and he can get appropriate advice, free.
Mr Weagant: It's true. They have a route of appeal, but the question is, how much tooth is in that appeal process? There are some kids who are not going to be able to be served at the end of the day. There's some component to their education -- and sometimes it's a residential component; sometimes it's a peer group component -- that simply cannot be provided for by the local school board, so the best program the appeal process can come up with is not going to address that kid's particular needs.
Robbie Thompson is a case in point. He wasn't failing. He was pulled by the school psychologist as being emotionally at risk if he stayed there another day. He was so smart he could compensate for his own disabilities. Part of his problem was that if they brought in 20 instructors for this one kid and surrounded him with them, there was still the problem of his developmental needs, socially speaking. That would have been inappropriate for him as well, and that was what was targeted by the psychologist.
The program he ultimately went to and was very successful in is a school for very bright kids who specifically have his disability. That's the Gow School in upper New York state. We simply don't have the numbers to build a school like that in Ontario. It's a great resource to southern Ontario, I would think, and you should know that 60% of the graduating class go on to post-secondary school education out of the Gow. That's something our high schools can't boast here.
So the appeal process was inadequate for that student, and he's the example of what you should take back to the minister. There is always going to be a handful of kids whose collection of needs can't be addressed by what the school can bring to bear.
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Chairman, if I just can state to you that I would like the parliamentary assistant at this point in time to take this part of the presentation back to the minister. I think it's extremely important because it wasn't his understanding, how the appeal process in fact did not work and why this whole section was put into the act in the first place. We had public hearings on this whole issue for months and now, without any study of what's going to happen instead, it's put in as a part of this omnibus bill. We would have been happy to look at it under the old Bill 37, but he just simply has to withdraw it. It cannot go forward in this regard.
I want to put on the record that a Mrs Derosier called today to tell us that her child will probably end up on welfare or in jail if he in fact is forced back into the regular school system. So if people want to put their money into welfare programs or jails instead of prevention programs, moving forward, graduating on to higher education, I say that that is the responsibility of this government. These are the kinds of calls all of us are getting, because there isn't time for these people to come before this committee and tell you themselves.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): Thank you for your presentation. I'm still puzzled, although we've discussed this issue on several occasions. Here we are in a province with over 10 million inhabitants. Why is it that there are just six cases that have come forward under this hard-to-serve provision? Is it because some parents with children to whom it might apply have been unaware of the possibilities or haven't had the ability or the persistence to go through with the procedure, or what's happening here?
Ms Milne: There are a couple of reasons why there are only six. One is that it's a fairly cumbersome process as it exists. We're not saying it's the perfect solution to this particular problem; it's just the existing one, and something needs to be there. But the process is very difficult. It's usually very strongly contested by the boards.
Parents who really feel that their child can benefit from a private, specialized placement who have the money remove their child from the public system and just place him or her; they don't go through this process. That probably accounts for some of the kids who are now in those placements. The parents have not taken on the school board because they don't have the time.
The majority of the kids I know about who have been designated hard to serve all come from low-income families. They don't have that option, so that's why there are very few. It's a fairly cumbersome, difficult process.
Another reason is that it is very strongly contested by the boards, and it's generally not that successful if the board can serve the child. Quite often what happens is that the parents don't go to the hard-to-serve process first; they go through the IPRC and the appeal and they try their child in various programs. If one thing doesn't work one year, they'll try something new the next year. So it's been my experience that they are giving the school boards a lot of opportunities to tinker with programs to a certain extent until they've reached a limit where the child has digressed significantly in terms of his academics or has reached an emotional state where they just cannot afford to tinker any more.
Mr Weagant: You can look at the enrolment of some of the private schools that target these specific kids. You must appreciate that once you get into these battles with local boards and people start digging in their heels and it's their child's future at stake, it's hell on these parents. By the time they get to a lawyer's office, they've been through the wringer, you know, mortgaged their house to the hilt.
We had a family come in. The woman hadn't worked outside the house for quite a few years. She'd taken a factory job and was working all night and they'd mortgage their house so they could send their kids to Sheila Morrison. If there's any possible way you'd avoid one of these battles, you would. Why spend your money on a lawyer if you can buy your kid an education? That's what it comes down to. Our resource is free, but it's only available to low-income people.
Mr Bob Gardner: I have two things from research for the members. One is an article that was in yesterday's Toronto Star. You may have seen it in the library's regular press clippings package, but just in case you didn't, it was on one of the cases brought forward by a witness on the hard-to-serve issue. So that is on your desk.
The other thing is the interim summary on Bill 4. This summary includes everything the committee heard or received up to yesterday. Just to clarify one thing, Justice for Children and Youth is included in this from its written brief. Now, we do claim to have a lot of foresight, but we don't actually claim to represent witnesses and what they said before they said it. So I will certainly adapt the summary in terms of what the committee just heard.
Mr Beer: Just for the record, I understand we would be having one more day of hearings, that the House leaders have said that next Monday can be a day of hearings. I just thought we could confirm that through you.
Mr Beer: Mrs Cunningham had the same report that Monday, then, would be a day of presentations and that Tuesday would be clause-by-clause. I believe that has been sent to the Chair or the clerk's office. Am I right?
Welcome to the standing committee on social development regarding Bill 4, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to Education. Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your presentation. Hopefully there will be time for questions at the end of approximately 20 minutes.
Ms Louise Farr: Good afternoon, honourable members of the standing committee on social development. It is my pleasure as the chairperson of the Durham Board of Education to be here today. With me are two staff members from our board. I have Carol Yeo, superintendent of education, and Pat Prentice, our education officer of the early years. My name is Louise Farr.
"The early childhood years are the most important years for acquiring basic learning and social skills. The quality of education that our children receive in these critical foundation years will largely determine their ability to succeed at school and in later years."
At this time, the provincial government made a commitment to the expansion of early childhood education. By 1992, all school boards would be required to offer half-day kindergarten for five-year-olds and, by 1994, boards will be expected to provide half-day junior kindergarten for four-year-olds. Attendance would remain optional.
Bill 4, a bill to amend the Education Act and related legislation, entered second reading on April 28, 1993, and was referred to the standing committee on social development. The amendments in this bill continue to make the provision for half-day junior kindergarten mandatory for school boards by September 1994. The legislation does allow for a phase-in period of three years, according to conditions to be set out in regulations at a future date.
"Some people ask, why is the government continuing to make junior kindergarten mandatory? We say very clearly that this government is committed to permitting young children everywhere in the province to receive better educational opportunities through early learning, which has been shown to help in their later learning years." The Durham Board of Education would question, why is the government continuing to make junior kindergarten mandatory at this time, when school boards are trying to deal with a new financial reality?
In January 1992, boards of education received notification from the government that they could expect 1%, 2% and 2% transfer payment increases over the next three years. The purpose of this announcement was to facilitate long-term budgetary planning. In November 1992, however, the Treasurer of Ontario reduced these transfer payments. In the 1993 provincial budget, the 8% taxation of the insurance premiums included boards of education.
As an example, to the Durham Board of Education this new tax burden alone increased our costs to our local ratepayers of over half a million dollars, another one of Durham's contributions to the provincial government revenues, something that has nothing to do absolutely with education in our classrooms for our students.
The reallocation of transition assistance funding to low-assessment boards this spring caused a further reduction in provincial dollars to our board. Many boards of education had set budgets and mill rates after lengthy, ongoing public discussions and community consultations, only to be informed in April 1993 of further decreases in funding for specific educational programs. This is clearly not the time to be mandating the implementation of new programs.
The social contract negotiating process that has occurred in the past month has reinforced in the minds of our public the difficult financial situation of this province that we are all facing in each of our school boards. The Durham Board of Education's share of the approximately $425 million that this government wishes to withhold from the education sector would be about $11.5 million. School boards located in growth areas such as Durham do not have the additional funds required, or the accommodation space available, to implement junior kindergarten in these economically challenging times.
Positive early learning experiences encourage children to attain the literacy, numeracy, knowledge, skills and values they will need for personal fulfilment, lifelong learning, effective functioning in the world of work and full participation in our society.
Boards of education have yet to receive an Early Years document outlining the educational program philosophy for junior kindergarten and kindergarten, the response to the Early Years consultation paper, the research document on exemplary kindergarten programs and policy/program direction linking the Early Years and the common curriculum, grades 1 through 9. These documents would hopefully provide direction to all those who have responsibility for curriculum development, implementation and review in Ontario, being teachers, principals, consultants-facilitators, school board supervisory officers and, last but certainly not least, our trustees.
