Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hudak's FDK change of mind

Though I have a number of tabs open to blog about on the desktop, I'm hunkered down avoiding highway driving in torrential rain as this came across Twitter tonight. The Star's Queen's Park columnist Martin Regg Cohn posted this Wednesday evening with the details on Tim Hudak's change of heart on full-day kindergarten.
But Hudak had reflexively opposed full-day K when Premier Dalton McGuinty acted on the recommendation of his early-learning adviser, Charles Pascal.
“When your credit card is maxed out, when you have no money in your bank account, Ontario families don’t go out and buy a shiny new car,” Hudak said last year. Full-day K “is just not affordable at this point in time.”
He refused to commit to any future rollout. It wasn’t just a matter of money — $1.4 billion a year by 2014 — but ideology and politics. Instead, Hudak held out a classic Tory alternative: putting cash in parents’ hands.
A PC survey asked voters about scrapping full-day K to “provide parents with direct financial support to allow them to choose the child-care option that works best for them.”
The answer came back that Ontarians actually liked full-day K. That’s also what MPPs were hearing from parents and school trustees in their ridings. With growing pushback from caucus, Hudak gave Witmer a hearing — but still didn’t heed his education critic.
That changed when the party did its own intensive polling. Witmer, who wears her social conscience on her sleeve, acknowledged privately to her education contacts that Tory focus groups showed overwhelming support.
This comes as no surprise to me.
Meeting with Dr. Charles Pascal during my foray at Massey College, he was steadfast to what he's said about full-day kindergarten since day one. It's a program parents love and want. No party would dare touch it in the upcoming election— and this was mere weeks after Hudak came out with his quip on the first day of school saying the government was implementing a "Cadillac" version of the program.
Cohn gives Hudak a "middling mark" on FDK. Interestingly though, it perhaps shows why Witmer came to Brant a few weeks ago to peddle the hydro message and didn't say a word about education.
Sadly for people like me, it also means the pending election will be bereft of any K-12 education debate.