School is starting and we’re back where we were in March

I know you’re thinking I’m referring to the pandemic. Sort of. Mostly I’m referring to the teacher’s unions rotating strikes that were frustrating parents. Remember those? They seem like a lifetime ago. In some cases they were. A brief recap if you will.

The Ontario government and every provincial teacher’s union were at an impasse over proposed new spending cuts on the part of the Ford government. Every teachers union in every board of the province were utilizing rotating strike schedules to protest the government’s plans. The result was chaos in scheduling for parents and a dive in the polling numbers for the Ford government.

Then COVID-19 hit us like a freight train. Immediately all of those issues were put on the back burner. Contracts were signed as the province shut down our schools. Premier Ford enjoyed a huge uptick in support in the polls. To him it must have seemed like the previous two years had never happened.

However, what is old is new again. In the National Post, a new poll is showing parents are remembering why they disliked the Ford government’s education policies in the first place.

About four in ten Ontario parents do not want to send their children back to school in September, and a vast majority — 74 per cent — have lost faith in the education minister’s ability to ensure that schools are safe from the threat of COVID-19, a new poll has found.

Almost 40 per cent of Ontario parents will not let their children return to school in fall, poll finds; National Post Devika Desai August 18, 2020

This isn’t entirely shocking to me. Just the day before the National Post published an article outlining how the provincial government rejected the Toronto District School Board’s proposed plans. This theme is in keeping with the discussion we had on The 905er yesterday. In Halton both boards are showing signs of frustration with his government not providing sufficient funds to allow boards to properly plan for the monumental task in front of them this fall. As well they steady release of new guidelines which play havoc with the planning processes the boards are trying to come up with. I highly recommend you listen to it. You can subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts. Just click on the link provided to go to a list for your convenience.

As we are less than a month away from the proposed start of the school year, we have seemingly come full circle. The government repeating their trusted claims that they are speaking on behalf of parents. All the while the evidence is showing that parents, teachers and boards are all finding faults with the back to school plan. The public is quickly losing that trust it had in the Ford government. Premier Ford and Minister Lecce enjoy boasting about how their back to school plan is the best in the country. However they consistently fail to explain why. The more questions you throw at the plan the more it unravels.

It comes down to transparency. The solution to this crisis is going to cost money. A lot of it. No doubt about that point. However judging by the public response to the federal government’s financial situation, its a good bet that they are willing to forgive big spending in light of COVID-19. If the Ford government is unwilling to spend those funds for whatever reason, the public deserves to know. Giving more money to OLG for the pandemic, and giddily boasting about how he is going to find money for infrastructure projects in Progressive Conservative held riding is a bad look for Ford. Education is the second biggest expenditure on the provincial books. And for good reason. Playing Scrooge with education coffers is a hard sell to justify during a pandemic.

Ultimately this will come down to the second wave. Which by all medical and scientific accounts is coming to us this fall. Should the wave produce an increase in numbers comparable to March, the government will be forced to shut down the schools. If that happens our economy will once again retreat into a lock down scenario as parents are forced to stay at home with their children. With all that time on their hands parents are going to be reviewing the summer as a time when instead of touring the province in search of accolades, the Ford government should have been finding the funds for the worst case scenario.

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