Tuesday, 17 April 2012

An Open Letter to John Milloy

Dear Mr. Milloy:

When I recently read about the proposed budget cuts to education, particularly the choices as to which programs will see funding cuts and which will not, I was deeply disturbed with the direction the Ontario Liberal Government has taken.

When I voted Liberal in the last election, I did so with the strong belief that your government would see fit to support the needs of our youth. By cutting the funding to northern communities and putting a low cap on the maximum credits a high school student may take, this budget will fail our youth.

Canada has an unfortunate reputation internationally as a nation that fails to support its aboriginal people. Cuts to northern education in Ontario will hit those groups who most need support. This will not fly under the radar of people who care, people who would normally vote Liberal.

The EQAO cuts do make sense to me. In fact, the tests are one way the educational system has sunk to its current low standards. The standardized curriculum is weak and our students enter high school with little to show for their previous years. Math and science are particularly weak areas when compared with other countries.

In order to gain all of the required and recommended courses for several post-secondary programs, a student will need at least as many credits, often more, than your budget accounts for. Many students will still take extra courses, but will need to pay for them out of hand. This sets up a two-tiered system of education in which students from less affluent families are penalized. But perhaps that doesn't matter, since proposed funding cuts also affect post secondary education.

How many students know their career path at 13 or 14 years of age? Yet by capping credits in this manner, students are given no room for flexibility in their choices. Choose one wrong course, and it could cost you your post-secondary education or a chance at an apprenticeship.

It is true that there is waste in our high schools and that this is one place where cuts can be made. Many students take the same course two or even three times over in order to upgrade their marks, even when a credit was granted. Should taxpayers foot this bill? I would say no.

What also bothers me is that funding for all-day kindergarten has not been touched. By making our schools into daycare services early on, we set the stage for low standards at an early age. Young children need free play and unstructured outdoor play in order to grow and thrive to their utmost potential. One only needs to consult any journal on developmental psychology to see the literature supports such choices. Schools are not created with these needs in mind. Clearly, once again it is not the needs of the students that are guiding the decisions. But then, since most students cannot vote, perhaps this is not of interest.

It is, however, in society's best interests to prepare students for the future in the best way possible. The economy cannot take increased youth unemployment, higher drop-out rates and possibly an increase in youth mental health issues and suicide rates. When students look at their prospects, particularly those who will be hardest hit by these cuts, they will no doubt lose some hope. The short and long-term costs of that cannot be underestimated.

I urge you to reconsider your budget allocations in education and to act in the best interests of Ontario's youth.

Laura Lamond