‘Kids don’t live in a basic world’: Public school board trustees express concerns with proposed legislation
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board trustees have expressed concerns over the recently tabled Better School and Students Outcomes Act that proposes some amendments they believe could have potentially disastrous impacts on public education.Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board trustees have expressed concerns over the recently tabled Better School and Students Outcomes Act that proposes some amendments they believe could have potentially disastrous impacts on public education.

School communities are being encouraged to provide feedback to the province when it comes to the proposed Better School and Student Outcomes Act.

While the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board supports any initiatives that improve student achievement and well-being, trustees note Bill 98 is not all sunshine and rainbows.

The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, 2023 aims to amend various acts relating to education and child care; namely, the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007, the Education Act and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996.

The omnibus bill would set expectations for student achievement, standardize training for trustees and board officials, standardize performance appraisals for directors of education, modernize teacher education, make disciplinary processes more efficient and foster greater parent involvement. It would also increase the government’s control in how school boards are run, including directing the sale of schools.

What is most concerning for trustee Cathy Abraham, who is also the president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA), is the catch-all “back to basics” language used by Education Minister Stephen Lecce when it comes to the bill.

“I’ve heard plenty of parents say ‘what’s wrong with going back to the basics?,’” Abraham said during Tuesday’s (April 25) regular board meeting.

She noted recent years’ Education Quality and Assessment Office (EQAO) results do indicate that many students continue to struggle with literacy and math, and that supports and initiatives are needed for students throughout their school years.

Notwithstanding is the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw thousands of students across the province struggle to keep up with the curriculum.

“But we cannot go back to an education system that is only about the basics because our kids don’t live in a basic world,” said Abraham. “Our students are graduating into a world full of complexities and intricacies that we have never dealt with as graduating high school students (ourselves) … To go back to the basics would be a disservice to students.”

Abraham said OPSBA will be taking the necessary time to review all amendments and welcomes the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education.

“We really need to have good, comprehensive input into this… This legislation is taking away from public education making it government education,” said Abraham. “As locally-elected school board trustees, we know what our community needs.”

Trustee Diane Lloyd agreed.

“There seems to be an underlying current to take work away from trustees and let the government take it all over,” she said.

The deadline for submitting comments, which can be emailed via [email protected], is May 16.

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