The intended implementation date of September 1994 is only 14 months away. Curriculum review and development, personnel in-service and community awareness are time-consuming processes but must occur to ensure program excellence, which we all desire.
Bill 4 states that the Lieutenant Governor in Council will have the power to allow a board of education to phase in the junior kindergarten requirement by September 1, 1997. It is our understanding in Durham that the intent of this additional amendment would require boards of education to begin offering some junior kindergarten programs by August 31, 1994. Concerns have been raised by trustees, staff and our community ratepayers about who will determine the locations of the program, what criteria will be used to select locations, where will the program be implemented and when will the program be implemented?
A three-year phase-in process for the implementation of junior kindergarten does not promote equity of access and equity of opportunity for the children in the Durham Board of Education, and I would like to emphasize the need to further explore the proposed requirement for phased-in implementation, and I did have the opportunity to raise this with the honourable Minister of Education and Training, David Cooke, and his assistant, Keith Baird, on the weekend at our Ontario Public School Boards' Association conference in Kitchener.
The issue of continuity of a young child's educational experiences and the integration of the different systems and settings within which children can receive care cannot simply be solved with an addition to the Education Act that would allow boards of education to be the operator of licensed child care programs under the Day Nurseries Act.
It is our understanding that the community education and outreach branch of the Ministry of Education and Training has created a team to respond to the government's child care reform agenda, with the intent of developing a stronger partnership between the education and child care systems. It would appear that a cabinet submission with detailed policy options is being developed to provide direction for future child care legislation.
I would add that hopefully this reform will address the responsibility of the parent and the development of parental skills, combined with community support systems and the educational system in the care of a child. The role of the parent continues to be a glaring missing integral link as a partner in addressing the needs of a young child in Ontario.
In 1987, the government announced its support for child care centres in schools. The goal was to include school-based child care space in all new schools and encourage the use of vacant space in existing schools for this purpose. This entailed a formal partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The Ministry of Education provided capital funding for the child care facilities required and the Ministry of Community and Social Services provided the startup equipment and operating grants.
The interrelationship of the educational and child care systems and how a child's learning experiences in the different settings can be integrated and enhanced requires stakeholder consultation, policy/program development and changes to the Day Nurseries Act as well as the Education Act.
In conclusion, the capacity and ability of school boards to implement junior kindergarten must be examined by this government as it considers Bill 4 and the development of the regulations. Ratepayers at the local level cannot be expected to absorb the additional cost, to which I would add, nor should the junior kindergarten program be implemented at the expense of existing students currently enrolled in our public school system.
It's the same argument in Simcoe county, which I represent. We're having a terrible time trying to implement the dictates from Queen's Park, particularly in the two areas that you've concentrated on in your brief with respect to child care and junior kindergarten.
I'm particularly interested in a couple of things. One is, are you able to explain and do you get acceptance? Because I know Durham, along with all of the other boards, I suppose, had a very, very difficult time coming to terms with budgets this year. There's a groundswell of activity and activism among the public. Ratepayers' associations and taxpayers' coalitions have become very active. When you get hit with downloading, something that perhaps the public doesn't know, and I wouldn't have thought of is in terms of taxation on insurance premiums: half a million dollars is a lot of money. You'd agree with this statement? I suppose the trustees get all the blame and it's very difficult to explain to the public something like insurance premiums which may bump out other programs. Can you give us a sense of what you've gone through and what this bill might mean in terms of downloading more?
Ms Farr: Yes. We have taken our budget proceedings around to each of our seven municipalities. We went public with it. We talked about the number of cuts we were looking at making -- program services, staffing cutbacks and so forth, and we certainly have cut back in our staffing complement, which hit each of our seven employee groups -- and we invited our public. We advised them ahead of time that we were going to the municipalities. We invited them to make presentations. They were formalized. They were very articulate. They certainly informed themselves on the issues of education.
We heard from all sides. In one respect, it was our public educating our public, because we heard from parents who didn't want us to cut programs and services and we heard from a tax coalition that felt we weren't doing enough. It was an opportunity for them to hear each other. The tax coalition thinks we give in too much to small pressure groups, but I remind it that it is itself a special interest group. While their view is important for us to hear, it is not necessarily reflective of the entire community. We certainly had a mixed blend of these kinds of presentations.
The very difficult aspect too is that I don't think that people generally do not want to support public education. Education I think is a priority in most people's minds, no matter their economic or social status. However, it is difficult to explain, as an example, the 8% surtax on insurance liability; there's $500,000. The OHIP levy we were hit with a few years ago; $2 million to our local ratepayers. What does that have to do with public education? It has nothing to do with education in the classroom, but the public wants you to make that direct link between, "How have my taxes gone up?" and, "How has my education system improved for my children?" If you can make that link, by and large, I think the public is willing to support it, but a number of issues that have impacted upon our budgets in recent years have nothing to do with education.
Mr Jim Wilson: I appreciate your comments, because I know the frustration too. The public questions why one layer of government would want to be taxing the next layer of government. It's significant that last year when the finance ministers of the country met, I think it was in February of last year, it was interesting to read their communiqué which came out and said that they agreed there was one taxpayer and only one taxpayer. It has taken 125 years to get to that point, I guess.
Ms Farr: In the same respect, if I may, when they look at the burgeoning needs that are already existing in the system, our public clearly articulated to us in our rounds of budget that it did not want us to cut programs and services that are existing now. Even though they are beyond the core curriculum, they really appreciate the instrumental music program, they really appreciate the arts programs we're running. Outdoor education, environmental education, all of those subjects are outside of the core. They value them. They want us to continue to introduce them.
They do realize, however, that if we are required to add another 3,000 to 4,000 students to the system, while we already have just over 500 portables in place, where are they going to be housed? How are they going to be accommodated? In the operating budgets, while of course we're supported by about 40% by the provincial funding, another 60% is the local share. We have been told that even the provincial share of 40% is going to come out of existing education dollars. The piece of the pie for education is shrinking in itself, so how are we going to afford it?
Ms Farr: One item I can give you is just this year's example of allocation of capital. We were awarded $8.7 million; $4.7 million of that was set aside to address a need that was being created by the provincial government, to address junior kindergarten. In order to award us those dollars, they had to bypass three additions that we requested on schools that have opened within the last five years that are absolutely at capacity and one new elementary school. So they had to bypass existing needs that have been justified, have not been questioned by the Ministry of Education as being accurate, but they had to bypass that in order to fund JK.
Ms Farr: As I said, we already have over 500 portables existing in the Durham board. If you take the word "portable" in its truest sense, it really means you can move it at some point. Our portables now are becoming permanent fixtures, with 10 to 12 portables attached to each elementary school. The average elementary school a decade ago was about 350 students. We now have elementary schools with 700 and 800 students, so that brings all new kinds of problems. The schools were not built to accommodate that number of students in libraries, gymnasiums, washrooms, science and art labs, all those kinds of things. So it brings a new set of problems with it.
Ms Farr: The Durham Board of Education has not had that debate. We've never really taken the time to have it, because it was always our position first of all that we should be able to remain autonomous, to make the decision on whether we wanted to implement the program. That was the first issue. Secondly, we haven't had the debate because accommodation and cost have always been a problem for us, so I cannot speak for our board as to whether philosophically we would adopt it.
Personally, I can say I see educational merit in the junior kindergarten program, but I also very largely see a custodial element attached to that. When we ask for the rationale from the NDP government, when I have asked my local MPPs -- I'm sorry that Larry couldn't stay, but he did explain that he had to catch an airplane -- the response we're given, I think across the province, is that it is to address the social needs of a number of students, high-risk kids. We're quoted the number of people that are incarcerated in our jails, the drug abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse. I would have to ask, are you suggesting that all of those societal issues are a direct result of 17 school boards not having junior kindergarten programs? I would think not. I think it's a rather simplistic approach to a very big problem that we face in society.
I don't think anyone would argue against supporting children who are at risk, finding adequate day care programs, adequate education, but let's take those provincial dollars and really address the problem that is at issue. Are we going to solve these societal problems by placing three-and-a-half-year-olds in our schools for two and a half hours a day and sending them back to dysfunctioning homes without proper parental skills in place, with family violence in place, with substance abuse and all of those issues?
I don't know that through the traditional mode of JK we are ever going to be addressing the philosophy that is apparently behind the whole issue of junior kindergarten. I think we can better use these dollars and identify, is it 10% of the population of these high-risk kids who need their needs addressed? Let's really address them in a meaningful, holistic way and let the other children whose parents can quite properly, quite adequately look after their needs when they're three and a half years old -- they can either provide those services in the home, as I certainly did as a parent, and I have the first graduate in civil engineering in the University of Waterloo and he's going very well, thank you very much. I think a number of parents in this province are quite capable of doing that, and the others who require work and so on can place them in adequate programs out there. I don't know that society needs to take on the needs of all these children.
