The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a meeting on November 24, 2019, in Toronto. Elaine Johnston, Chair of OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC), 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.
Nik Nanos of Nanos Research attended part of the meeting to discuss and outline results from recent polling in advance of the release of a report on the morning of November 25 as part of the Association’s Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park.
Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.
Labour Relations and Collective Bargaining
An update on collective bargaining was provided to board members. OPSBA is fully engaged in its role as the bargaining agent for all English public school boards in the province. For additional status updates, visit the OPSBA website.
Government and Public Affairs
OPSBA Advocacy Day
The Association’s second Advocacy Day was a tremendous success. Board of Directors members and student trustees spent the day at Queen’s Park meeting with their local MPPs. The day began with a breakfast meeting with the Minister of Education, attendance in Question Period, and an evening reception.
In total, OPSBA representatives met with 54 MPPs (24 PC, 23 NDP, three Liberal, one Green, and one Independent).
Polling and Research
OPSBA engaged Nanos Research in November to conduct a public opinion poll on a number of education-related topics. The polling and research was announced publicly as a part of the Association’s press conference at Queen’s Park on November 25. We expect this initiative to bolster OPSBA’s advocacy position on key issues, such as the importance of investment in public education, Indigenous Education, curriculum, mental health supports and the importance of electing trustees.
Education Today – Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of OPSBA’s education magazine is now available online. This issue focused specifically on Indigenous Education, and includes columns from OPSBA President Cathy Abraham, Elaine Johnston, Thames Valley DSB Indigenous Student Trustree Chiara Kennedy and Hastings and Prince Edward DSB Director of Education Sean Monteith. Interviews include Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resumed sitting on October 28, 2019, with the government identifying priorities in a news release, Building Ontario Together. OPSBA has been following legislation and regulatory change related to the public education sector, including: Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019; Bill 116, Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act, 2019; Education Development Charge regulation amendments.
On November 6, Finance Minister Rod Phillips tabled his Fall Economic Statement legislation, Bill 138, The Plan to Build Ontario Together Act. The government is projecting a lower deficit of $9 billion in 2019-20, compared to the $10.3 billion that was forecast in the spring budget. Overall spending is forecast to go up to nearly $163.8 billion, which includes an extra $404 million for health care and $186 million for education.
Full Legislative Updates are available on the OPSBA Connects blog.
Local Government Week – October 20-26, 2019
The annual week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the important civic contributions of school boards and municipalities to communities across the province. An updated resource package was provided to trustees and a follow-up letter has been sent to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark requesting a meeting with municipal and school board partners to coordinate Local Government Week 2020.
Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health
The Coalition held a full day meeting on October 4, 2019. The purpose of the meeting was to:
- To discuss how to strategically work across sectors in different ways to achieve positive outcomes for children and youth mental health; and
- To share successes, current reflections, challenges and opportunities.
The results of this day will help to identify themes for an expanded stakeholder group discussion day being planned for 2020.
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 province-wide for qualified French language teachers and support staff and the related supply pipeline.
Phase II of the three year initiative has now been completed and the Ministry contract ended on November 11, 2019. All deliverables have been met and the executive summary and the full report are being finalized in order to seek Ministry approval for public distribution in December. There will be a session at the Public Education Symposium in January 2020 that will outline the Phase II findings and next steps for the FSL-Labour Market Partnership Project.
Recommendations for a New Needs-Based Ontario Autism Program –The Ontario Autism Program Advisory Panel Report
There are specific recommendations that have implications for school boards. It has been recommended that an education advisory committee on autism be formed before the end of 2019. OPSBA will request to be represented on this committee.
Northern Regional Meeting
The Association’s Northern Regional Meeting was held in Thunder Bay on October 4, 2019. OPSBA staff attended to assist in facilitating a session to reaffirm key priorities and areas of focus. A letter with a summary of priorities will be sent to Ministers Stephen Lecce and Greg Rickford.