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The OPSBA Board of Directors held a meeting on February 22 and 23, 2019, in Toronto. Elaine Johnston, Chair of OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC) and OPSBA’s First Nations Board of Director member, gave an acknowledgement that the meeting was being held on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Métis Nation.

Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.

Legislative Update

MPPs returned from Winter Recess on February 19, 2019. Board of Director members received updates on several pieces of legislation including:

Special Advisors Appointed to Begin Governmental Review

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark has enlisted Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling to lead a review of regional governments. The special advisers are tasked with providing expert feedback on local decision-making and service delivery, and will zero in on Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, Oxford County and Simcoe.

Current Party Standings – 124 seats

  • Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario – 73
  • New Democratic Party of Ontario – 40
  • Ontario Liberal Party – 7
  • Green Party of Ontario – 1
  • Independent – 3

Federal Legislation

Bill C-369, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous Peoples Day)
This federal bill was first introduced on October 16, 2017. It proposed to amend certain Acts to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a holiday. Debate has included which date to choose: the summer solstice of June 21 or September 30. The former is already observed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Northwest Territories, where it’s a territorial statutory holiday. The September date is already Orange Shirt Day, which commemorates the victims and survivors of residential schools. The legislation was referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on September 26, 2018. On February 5, 2019, the Committee amended the bill recommending the federal holiday be called The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and be observed on September 30.

Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous Languages
This federal bill was first introduced on February 5, 2019. Included in its summary of proposed changes is that the Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples include rights related to Indigenous languages. The enactment also establishes the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and sets out its composition.

Finance

Updates were provided on the following issues related to education funding:

2019-20 Education Funding Consultation

OPSBA sent a submission outlining current funding pressures, informed by feedback from member school boards, to the Ministry of Education in December.

Education Development Charges

On Oct. 15, 2018, the government announced its intention to undertake a review of the Education Development Charges (EDC) policy framework, as well as recent amendments to O. Reg. 20/98: Education Development Charges – General. The amendments include four key elements:

  • Maintain EDC rates at the levels in existing by-laws as of Aug. 31, 2018
  • Limit the ability of school boards to change areas in their by-laws that are subject to EDCs
  • Restrict additional school boards from becoming eligible to pass a new EDC by-law
  • Streamline some of the requirements to be included in the required background study.

The Ministry has asked the Council of Senior Business Officials (COSBO) to form a working group to work with the ministry to review the EDC issue. OPSBA staff continue to work with senior business officials to identify and collect specific data regarding the impact of the EDC freeze.

Indigenous Education

Elaine Johnston delivered an update on Indigenous Education. The Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC) last met at the Public Education Symposium in January with a number of new members and many “non-Indigenous” trustees in attendance. ITC Member Lucille Kyle of Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board was appointed Alternate Chair and representative to the OPSBA Board.

Cancellation of TRC curriculum writing sessions was noted in discussion. Many relevant provincial advisory committees have been halted so little progress is being made at the moment. It was also noted that one committee, the Education/Reciprocal Education Service Agreements Committee, has begun work again. Discussion about tuition and reverse tuition agreements is occuring with a sense of urgency.

Communications and Media Relations

Updates on recent OPSBA communications issues were provided. There has been some media activity involving OPSBA since the December Board of Directors meeting, including on the issues of class sizes, Regulation 274 and Ontario’s autism policy changes:

Ontario’s New Autism Policy Will Overwhelm Schools, Advocate Says
Canadian Press, February 11, 2019

Ontario’s education minister won’t commit to keeping class sizes capped
CBC News, January 24, 2019

OPSBA released a media statement regarding rumoured school board mergers on February 15.

Communications support was also provided for issues and projects including:

Program Policy Update

A summary of Ministry meetings, workgroups and program-related announcements was provided. Information shared included updates on the following:

Ministry Initiatives Committee

The Ministry has announced that the first 2018-2019 meeting of the Ministry Initiatives Committee will be held on March 6.

EQAO

EQAO has sent an orientation Frequently Asked Questions document to all trustees, which was followed up with an invitation to attend an online/teleconference information session in March to learn more about EQAO and to ask any questions of clarification. OPSBA’s Education Program Work Team is supportive of this opportunity.

Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health

The Coalition met on January 22, 2019, to finalize the format for the Summit on April 16 and 17, 2020, and discuss strategies for government engagement. This was the Ontario Provincial Advocate’s final meeting with the Coalition and discussion regarding next steps and how to support continued proactive advocacy was discussed.

OACAS Public Engagement, Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement Strategic Council

In our continuing partnership discussions with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aids Societies (OACAS), OPSBA has been asked to join the OACAS Public Engagement, Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement Strategic Council. The second meeting was held on December 10, 2019.

FSL Labour Market Partnership Project

OPSBA is leading a labour market partnership project, Meeting Labour Market Needs for French as a Second Language Instruction in Ontario, for English and Catholic public school boards. This is a three-year initiative and the ultimate goal of this project is to uncover workable solutions to the current worsening imbalance between the growing demand provincewide for qualified French language teachers and support staff and the related supply pipeline. The FSL Labour Market Partnership Committee has held two meetings this school year, focusing on finalizing action plans, reviewing research and education worker/HR survey plans and reviewing pilot project proposal submissions.

French as a Second Language

Bilateral agreement discussions that determine the amount of federal Department of Canadian Heritage funding to support FSL programs in schools are still in process. After 10 years, there has been no increase in funding despite much advocacy. Funding flows through the Grants for Student Needs to school boards. Given the national concern regarding attracting and retaining language proficient French as a Second Language teachers, the Department of Canadian Heritage will be providing supplemental funding to support applications for initiatives and research to increase the supply pipeline.

New Ontario Autism Program

On February 7, 2019, the provincial government announced a change in the way that autism supports and services would be funded. The stated government intent is to clear the current 18-month wait list of 23,000 children in order to provide more timely access to support. Parents will receive the funding directly for children up to the age of six and then be able to purchase the autism support of their choice to a lifetime maximum of $140,000. The total funding remains at $321 million. There is significant concern by parent groups regarding the efficacy of this approach, the age cut-off, the total funding provided and the ability to provide sufficient access to professional autism supports.

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