Ms Farr: The point is that the money is not there so I think it's a moot point, and that's what we have to keep up front. We're here. We did not address the philosophy of the program because right now you are looking at having the third reading of the bill that would pass it, and therefore the costs of the program are going to be right in front of us and that is our first obstacle.
Ms Farr: We do have the costing, and we can leave a full report which we have shared with all the members of Parliament, and the details are all here of our accommodation and operating costs of the program.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Could I go to the section of your brief, Mrs Farr, on equity? I think you likely have more experience with that than we do. I just wondered if you're into this mode yet; I understand there are application forms that boards have been sent. I also wanted to reconfirm what you stated, that your capital allocations were reprioritized, if I may use that word.
Ms Farr: No. We have said there are additional millions of dollars that would be required to accommodate junior kindergarten, but certainly our prioritized list for last year's allocation in the next few years, and we could say for the next 10, 15, 20 years, certainly beyond my time on the board of education, I am sure, would address existing students beyond the JK implementation.
Mrs O'Neill: Could I ask you what you found out when you had the discussion you spoke about on the weekend with the present minister regarding this issue? You said you had an opportunity to talk to him about it. Could you answer my question about the application form?
Ms Farr: Actually, the minister did not respond to the question. Keith Baird responded. He said the difficulty the government has in considering a one-time implementation, for instance in 1997 or any other given year versus a three-year phase-in, was because of the ballooning effect of the cost, that it would hit us all in one fell swoop both at the provincial level and the board.
I said: "What is wrong with long-range planning? Allocate us the capital dollars and we will retrofit the schools and change the classrooms and so on to get ready for full implementation in 1997 if legislation requires us to do so, and it is only under those circumstances that we will implement. And phase in your dollars: You hold back, phase in accounting, put aside moneys in 1994, 1995, and 1996 for full operating in 1997."
He said, "You mean we should give you the money and you not start up the program?" I said: "No. We'd be quite happy that you keep your operating dollars, earn interest on them and then have the dollars in place for full implementation in 1997."
We would have great difficulty across our municipalities telling any parent of a four-year-old in Oshawa that they're entitled to it, but in Pickering you have a four-year-old in or a three-and-one-half-year-old and, "You cannot have it because we're phasing it in."
Mrs Cunningham: Just while the next group is coming to the mike, a 10-second comment: I think it's interesting that this government is out with its Commission on Learning for the next 18 months. One of the issues that will be, I'm sure, brought to its attention is early childhood education. It is an opportunity for some public discussion around how it can be delivered best, either through the child care system or through the school board, and how one can cooperate.
But it's interesting to note that this bill is legislating before the discussions are finished and that the public is not given the time it needs. Here we are in the last couple of weeks of school, asking school boards and parents to come down here so this legislation can be rammed through. At the same time, we're spending some $4 million on a public consultation and paying individual 17-year-old members $450 a day. You just have to wonder about the priorities.
The Vice-Chair: The next group is the Ontario Public School Boards' Association. We are running considerably behind time, so we'll have to limit questions somewhat more. Please introduce yourselves and proceed with your presentation.
The Ontario Public School Boards' Association represents over 90 public boards of education from all regions of the province, serving over 1.7 million students and adult learners. We speak for public education in Ontario and represent the interests of public school boards to the government, public and media. We would like to respond to some key amendments to Bill 4.
Dealing first with the adjustment to school board boundaries, section 9, the current provisions of the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act have been of continuing concern to OPSBA. It is our understanding that the act suggests that the local school board is consulted at the fact-finding stage only. The minister, upon receipt of an application from a municipality, "shall obtain the opinion of any school board that he or she considers is affected by the application." The local school board's opinion is sought as part of the fact-finding process in the early stages of the boundary negotiations. Once the negotiating stage is reached, the stage at which the original application may be amended or expanded significantly, the only parties to the process are the party municipalities and of course the provincial government.
This is not school board boundary change by Education Act regulation but in fact school board boundary adjustment by means of the legislation governing municipal government, the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. If this is indeed the intent, OPSBA does have serious concerns with this proposed amendment to the Education Act, as the current law does not allow school boards that would be affected by boundary or annexation proposals to be participants in the process.
It is becoming apparent that there will be more municipal boundary adjustments that reflect the policy direction of the provincial government of "strengthening" municipal government by county restructuring and boundary adjustments in an effort to ensure the fiscal viability of municipalities. OPSBA notes that municipal boundary changes could therefore significantly impact some public school boards, particularly those in areas that do not have boundaries completed coterminous with county governments. Although many public school board jurisdictions complement county boundaries, there are some instances in which this is not the case: the London Board of Education, the Windsor Board of Education and the Hamilton Board of Education. The amendment could also impact public school boards, such as the Northumberland and Newcastle Board of Education, which cover more than one municipal jurisdiction.
These city school boards and their neighbouring boards could experience a loss or rearrangement of a significant portion of their enrolment and assessment base. OPSBA strongly objects to this process, which suggests that once municipal borders are altered through the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act, the school board boundaries shall also be "deemed" to be altered. It is a process that does not include school boards as parties. School boards are not participants but observers, and this is unacceptable.
-- That the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs develop mechanisms to allow for a coordinated and collaborative approach to issues affecting school boards as local governments.
-- That the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act be amended in this session of the Legislature to provide school boards an effective role as parties to any boundary negotiation processes in the affected areas.
I would then like to go on to student suspension, section 12. In this section it is proposed that the period of suspension shall not exceed 20 school days and that the appeal of a suspension does not delay the suspension. A school board will be able to establish a committee to deal with suspensions and expulsions.
Our comments are certainly very strong in this area. We do not support that an appeal of a suspension not stay the suspension. OPSBA does not support the amendment limiting the maximum amount of time for a suspension to 20 school days, regardless of the reason for the suspension. In certain circumstances, and given the seriousness of the offence, a suspension of 20 days is not sufficient. Certainly in this day of violence it is imperative that school boards have the authority to recognize their local autonomy in dealing with this issue in their school boards, and 20 days is definitely insufficient.
Although supportive of the right of the board to establish a committee to hear appeals to suspensions, we have concerns with the absolute authority of the committee with regard to the expulsion of a student. Expulsion of a student is an extremely serious decision. It involves the denial of the right of a student to attend school in the area of jurisdiction of a board which she or he would normally have the right to attend as a resident pupil. Such a serious decision has an impact on future opportunities for that student. We do not support the amendment which would enable a committee of the board to expel a student without approval of the whole board, as obviously it's the entire board that has the right to make decisions by majority under the Education Act.
Dealing with the kindergarten section, we have particularly strong feelings on this issue. We're pleased that the ministry has addressed the phase-in implementation issue. However, the public school boards that do not provide junior kindergarten programs have stressed the need for flexibility in implementation strategies, particularly with regard to the utilization of early childhood education staff and other measures to reduce costs in this difficult financial environment. It is important to reaffirm OPSBA's position that junior kindergarten programs not -- underline not -- be mandatory but be at the discretion of the local board.
We're also very concerned that in fact the issue of local autonomy is being usurped. Certainly, the concern has been expressed that in a time of financial constraint there have not been sufficient dollars set aside for junior kindergarten. However, the other issue is that there are certainly areas within this province which do not want junior kindergarten because their local communities don't want junior kindergarten. It's another example of a top-down mandate to local government in areas where they do not want this initiative. Even if the money was there, they don't want the initiative.
With the hard-to-serve students, we restate our position as stated previously in response to the minister's consultation document on the integration of exceptional students, and again we have concerns.
The hard-to-serve designation was placed in the Education Act for those rare situations where a school board could not provide a program to meet the educational needs of the individual child. In such cases the province assumes the total cost of the placement.
Designating a pupil as hard to serve requires a more complicated process than that required for the IPRC review. We support amendments to the Education Act which provide for the rationalization of this process so that hard-to-serve pupils are governed by the same provisions that apply to other exceptional pupils. The current IPRC process has worked very well in the identification of students with special needs and the development of programs which meet these needs.
The designation of a pupil as hard to serve has rarely been utilized by school boards, and this is due in part to the responsiveness of the boards in the provision and development of programs to meet the needs of all exceptional pupils. It is also due in part to the lack of clarification of the terms used to define special education pupils.
OPSBA cannot support the removal of those sections of the Education Act which deal with designating pupils as hard to serve without assurances -- and I mean strong assurances -- that adequately provide provincial resources for the development of programs to meet the educational needs of these students. If these needs cannot be met by the local board or purchased from another board, then the province must provide for the placement outside the province or adequate funding for school boards to develop the appropriate programs.
