The provincial government has ended public hearings on an education bill it says will improve student learning.

It is called the Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act.

The province says it will "lay the groundwork for a truly world-class education system unified with a singular focus: to improve student outcomes in important life-long skills like reading, writing and math."

The president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association says it will do anything but.

Speaking to a legislative committee holding public hearings, Barb Dobrowolski says the idea of a back-to-the-basics approach will actually hurt students.

"This and other recent changes are yet more examples of this government's fixation on turning schools into factories whose sole purpose is to churn out workers. Going back to the basics will rob the students we teach of the holistic approach to education that publicly funded Catholic schools in Ontario deliver to such acclaim,

Dobrowolski would like to see significant, sustained investments to help student success.

School boards have mixed thoughts about the bill.

That is because it would provide the Minister of Education with greater powers over them.

This includes;

  • Allow the Minister of Education to set provincial priorities to focus boards in important areas of student achievement, like reading, writing and math
  • Require school boards to report on progress toward these priorities and enable the Ministry of Education to support struggling boards sooner
  • Allow the minister to require school boards to make any report that the minister may require from the board available to the public
  • Require enhanced school board financial reporting on funding and spending, planned and actuals
  • Allow the minister to strengthen rules around financial accountability and transparency
  • Allow the minister to prescribe school board limitations in participating in business activities that could place school boards in financial risk
  • Allow the minister to enhance financial accountability of school board-controlled entities
  • Promote greater school board-municipality cooperation on delivering child care
  • Enable an accelerated apprenticeship pathway.

The Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) says there are some areas they can support.

But Executive Director Stephanie Danielson says the power to set provincial priorities for students without input from school boards is worrisome.

"We're supportive of education-related priorities that are focused on student achievement and well-being and that are education related. However, we believe that if provincial priorities are set without consulting with school boards, there is a risk of overlooking the local knowledge that school boards and trustees bring to an understanding of important issues that make learning the most relevant for students and parents," says Danielson.

OPSBA is also about the minister's powers to close and sell off schools and the involvement in the performance appraisal of education directors.

Danielson says they struggle to understand the rationale for such intervention.