Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thoughts on the PCPO white paper

The paper came out with some aplomb by the party as it rolls out various policy papers on different issues to build the foundation for any pending electoral campaign. You can read it for yourself here-- though I would recommend downloading the PDF and reading the whole paper as the online version only includes the "paths."
(As an aside, the bulk of this white paper was launched at the Ray Friel recreation centre in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, which happens to be the very first pool I worked at as a lifeguard/instructor.)
I'm struck by two main thoughts after reading through this white paper.
  • Does the party know what the current government is actually doing in education? The paper mentions changes and implementing policies that are already underway -- take community use of schools as an example. Would a PC government do much more than what is already in place? They commit to increasing after-hours use of school buildings yet those policies (and subsidies for non-profit groups) are already in place. Another example is what it says on the Specialist High Skills Major programs-- again, what would a PC government do that's different than what's already being done? There were a couple of other "paths" where I was also left wondering whether the party was admitting it would just continue current practices or setup something dramatically different than what has been developed over the last nine-plus years.
  • The money questions could kill any effectiveness in this platform. There are many mentioned in here-- from implementing full-day kindergarten (the party has flip-flopped on this program so many times I've lost count), to class-size averages and programs to the ubiquitous reduction of "non-teaching" staff. Some come right out of the Drummond Report, which made good points that should be addressed but also showed a bean-counter's approach. There needs to be more detail provided by all parties on whether there could be a determination of some standards in staffing levels / non-teaching support levels and then ensure those standards are implemented and staffing adjustments made relevant to declining population. The white paper suggests too many of the increases in spending were irrelevant to improving student experiences and outcomes, but neglects to take into account many of these investments were added after being cut or drastically reduced by previous governments.
Coverage of the launch focused on the "defining a teacher's job" section of the report, given the current state of extracurricular activities in public schools as a result of Bill 115. But like always, there's other substance to this policy paper. From school organization to new standardized tests (Grade 8 science) and new school construction there's enough to chew on here.
I'm curious to see what the other platforms would look like heading into any pending election. As a casual observer of such things, I'd say this is the strongest policy document on K-12 I've seen from the PC Party of Ontario in some time. With former minister Kathleen Wynne set to be sworn in on Feb. 11, I'll be equally curious to see whether any eventual Ontario Liberal Party platform expands on what she mentioned in her leadership platfom.
Which leaves the Ontario NDP-- will they have an education platform? Rather, when will they tell us about it?