OPSBA therefore suggests that the removal of the hard-to-serve designation cannot be treated in isolation from the whole question of the adequacy of funding for special education students. The current level of provincial funding for special education programs is already inadequate to meet needs.
Based on these specific concerns over the hard-to-serve designation and more general concerns over the identification process in general, we recommend that the government undertake a review and clarification of the terminology used to designate special education pupils.
With reference to continuing education, this section of the bill proposes to remove the existing distinctions between the qualifications for admission to a continuing education course that is eligible for credit towards a secondary school diploma and the qualifications for admission to a day school course.
Our comments are that we support the amendment which makes admission requirements for regular day school and credit continuing education courses similar. Adults have the same right to education, but OPSBA would like to stress that schools must have some discretion in the appropriate placement of these adults, and again that's an issue of local autonomy.
We wish to express some concern with regard to access to programs in regular day school, and that has to do in many cases with the demographics of the area. The Ministry of Education and Training needs to examine the issue of adequate safeguards and refer concerns in this area to appropriate ministries for examination as required. I could give you an example of this: We understand that there is some concern being expressed that other areas will have the opportunity to give secondary school diplomas.
We do not support the amendment which provides boards with the authority to require a deposit for textbooks provided to pupils enrolled in continuing education credit courses. If adult education is to be recognized as a legitimate component of the education system, then adequate and equitable funding must be guaranteed by the provincial government to provide for textbooks for these programs. It seems somewhat ludicrous in fact to suggest that you support lifelong learning and then restrict the access if you can't purchase the books.
With reference to the notice of offences, we agree with this proposal but we would like to highlight a concern, and that concern has been raised around the school board liability in the event that the board has not been advised of the offence. We would like some answers in particular in this area.
Our comment: We believe that the role of the educational system in the provision of child care services again should be a matter of local board autonomy, not legislated by government. While OPSBA is pleased that boards are being given the option, there is concern too that the provision of child care services not become a financial responsibility of school boards. As an example, I will tell you now that across this province school boards currently fund $346.9 million worth of psychosocial support services. I suggest that's more than what Comsoc currently has and that we cannot assume more responsibilities.
We also have concern over the sick leave credits. It is our understanding that the bill proposes that intervening employment would no longer prevent the transfer of an employee's sick leave credit from one school board to another. OPSBA does not support the removal of intervening employment from the Education Act.
OPSBA cannot agree to revision which would extend provisions for occasional teachers that would otherwise be an issue between the parties under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. In the alternative, a provision which might remove intervening employment should exclude the transfer of sick leave from subsection 158(1), retirement gratuity plans. In some instances, people who have already left have received compensation, so in fact you would be giving them two.
Supervisory officers for school boards with 2,000 or less enrolment: This is of major concern to us as well. In 1990, the association expressed its concerns to the Ministry of Education on behalf of its northern Ontario members regarding the withdrawal in 1989 of Ministry of Education supervisory services for small northern school boards. Since then, many of these small boards have attempted to negotiate the sharing of supervisory services, but arrangements have not been developed due to financial restrictions and due to the distance between these boards. I think in fact that some members should be aware that in order to access some of these boards you have to take a canoe, an airplane or some other type of transportation. Roads do not exist.
The requirement for smaller boards to have a supervisory officer either on staff or as a shared position impacts all boards in an area. Agreements for the sharing of this position among school boards must also take into consideration the administrative implications, travel costs and sharing of personnel. In fact, it's cheaper to fly to England than it is to fly to Toronto from northern Ontario, and that's one example.
We would like to take this opportunity to note the special needs of the northern and isolate boards. They were being addressed in part through the northern education project, which in fact is completed, but the recommendations from this project have not been implemented. Most recently, one of the directors' positions for Umfreville District School Area Board that was part of a cooperative services unit among isolate boards was reduced to half-time. In the Umfreville model, small isolate boards are cooperating to provide a range of essential services which individually they could not afford, and we've given you a list. We strongly urge the government to assist small boards by providing funding and resource support to enable the successful development of a network of shared supervisory officer positions.
We've given you a list of the summary of recommendations and our conclusions. We would also like to add at this time, if you would like, a copy of the northern board report from OPSBA. We would be pleased to have it made available for you. This is of very serious concern to OPSBA for its northern boards. In fact, the recommendations that were put forward by the government are almost wholeheartedly supported by the northern and isolate boards. They are feeling somewhat isolated themselves from this government as far as the implementation of those recommendations is concerned.
I wonder if I could just take you to the question of child care services and boards, because that's not one that we've been able to discuss to any great extent. Could you tell us, as you are here representing the public school boards, in terms of what you know or are aware of, where does the government see school boards going in terms of the provision of child care? Do you see the change to the act in granting boards authority to run child care as simply one in which they're trying to meet a couple of disparate needs out in the community, or is this something where perhaps the boards are going to be asked to take over child care? Do you have any clearer sense? Have you been involved in the negotiations? We had the leaked cabinet document of a few months ago. Where is OPSBA in terms of the discussions around this and what's your understanding of where we're going?
Ms Cansfield: Certainly, from OPSBA's position, we're in the business of education and not in the business of child care. We see this as another downloading responsibility that's being asked for by the boards. Each board of course, locally, will take its own position as far as whether or not it would like to have this done is concerned.
But the dollars are not there. For a child, I think it's part of the seamless day philosophy and the best place for a child to be. When you get into philosophical arguments, I think there are some that are very valid, but you have to make some delineation between whose responsibility is what. There comes a point when enough is enough, and I believe this is another issue of downloading.
There are not sufficient dollars around to deal with the issue of child care in the local municipalities, so of course what better place than the structure they call a school, and here we go. What you'll do is, "Rather than give them the dollars to build the facility or to have an independent run it, let's just give them the responsibility and then let the local municipal people force the school boards into this situation."
I think you'll find school boards have learned a new word, and it's "No, thank you." We're in the business of education; we're not in the business of child care. We appreciate the need, we understand the need, we're prepared to work with you but will not assume that responsibility entirely.
In this case what we're afraid of is that a provincial mandate or initiative will somehow end up as a local issue, and as someone indicated earlier, the local trustee certainly is far more accessible than some other levels of government.
Ms Carter: We were just hearing previously that it wouldn't be fair to phase in junior kindergarten because some kids would get it and some wouldn't. Now you're saying that a local board should be able to decide whether it wants it, but wouldn't that lead to unfairness as between one area and another?
I know that in long-term care, for example, one thing we're trying to do is to make sure that the same basic services are available all across the province. Wouldn't you think that applies to education too?
I'll give you an example of York region. York region, as you know, is an extraordinary growth area. They have situations where they built a school, let's say in the last five or six years. They now have so many portables on site that under their municipal regulations they cannot put more portables. Even if they wanted to put junior kindergarten in the schools, they can't. They haven't got any room unless they build on to the school and they may not have the provisions to go beyond a height restriction. It's not as simple as you might think it is.
Those are the kinds of decisions, yes, of course, the boards would be looking at. At this time, when you've got some opportunity to work in a cooperative way with another level of government, one would assume that they would look -- and I say this respectfully -- and do their homework, at all the situations across the province and not simply stick the issue of money on us, because certainly money is one, accommodation is another, capital expenditures is another, and "We don't want it for my community" is quite another.
Mrs Cunningham: Thank you for an excellent brief. There will be some time, although rushed -- I'm told one afternoon -- for the amendments. You can imagine how difficult it will be. But there's some sense of urgency which I haven't quite figured out on behalf of the government with regard to this bill.
I'm wondering if you would help us just a little bit with regard to your position on section 35. Actually, I think you talk a little bit about it -- hard-to-serve pupils anyway. The minister has told us that one of the reasons for this section is that the private schools are looking for the work. The other reason for the section is that it's not being used anyway. I'm wondering, in your experience in talking to boards, what you think the reason is that the government would put this in this bill at this time, because quite frankly it's going to hold the whole legislation up as far as we're concerned.
Ms Cansfield: I'll give you a personal opinion on this. Thistletown centre is in Etobicoke. It serves a very restricted number of children who are designated in some instances hard-to-serve or severe behavioural management problems. That facility that serves very few children requires about $16 million worth of funding. I would suggest to you that by putting these children back into the local community, suddenly we have access to $16 million. As you know, there will be no funds that will flow with these children and so the school boards will pick up the tab and the government will access $16 million. That's one institution I can think of.
