Credits: Tony CaldwellOttawa Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO – Ontario Tories are considering major changes to the education system, including phasing out 10,000 non-teaching positions and delaying the expansion of full-day kindergarten until the provincial budget is balanced.
The proposals are in the latest policy white paper released by PC Leader Tim Hudak Thursday.
Paths to Prosperity: Preparing Students for the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century, also suggests that principals be given more control over class sizes, which should be allowed to rise "modestly."
"These are important decisions to make so we can invest in priorities, prepare our kids for the challenges of the future and make sure we balance the books in the province," said Hudak, whose parents and sister are educators. "We'll measure success by the quality of education and the good jobs our kids will get down the road."
The elimination of non-teaching positions, added during the Dalton McGuinty years as enrolment fell, and the class size increases were both recommended in economist Don Drummond's report as a way to save about $1.6 billion.
Changing the kindergarten staffing model would trim another $200 million, the white paper suggests.
Some savings would help children with learning disabilities who are falling behind in reading, writing and math, while the remainder would be put toward eliminating the provincial deficit, the report says.
"We believe that the purpose of our school system isn't to provide day care or create jobs, it is to educate children," the white paper says.
The Tories would not cancel full-day kindergarten but would delay the planned roll out of the final two years until the books are back in black.
The two frontrunners in the leadership race to replace McGuinty rejected the PC policy ideas.
"As minister of education, I proudly worked with Dalton McGuinty to implement FDK (full-day kindergarten) and help make Ontario schools the best in the world," Kathleen Wynne said in a statement. "Full-day kindergarten is essential to helping our children get the best start."
Sandra Pupatello called the white paper a "reckless attack" on teachers and FDK.
"Hudak was part of the (Mike) Harris government that cut funding to public education and fired thousands of teachers. He wants to take us back there, and that's absolutely the wrong approach," Pupatello said, offering instead to extend an "olive branch" to teachers upset over Bill 115.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said the Conservatives support tax cuts for the rich over full-day kindergarten for kids.
As for the 10,000 positions to be phased out, Tabuns said this move would impact school counsellors, maintenance workers and other staff important to a good education.