TORONTO, March 26, 2018 /CNW/ - The Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA) considers the 2018-2019 Grants for Student Needs (GSN) announcement a positive step by the provincial government to ensure a strong and stable publicly funded education system accessible to all students.
"OPSBA welcomes today's funding announcement which includes a year-over-year increase of $625 million and much-needed investments in special education, mental health, transportation and an increase in Guidance Counsellors in our schools," said OPSBA President Laurie French. "Every January, OPSBA submits a brief during the GSN process to the Ministry of Education and the pre-budget consultations outlining funding pressures facing school boards and provided a number of recommendations. The GSN announcement reflected that critical input and ongoing advocacy from OPSBA and trustees in a number of key areas."
Boards have been requesting more resources given the increase in the amount of students with special education needs. School boards welcome the $300 million investment over three years to Special Education part of which will go toward the hiring of a total of 600 additional special education staff across the province. It also is intended to address assessment wait list backlogs and eventually eliminate wait lists all together.
Expanding resources for student mental health is crucial to ensuring that students get the support they need for better health and academic outcomes. OPSBA welcomed the recent system-wide investment by the province in mental health and addiction supports including $175 million over 5 years to support hiring 180 mental health workers for schools and additional ongoing funding up to $18 million. The Ministry's commitment to provide 400 new mental health workers in secondary schools, embed curriculum changes to support K-12 social emotional learning and enhance training on mental health literacy is much needed for our students.
This has been an ongoing issue for many students, parents and school boards across Ontario. Today's $34 million injection of funding will help to reduce cost pressures caused by minimum wage increases and school bus driver shortages and ensure students get to school and back home safely on time. OPSBA has surveyed its members and will be providing a submission to the government's Discussion Paper: A new vision for Student Transportation.
Rural and Northern Education
OPSBA has been advocating for and is pleased by the Ministry's decision to extend its commitment for additional funding previously announced in 2017 to strengthen rural and northern education in the GSN. This will result in stable funding and support for the well-being and success of our Indigenous and rural and northern students.
Students will greatly benefit from the committed $120 million over three years to hire more guidance teachers to support strong pathways and planning in grade 7 and 8 as students transition from elementary to secondary.
Learning Opportunities Grant
OPSBA has been advocating for the use of up-to-date Census data and is pleased by the Ministry's plan to conduct an external review of the demographic portion of the Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG). The census data used to generate LOG is significantly outdated. Funding calculations for this grant are based on that data which does not provide a true reflection of the current local demographics that drive board decision-making.
For some time, OPSBA has been pursuing changes to trustee honoraria to reflect the real and incredible work done by trustees across the province. The modest $400 increase to the base salary and the establishment of a work group to review trustee honoraria announced today is an important first step and illustrates the government's support of the important role of school boards and democratically elected school board trustees.
OPSBA will continue to review and analyze the details of today's GSN announcement, including Education Program Other (EPO) funding, the B-Memos and the overall progress of the implementation of today's funding announcements.
Education system funding is a foundational factor in setting the conditions that promote and sustain student achievement and well-being. With a provincial election on the horizon, OPSBA remains committed to working with the Ontario government and our provincial education partners to ensure that our publicly-funded education system remains strong, stable, properly funded and equitable.
SOURCE Ontario Public School Boards' Association
For further information: May Moore, Director of Communication, Ontario Public School Boards' Association, (416) 340-2540, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.opsba.org