The concern we have is that we must all remember that we're in the business for the learner, for what's in the best interests of the learner, and we somehow keep forgetting that. With children who are designated hard to serve or with special behavioral management difficulties, it's absurd to consider putting them back into the classroom without the management strategy for them to deal with the classroom.
The world isn't made up of Suzy Sunshines any more. There are a lot of difficulties in the classroom. I just find it incredible that a child who has been designated with these difficulties would suddenly be put in a situation that would not give them the tools with which to cope, because certainly the classroom teacher cannot do it. They do not have either the tools or the time. You can't take a situation from almost a 2:1 ratio to a 30:1 and expect that these children will survive.
Ms Valerie Sterling: I apologize for two colleagues who were supposed to be here but meetings have prevented that. I'm Valerie Sterling. I'm a consultant with the North York Board of Education. I am here, though, this afternoon representing the Ontario Association for Child Care in Education.
This organization is a provincial organization that is committed to support child care in the education system. The members have responsibility for implementing child care policies of school boards. These responsibilities include community development, service development, program support, staff and board development, and coordination between child care, agencies and school programs.
We believe the provincial policy and funding initiatives related to child care in schools require examination and change. Our sharing of information emphasizes the fact that many boards face common problems in relation to support for child care in schools.
We were pleased to get your invitation to be here this afternoon to comment on the proposed amendments to the Education Act. We specifically are responding, though, to paragraph 49 under section 29 about day nurseries, which states that boards may "establish, operate and maintain day nurseries within the meaning of the Day Nurseries Act, subject to that act."
In recognition of the brief time permitted to obtain an Ontario-based response, we were able to receive comments from association members in 19 boards of education including urban, rural, public, separate and French boards. The general position of the members surveyed was a qualified yes to the proposed enabling legislation. The qualified component is based on the following issues, however, that need to be addressed.
The major one is funding. School boards must be guaranteed operational dollars to transfer responsibility, to establish, to operate, maintain child care centres; major and minor capital, that's involved; subsidies that would be needed.
In reference to subsidies, we have a question that we would like an answer to, if that's possible. If this legislation is passed, would school boards be able to receive approved corporation status to flow the assistance to high-risk/special-needs areas? An example would be the supporting secondary school students.
The consensus appears to be that no education dollars be used to support the establishment and maintenance of in-school child care facilities. We suggest that a system be put in place for all boards of education to receive grants to provide complete financial stability to child care centres in schools.
Space is another common concern. Many school boards are facing serious shortages of space. At the same time, there are over 1,100 child care programs located in schools, representing one third of the total licensed child care system in Ontario. Exclusive-use child care space in new school sites is permanently designated for that purpose. However, child care programs located in space that is required for educational programs have no permanence.
There is a need to establish a stability of tenure for these programs. Child care should be considered a legitimate use of school space and result in a modification to a school's rated capacity. Provincial capital funding should be provided to school boards to expand space where necessary to meet both classroom and child care needs.
There is a need to review the physical space and site regulations for school-age child care in order to minimize the differences in physical standards requirements between schools and child care programs.
Maintaining partnerships: There must be a stronger and clearer partnership between the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Parents must maintain their role as decision partners in the operation of child care facilities.
Beyond the qualified yes, some major potential advantages were recognized. We believe that this enabling legislation would promote and strengthen education-child care-community partnerships; encourage coordination of child care and school programs; enable more effective use of space and resources; provide consistencies of program and support the needs of children, especially those 3 to 6; remove a barrier to active participation on the part of school boards which wish to hold licences; and facilitate establishment of child care facilities where no outside agencies or operators are able to provide this service.
In conclusion, the Ontario Association for Child Care in Education members believe that for the boards of education which may wish to hold child care licences, the long-term benefits would outweigh the short-term obstacles and necessary adjustments. The positive aspects of child care programs should be merged with the positive qualities of school programs to ensure that children receive continuous, consistent and high-quality programming. School boards, however, cannot currently accept any additional responsibility without the necessary supports.
Mrs O'Neill: This is an excellent brief because it gets right to the point. I'd like to ask you if you have any idea how many boards are seeking licences or would be amenable. I do know of some myself. Would you have an update on those figures?
Ms Sterling: We were basically given a day or two to arrive at this type of conclusion. Out of the 19 boards, the definite answers that we received with no qualification were four. The others were a qualified yes, and in fact it was interesting that out of those, only two currently do not have child care policies in place.
Mrs O'Neill: I'd like to place, if I may, the question that Ms Sterling brought. If I may ask the parliamentary assistant to answer the question that's placed in this brief, because I think it's a very important one, certainly one that's of great importance in my community: Would the boards of education be able to receive approved corporation status to flow fee assistance to high-risk/special-needs areas?
The example given was the one I brought to the House the other day to support sites and secondary schools for young mothers and/or fathers trying to gain an education and, at the same time, look after their children responsibly. Can you give us an answer to that at this moment, Mr Martin?
Ms Sterling: The other question that would come to mind: If that is a yes, a positive answer, under the current situation, there's 20% that the approved corporation or the municipality in our Metro area contributes to that subsidy system, and where would the 20%, if that same procedure were in place, come from?
Mrs Cunningham: And without the approved corporation status, does this then mean that these young people attending the child care programs in schools that are operated by school boards for lack of a parent group to do so or a non-profit group to do so would not be eligible for subsidy without the approved corporation status? Is that how it works?
Ms Sterling: At the moment they are assessed individually according to their particular situation. In fact, the subsidy is tied to the individual and the individual takes that subsidy contract to whatever centre he or she wishes to apply it. Whether that would change or not, the whole issue of the parental fee, whether that would still be in fact in place, who would collect it, how would that apply, there are many, many questions, but unfortunately given the time -- we recognized your time -- we did not want to get into many of the details. We were really referring specifically to that enabling legislation line. I must state that it's not saying a qualified yes without concerns.
Mrs Cunningham: No. I just want to make a comment in response. I'm certainly pleased to see you here today with your expertise. My great concern is that it's a good idea, and certainly one wants to use the space that's been provided, but I'm sure you've already figured out that you've had little or no time to even get your questions on paper. Secondly, I can assure you this government hasn't thought this one through, but that's not unusual.
Ms Janet Davis: My name is Janet Davis. I'm a child care program adviser at the Toronto Board of Education. I'd like to pass on regrets from trustee John Doherty, who chairs the child care reference council at the Toronto board. At the last minute he was unable to attend.
The Toronto Board of Education has supported child care in its schools for a very long time. We have, through a variety of policy initiatives, encouraged the development of child care in schools so that now we have close to 100 child care centres located in about 77 schools. We have a range of services from infant-toddler child care to school-aged child care, half-day nursery programs, programs specifically for adult students with children, teen mothers.
The policy under which child care was initiated at the board was called the coordination of comprehensive care for children. That policy originally established the notion of a continuum of care and education in the child care setting. We have built on that policy foundation since 1981. Again in 1988, we reviewed our policy on child care and in fact strengthened our commitment to child care. Our child care centres occupy space in the Toronto board essentially free of charge. We have free occupancy costs: heat, light, maintenance, caretaking, plus a range of supports and services.
We have also developed a policy as a result of provincial initiatives, primarily in the most recent years: Early Years, and the Child Care Reform: Setting the Stage document that was released by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Generally, the Toronto Board of Education is committed to the establishment of a publicly funded child care system for all those who need and want it as a long-term goal. We also recognize that the jurisdiction, management, service delivery, funding and local governance of child care does need to be reviewed and reformed. We support, as a long-term goal, the establishment of a combined ministry responsible for education and child care that would provide programs for children from infancy to graduation. That is a long-range goal.
In the short run, however, the board has recognized the need for some interim measures to ensure the continued operation of child care in schools and to strengthen our support for those programs. We have supported boards being child care licence holders. We support strengthened collaboration between MCSS and the Ministry of Education and Training. We think there need to be legislation, policy and funding changes to provide capital funding for new and renovated facilities, permanent, secure space for child care, operational funds to support programs and to provide support for more collaborative and integrated approaches for early childhood education and for other school and child care programs. We believe there does need to be a reform of the funding mechanisms to ensure stable base funding of programs and to enhance the quality of programs, and we also believe there needs to be enhanced access and affordability for families.
We are anticipating the outcome of the Early Years and the Child Care Reform consultation and look forward to reviewing our child care policies as a result of your policy initiatives. We have established a committee called the seamless day committee, which has put together a proposal and submitted a proposal to the health innovation fund. It wasn't funded. However, we are looking at a very innovative, integrated model of child care in education and we're hoping to pursue developing that model further.
We've also established in Metro Toronto at the Metro board a new committee on child care in education specifically to look at child care issues. The Metro children's services division is implementing policy that has impact on school boards and child care in school boards and so we believe there's a need to have a voice at the Metro level with respect to child care in schools, particularly around renovations, and also the Metro policy to move towards phasing out school-aged child care and transferring responsibility to school boards. Metro children's services has not moved to implement those recommendations but they are indeed still the policy of Metro Toronto.
In general, the Toronto board supports the proposed policy directions that are contained in Child Care Reform, but we are unclear about the scope and the speed of reform and particularly what role boards of education will have in child care in the future.
We were somewhat surprised to see Bill 4 with the licence-holding provision isolated from the entire policy initiatives; however, we still support the enabling legislation. We believe school boards should be allowed, however -- not mandated -- to undertake a new role in the provision of child care services, but it should be part of a broader, holistic, rational policy process.
The Toronto board, as all other boards in Metro, is concerned about the potential offloading of child care services on to the local tax base and we hope that the policy changes to allow school boards to operate child care will not result in any transferring of the funding responsibilities for child care to the local level.
We have not as a board developed a policy with specific recommendations to government about the actual intricacies of licence holding; however, we have had preliminary discussions. We conducted a survey in the winter of 1988 in which we surveyed all the child care centres located in the board and asked about a number of long-term options, licence holding being one of them. So we have had some discussions. Outlined here are a number of issues that we've identified, both positive and negative, that we perceive with respect to licence holding for boards of education.
Clearly, we see the ability of our board to operate child care centres in areas where we have difficulty in sustaining; a day nursery corporation would be a tremendous benefit. We have had to move into situations, provide financial support, administrative support, professional support, such as accounting services and legal services, in order to resolve what have been tremendously difficult management problems. So in those communities where we see it's difficult to sustain a non-profit corporation, we probably would like to have the ability to operate a child care.
We see it as a benefit to us to enable us to have a greater control in implementing the philosophy and curriculum policies of the early childhood education department. We definitely want to look at some new, innovative models of delivering child care and education, particularly in kindergarten programs and also looking at lunch and after-school programs. We do want to look at new staffing models and team approaches that combine child care staff, early childhood educators, teachers and other staff who are currently employees of the board of education. We believe we can strengthen home-school communication and enhance early identification of exceptionalities. There may be greater possibilities for sharing space and facilities to solve our current space problems. I think we would like to enhance our role in the planning of child care and other children's services and believe that being an active deliverer of child care services will do that.
However, we do have concerns, and they have been expressed by the prior deputant. We are, and the politicians in particular are -- we all are -- concerned about the possible additional burden on the local property tax base.
The cost implications of pay equity: We know that the cost of child care is primarily staffing costs, 85%, and if the funding of pay equity is not entirely provincially funded, we probably will see increases in both parent fees and costs to the operators.
We are concerned that our role could be restricted by the current municipal role. Their funding priorities, their ability to exercise discretion in determining eligibility, their application of fee policies and so on, could -- and will, and does -- impact on the centres currently in our schools. If we were to operate child care, we would want to look at a new relationship directly with the province that may allow us to bypass the municipal role.
There is some concern. Principals currently are on the boards of directors of all of our child care centres, and there is a concern expressed that principals will be incurring greater liability as administrators if they have responsibilities for child care as well.
But we do believe that these are not insurmountable difficulties, and I think the province of Ontario could certainly provide the kinds of supports and incentives to encourage school boards to move into the operating of child care centres.
We believe there should be policy and incentive funding to school boards. There must definitely be stable operational funding that reflects the actual cost of care, including pay equity costs. We would need capital funding for renovations and rebuilding. Currently the Toronto Board of Education cannot access capital funds from either the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Community and Social Services for any renovations that cost more than $55,000, and many of them cost more than $55,000. So the current inequity in capital funding means that the Toronto Board of Education really is left out in the cold in terms of child care capital costs.
We would also, I think, like to look at the issue of boards being approved corporations and the possibility of establishing a new funding mechanism, preferably a 100% funding mechanism with 100% provincial dollars. We would look at wanting some flexibility in terms of the enforcement of regulations and we would be very excited to look at establishing pilot projects for integrated service delivery.
We would like to encourage the province of Ontario to move ahead with reform of child care policy and policy with respect to early childhood education, and we do believe that school boards will play an important role in the delivery of child care in the future.
Mr Beer: Thank you very much for the document and for a lot of very specific thoughts and ideas around school boards and child care, because it really isn't something where we've had a broad public discussion and debate. I guess one of the concerns that some have expressed, and you speak to that as well, is, what does this one simple amendment in Bill 4 mean or foresee in terms of other or broader responsibilities for the education system with respect to child care?
One of the things I just wanted to ask you about is, in terms of the Toronto board, you're saying that you'd like the provincial government, and I'm quoting, "to move ahead with policy initiatives in this area." It's my understanding that the interministerial committee on children's services that is headed by Carola Lane, the assistant deputy minister of education -- that there was a secretariat that was supporting that body and that in fact that secretariat has been closed down.
It would seem to me, therefore, there is no specific place within the government that in fact is doing the kind of work that you're speaking to. Where do you see the locus for developing these policy considerations around child care? Where is that happening? Who is it that boards talk to about what Comsoc is doing, what Education is doing? I think there are four or five ministries that are involved with the interministerial committee, but it seems to me that in order to answer the questions you have here and others, there really is a need for some locus there, and I don't see that anywhere, with this secretariat being disbanded.
Ms Davis: No. We get most of our information about child care policy through a number of committees locally, actually. There is the Metro child care and education committee. We have a regular meeting of employees who work at boards of education who have responsibility for child care. We meet regularly with representatives from MCSS, the Ministry of Education and Metro quarterly, so we do get updated. We have participated in consultations that are consultations available to everyone, but there is not specifically any forum to deal with child care and education issues, no.
Mr Beer: In terms of some of the options that were put forward around how child care might be dealt with, they talked about giving it to the Ministry of Education and leaving it with Comsoc. There was also a proposal, and I can't remember the exact title but which would have essentially established another body to deal with early childhood education. I realize you haven't seen that, but you make some proposals here for developing a policy, and I just wondered, from the Toronto board's perspective, if you could, where do you want that to happen? How do you see that happening in terms of ensuring that all of the different interests are brought to bear? The point of my question is that there seems to be a policy vacuum in terms of who is leading the broader public discussions.
Ms Davis: It's my understanding, though, that there's ongoing collaboration between the education outreach branch of the Ministry of Education and Training and the child care branch of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. They are working jointly to develop this policy. How interministerial this work is, I don't know.
We did discuss, when we were developing our response to the child care reform paper, how broadly we thought the interministerial collaboration should be, should we have a ministry of the child which took into consideration health, recreation, all of the other ministries that had responsibility for children, and after great debate decided that in fact we wouldn't support that model, that it would probably be impossible to establish, for one thing, but secondly, we saw there was a need to simply take child care out of the social service context and put it into education and to call it a ministry of child care and education to recognize the equal partnership of those particular programs.
Mrs Cunningham: Thank you for certainly a well-thought-out brief. I like the way that you've talked about the potential benefits and the positive-negative views, and you've raised a lot of questions that a lot of us have been struggling with for a long time.
I was originally going to ask you yourself, what would you recommend to a parent of a three-year-old? Would you recommend that they go to a child care program operated by the Toronto board or a preschool program operated by the Toronto board?
Ms Davis: If we were to operate programs, we would be looking to implement high-quality early childhood education in a way that was beneficial to children. That means establishing programs that offer a range of child-centred activities, age- appropriate activities, that are put together in a way that serves the needs of children who are needing care and education from early morning to the end of the day.
We believe that good-quality early childhood education in either setting is possible and we want to look at ways that we can combine those, but not in every school. I'm not suggesting that the board would be prepared to enter into, in the short run certainly, a total seamless day model. I think that what we would want to do is initially undertake some pilot projects in those schools that are wanting to look at an innovative model. I think we would probably look at operating programs in communities that are having difficulty running child care and those for student parents, but they would definitely be selective and we would want to be assured that the concerns we've raised here were addressed, particularly around funding.
Mrs Cunningham: I think the reason for the legislation is that some school boards have empty spaces that were meant for child care programs but they can't get the parent boards to get them going. Is that true anywhere in Toronto?
Ms Davis: At this point we are not establishing parent boards to the degree we were because our schools are all full. The demand for child care, though, continues. We have, as I said, close to 100 centres, many of them still wanting to expand. We could probably double the amount of child care in schools if we had space.
Mrs Cunningham: I just wanted to hear from you with regard to the reasoning. I think I'm right in that regard. It's really an operational need at this point in time, but it doesn't answer any of the questions that you've asked.
Ms Carter: I think this is more comment than question. I'd just like to commend you for your brief. It seems to me there are a lot of very progressive ideas there and it's fairly plain that the problem is funding. I see where you've listed the things that the province of Ontario could do. You've got six points and four of them are just straight money. As you know, that is our problem as well as everybody else's at the moment. The money just isn't there and we are having to cut back.
However, I think I would agree probably with you and others that expenditure that is going to children and helping them to grow up in as fulfilling a way as possible is money that is very worthwhile and is going to probably save expenditures down the road when things go wrong that probably would cost society more.
Ms Davis: We had originally conceived that there was a need for joint planning among services and agencies both at the local level and at the provincial level to ensure a rational approach to government policy on child care. There currently, certainly at the local level, is a range of providers of a range of services. What we envisioned with the children's directorate was a central agency within government that would facilitate the overall policy direction of government in terms of children as a transitional structure until child care was established as part of education.
I wonder if I could make a comment about funding. I don't want it to be perceived that we see additional funding as absolutely necessary to enable us to operate child care. That's not the case. Currently, most of our programs are funded through subsidies and fees and many of them are quite stable. Those programs would continue to have the same level of funding that they're currently receiving. So were we not to have any reformed mechanism such as base funding or something similar to an approved corporation status where we were operationally funded, it still would not inhibit our ability to operate a child care centre.
I do believe that many of our centres are funded in a way that makes them financially viable. The majority of our centres are financially viable operations currently. What could potentially make them not financially viable is the cost of care if pay equity were to apply and no provincial dollars were available to implement pay equity. It's the possible escalation of the costs as a result of pay equity and potentially the administration costs that would be borne no longer by volunteer boards of directors but by paid staff of the board of education. So some of the education administration costs could escalate as well.
Mr Dave Mason: Thank you for inviting us. My name is Dave Mason. I'm a professor at York University in the teacher training program. That program was established three years ago, and I joined in 1991.
I want to briefly explain the interpreting process. The interpreters are here to receive my American sign language, and then they will translate that into spoken English. Then if anyone speaks to us, they will translate that into ASL. Okay? I just wanted to clarify the process.
The reason we have come today is that we hope that the government of Ontario will pass Bill 4 in order to authorize the use of ASL, American sign language, as the language of instruction. That is our goal. That authorization is important because it means a recognition that is necessary for many thousands of deaf people, not only in Ontario but in North America as well. So we see this as a very important issue for us.
I should probably begin by defining ASL. American sign language is the language of the deaf. You may have seen deaf people on the street, at various events, using sign language, and that is ASL. There is no doubt that that is the language they are using. If you go to Quebec, you may see a similar thing happening. You will see a group of deaf individuals signing and the language that they are using is LSQ or the language of Quebec, langue des signes québécois.
If you visit another country in the world, you will see another language. For example, in Britain they have their own sign language. Venezuela has its own sign language. So sign languages exist all over the world.
Our sign language is not universal, but one thing that is common among all of the sign languages in the world is that they are distinct languages, distinct from the languages that are spoken in those countries.
ASL is not a language that follows English. It is a distinct language, and if I could show you one simple example, I could sign like this: "Do you want to have some water?" In ASL, "Do you want some water?" The language is incorporating the facial expression. What you see on my face is grammatical in content, it indicates a question, and you can see that it is very effective, as opposed to an attempt to sign something in English. There is a lot of time wasted and difficulties in producing something in English versus producing something in ASL.
You may also be wondering about deaf adults, whether they use English. Yes, we do use English. I read and write. I am a bilingual person. My languages are ASL and English. My speech is horrendous. The English that I use is printed English. With my two languages I am able to interact with people.
I'd like to explain a little bit about the history of sign language. I think that would help to clarify some issues. In 1880 there was a conference in Milan, Italy. Numerous educators from around the world attended. As a result of their discussions, they voted and passed that sign languages, ASL or whatever country, would not be permitted, that within the educational system the only method for education would be oral. That had worldwide impact.
After 1880 we saw many deaf individuals lose their jobs because they were unable to teach using the oral method. This trend continued for many, many years and then in the 1960s an individual by the name of Stokoe began research on American sign language and that research verified that ASL is in fact the true language of the deaf, that it is a distinct language. That was a very important point in our history and has had an incredible impact on the lives of deaf people. Until that time, deaf people felt inferior and embarrassed about their language. They were oppressed. They equated their intelligence with the English language. They experienced an incredible amount of oppression.
So we saw the research happening in 1960 and then in the 1970s and 1980s we saw further changes. Individuals were encouraging the use of sign systems in education. But there is no proof behind that. What we're starting to see is some research that indicates that bilingual education, ASL and English, is critical. My thesis was on bilingualism. I studied individuals who had experienced bilingualism.
I'd also like to share with you that all deaf adults whom you see have experienced oral education, at least for the first few years, if not for many years. However, upon completion of education, you are seeing deaf adults using their language. They do not continue to use their speech throughout their life. Some individuals are able to use some residual hearing, and that's fine, but traditionally the oral method has been forced on deaf individuals. ASL has been kept out of the classrooms.
As a result of this educational system that's existed for many years, we haven't seen deaf adults succeed. What we need is the authority, the recognition to permit ASL in the school system, and that authorization has to exist from preschool onward. As you see, as I'm presenting to you, I have interpreters and I'm able to use ASL, but the ability to use ASL, the language of the deaf, should be a right for all deaf individuals. They should be able to have the freedom to communicate.
I have to warn you there's a lot of resistance to this idea, to using ASL. That resistance does not come from deaf people but from hearing professionals, and it has typically been hearing professionals who have that resistance. I'm not sure entirely why. You perhaps have received some negative comments, but I can assure you those negative comments would not be from deaf individuals. The resistance could be for a number of reasons. I personally feel it may be a power issue.
My personal professional opinion is that it's necessary to have two languages that are on a par with each other. There has to be equality between the two languages and not one be superior or inferior to the other, and that's critical for deaf individuals, to be able to learn ASL and consequently to be able to learn English, and to learn that English in a much easier fashion than they've traditionally experienced.
A lot of parents have avoided this, avoided ASL, and I believe that this is a fear of the unknown. They really don't have knowledge: knowledge that they need to have. They need to learn ASL and to be able to communicate in order that deaf individuals or their children can become bilingual.
If this legislation is passed, I foresee a much brighter future. I also want to tell you that many deaf adults are very angry, because many opportunities have been closed to them. I believe, with the recognition of ASL that this legislation would achieve, there would in fact be a brighter future, that those doors would open, and do hope that you will support this bill.
Mr Prong: Good afternoon. My name is Donald Prong and I'm working as a vocational rehabilitation services counsellor in the Toronto region. I've been deaf since birth and I've gone through a lot of different systems in the education system. I went to different schools, and as I've gone through the school system over the years, the philosophy has changed dramatically.
When I was five and I first entered the school for the deaf in Milton I was forced to learn to use residual hearing and to lip-read what my teachers were saying. Often in that situation I wondered what was going on and I felt that the learning process for me was very slowed down or delayed. People often said to me I had wonderful speech and I was quite successful in that, and later I went out into the real world and I would talk to people, for example, cashiers, and they would never understand what I was saying to them. In terms of my self-esteem and my pride, that was quite damaging, and it really hurt the confidence that I had in living in the world.
Later on my school system changed and they used finger spelling, and if you can imagine sitting in class watching somebody finger-spell each word they say in an area that's about this big, all day long, for six, seven or eight hours, children would fall asleep, and it certainly wasn't a good system that worked for us.
Later on the school system changed again and we had signed English. Signed English was something that most of us didn't understand at all and we spent most of our time ignoring what the teacher was saying. We were trying to learn English through an English sign system. We tried, but it was quite difficult for us. I relied on my siblings, who taught me with American sign language, my first language, how to read and write in English. It was by using ASL that I developed my literacy skills.
I went to Gallaudet University after high school, and I was accepted after just barely passing the entrance exam for English. At Gallaudet University they use American sign language. They use pure ASL when they are teaching. I learned so much from that experience. That was a wonderful time for me, and my literacy skills in English improved dramatically.
Eventually I graduated with a BA in social work and right now, as I said, I'm working as a VRS counsellor. I'm close to a lot of high school graduates now who come to me, and I've noticed there are two groups: the mainstream students and the ones who have gone through schools for the deaf. I've seen that many students have gone through this whole argument about which school system is better, the schools for the deaf or the mainstream setting. I think the results of that are really the same.
If we look at how those students do and how they accomplish things, I would like to suggest that there is a lack of a development of their first language and a lack of other skills that they need; also a lack of their English skills, even if it's an oral program that focuses on English. If we look at the schools for the deaf, people sign, but they still use total communication philosophy or a signed English system, and these things don't really benefit the children.
I remember trying to use total communication, and for myself, as a deaf adult, it was very difficult. I had a really horrendous experience in a math class years ago in high school. The teacher was giving me a large math problem that they had explained on the board and they wanted me to come up with the solution. They were using total communication. I tried to sign the answers to the teacher and the teacher said, "You're wrong, that's absolutely wrong." I felt really frustrated. I tried working on the problem again, I gave the answer and the teacher again corrected me and said that was wrong and not the answer. So I went back and worked on the numbers, and the fourth time I stared to realize that my first answer had been correct except that I didn't use my voice when I was signing and the teacher didn't understand me. If I had done that the teacher would have said, "Your answer is correct," but because I didn't use my voice -- I didn't trust my voice, I just signed -- they wouldn't accept my answer. That really damaged my self-esteem.
I think if they would have used American sign language with me, that would have been much more beneficial and those things wouldn't have happened to me and to other children. I think the school system has to start respecting and recognizing that it's important for deaf children to do that. Some kids are comfortable speaking in English or in French or whatever, and that's fine, but I think we should also look at kids who aren't comfortable using a spoken language who want to use American sign language and allow that. I would like to say I'm not the only person who feels that. Many deaf adults like myself agree with that philosophy, and I'm hoping that Bill 4 will pass and that you will change the education system for the children going through it right now. I hope that you agree with that.
As I said, I went to Gallaudet University for several years and I met a lot of the students who have come from what I call deaf families or from other schools, for example the Indiana state school for the deaf. That school was a wonderful opportunity for those children. There were a lot of role models for them and the reason for that is because more than 50% of their educators were deaf. The result of that was that students who graduated had wonderful English skills, wonderful literacy skills, and their education was incomparable to other students'. They were certainly on par with hearing children. They did wonderfully at Gallaudet, and I was really impressed with them.
I noticed that even in Ontario children from provincial schools or in mainstream settings, if they have deaf role models, for example deaf parents, they tend to have more ability in the education setting, especially in written and printed English. I think the reason for that is because they have developed a first language, American sign language, that they can draw upon when learning a second language. Also, they've had a chance to look at role models, deaf adults, in the school setting.
Mr Beer: I'll be very short, but I have not so much a question but a comment. I want to appreciate your presentation. I think over the course of the last couple of years we've heard in a number of settings the arguments around ASL. I can recall in the Legislature, when the original private member's bill came forward -- and just to say that we support the provision in Bill 4.
I think you recognized that Bill 4 is what is called an omnibus bill. There are other provisions having absolutely nothing to do with American sign language with which we and the third party have very strong reservations. We don't have any problem with the provision around American sign language. We would like to indicate that support, although we are not able to support the bill.
Quite frankly, we wish that a number of the elements of Bill 4 would be taken apart so that we could deal with the more controversial issues. But I just want to make very clear that we do support the direction in which the education system is moving with respect to ASL and that ASL should be a language of instruction. That will obviously be something that will be very helpful to the students in Ontario.
Mr Hope: All that I'd like to say is that I'd like to thank you both for taking the opportunity of coming today and making the presentation. I notice you used the word "literacy," which is very important on a number of fronts. I would just compliment you for your presentation. I'm sure we can move very quickly on this legislation and get it in place as soon as possible.
Mr Jim Wilson: I wanted to also thank you for your presentation and really reiterate what Mr Beer has already said, that it is unfortunate that the ASL provision is contained in this omnibus bill, because there are many other provisions that the Ontario PC Party is having difficulty with. However, I assure you of our support for ASL.
Perhaps as a result of your presentation and of the hearings to date, we can make some accommodation with the government to make sure that the particular provisions in the bill that you speak of and that we're supportive of indeed become the law of the land. So we will work on your behalf to do that.
Mrs O'Neill: Mr Chairman, in conjunction with that presentation, has the parliamentary assistant been able to get me the information I requested regarding clarification of this section of Bill 4, particularly the section regarding "where numbers warrant" and the possibility for choice?
Clerk pro tem (Ms Donna Pajeska): Earlier today, after the first witness, the committee discussed whether or not it would hold another day for hearings. It was agreed that next Monday, June 21, hearings be conducted and then resume clause-by-clause on June 22.
Mr Hope: Then I guess it was pertaining to the three House leaders who had agreed to this process. By my understanding, there's really no agreement. The Conservative Party, in talking to -- I guess Dianne's the critic. She says she would take longer than one day to be able to deal with the amendments. I believe we would then revert back to the original proposal, which would be to deal with clause-by-clause on Monday and clause-by-clause on Tuesday.
Mr Jim Wilson: Well, he singled out the Conservative Party as somehow holding this up, but I think the committee has an agreement. I appreciate your clarification on it. I thought there was agreement to proceed with hearings on Monday.
Mr Hope: I was speaking on behalf of this side. I had not agreed to it until I checked in, because right after that I got up and went to check with the House leaders on direction and what was agreed upon. Unless all three parties had agreed to -- presentations on Monday and finish clause-by-clause on Tuesday, is my understanding, and that, I guess, has not been put forward as an agreement.
Mr Beer: Mr Chair, my understanding in checking after discussion was that there was no specific agreement around when it would end. Because there would not be hearings this evening, we would hear from deputations on Monday; begin our clause-by-clause on Tuesday. We're probably going to be here on the 28th and the 29th, and clause-by-clause would continue, but there was no understanding that I'm aware of at the House leaders' meeting that it would end on Tuesday.
Mr Hope: There was opportunity during that debate around the agenda that was presented before to try to have evening sittings, and then the evening sittings fell through; then, to deal with Monday as a day of additional presentations and then clause-by-clause on Tuesday, and that's the time frame that I've been dealing with with the original motion as presented on those days.
Mr Beer: I just think we have to note that there is not agreement to what you suggest. What I understand, and I think what you're going to have to do, Mr Chairman, is get direction from the House leaders, have the subcommittee meet, but that we were directed to conduct hearings on Monday and begin clause-by-clause on Tuesday.
Mrs O'Neill: Mr Chairman, I think we're going to have to have it very clear, and I think at this point because this is so important, we're going to have to have in writing from the government the time line that is imposed on us. We lost a vote, we know that, and we don't have any indication of any flexibility now, even though there are people telling us they have one to two days to prepare a brief and all kinds of people wanting to come. We're being told, "No, you have this time and that's it, and use it the way you want, so if you have more hearings, we can only have one day for amendments," which is two hours on an omnibus bill which has to be precedent-setting if Mr Charlton wants to talk about precedents.
Mr Hope: Well, I think it's got to go back to the original proposals. I am currently dealing with the structure and the proposed agenda that has been approved by this committee and adopted which says Monday and Tuesday of next week, and that's it. Now we're saying that they want to look at extra. I'm not the House leader of the government and I don't know if the House is going to be sitting beyond its legislative schedule, so that power is outside of my jurisdiction and outside the jurisdiction of the subcommittee. So therefore, I believe that it ought to be referred back to the House leaders and the House leaders decide on the exact direction they want to give. It's not the direction of this committee; the committee has already agreed to an agenda and dates set out. If they want to change those dates, that has to be brought forward to the House leaders of all three official parties.
Mr Hope: We're also under a direction of a set motion that's already been adopted and times and dates that have already been agreed to by this committee. There has already been a motion put forward and we've agreed to those dates, which means that it doesn't go beyond Tuesday of next week; that was agreed upon.
Mr Beer: With respect, Mr Chair, we did not agree to those dates; they were imposed upon us. What we have agreed to is that we would continue. The House leaders have directed that we have hearings on Monday. By all means go back to the House leaders. I think I have to indicate very clearly that there is no agreement on this side that clause-by-clause could be completed on Tuesday. The government has options at its disposal and presumably will make use of them.
Mr Beer: Look, that's just silly. You, your party has made sure that there can't be proper hearings on Bill 4. You know that there are three House leaders, none of whom is here. You have, because you have the majority, the option to ensure that there is no further debate. Save your snide, smart remarks. We don't need them in here. Do I make myself clear?
Now, the proposed schedule is clause-by-clause on Tuesday, and the request is a request for additional time for clause-by-clause, an additional date. Because the House will quite probably be sitting -- I guess that will be decided tonight, will it, whether we sit next week or not?
Mr Hope: But I wasn't trying to be smart about it, because I went to Mr Beer and I went to Mrs Cunningham and I proposed what was there. I wasn't trying to be smart. All I was trying to do was get clarification.