For Immediate Release
July 23, 2007

TORY AND KLEES EXPAND ON PLANS
TO INVITE FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS INTO
ONTARIO'S PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM

The Hon. Bill Davis to head
Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission

(Toronto, ON) – Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory and York Region MPP Frank Klees, the PC Education Critic, announced today that one of Ontario's leading pioneers of tolerance and diversity in public education has agreed to help find the best way to bring even more of Ontario students into our public education system.

Under a PC government, former Premier Bill Davis would be appointed to lead a Commission to review options and make recommendations about how Ontario's public school system could become more inclusive of faith-based schools.

"Ontario has funded faith-based education to varying degrees since Confederation," said Klees. "This inclusive approach has proven to be successful in managing and respecting religious diversity within public education. It has taught children of different of ethnicities and faiths to value our respective religious and cultural heritages, while also being unified by common standards and equivalent experiences."

Faith groups have said that they feel betrayed by Dalton McGuinty for offering them vague reassurances in private on this issue, and then engaging in divisive rhetoric in public. In contrast, John Tory said he would speak openly and welcome discussion about his plan to reduce the separation that exists between students in faith-based schools and those operating in the public system.

Specifically, Klees said that a John Tory PC Government would:

  • Preserve and strengthen Ontario's public school system;
  • Expand the system subject to clear conditions to reflect and embrace the changing diversity of our population;
  • Use this expanded system to bring people together and promote integration within Ontario's public education system, both through academic programming and extracurricular activities;
  • Ensure that, with public funding, comes public accountability, including requirements to teach the Ontario curriculum, standardized testing and teacher credentialing.

The Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission, which would be chaired by former Premier and former Education Minister, the Hon. William G. Davis, will ensure that this expansion is undertaken after significant public consultation and with solid and responsible planning, with pilot programs beginning in September 2008.

Mr. Davis, a strong supporter of public education throughout his career and to this day, transformed Ontario's education system during his term as Minister of Education from 1962-1971. He went on to serve as one of the most respected Premiers of Ontario from 1971-1985. During his time as Premier, he introduced legislation to strengthen medicare, public transit, mental health programs and environmental protection. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1985.

"Ontario's public school system is one of the best in the world. We have an opportunity to strengthen and expand upon that success responsibly in order to provide more Ontarians with the same opportunity our Catholic school system provides," Klees said. "Ontario needs a leader who will ensure that children of all faiths are part of a public education system that reflects and strengthens our shared values and shared belief in public education through common standards of curriculum, teaching and accountability."

For more information about John Tory's plans to improve Ontario's education system, visit www.leadershipmatters.ca.

- 30 -

For more information:

Frank Klees, MPP

(416) 509 8999


For a better Ontario: Leadership Matters

Backgrounder
Investing in Public Education

John Tory and the PC Party of Ontario understand that education is one of the most important investments our society can make. Unfortunately, Dalton McGuinty has not addressed some of the crucial challenges facing our education system today. The education funding system is broken, schools are run down, and standards are dropping. Instead of fixing these problems, the McGuinty government has chosen the easier route of sweeping these problems under the rug and relying on gimmicks, photo-ops and slogans. A John Tory government will show leadership and make education a priority.

Education Funding:

  • John Tory's education plan calls for an $800 million increase in funding for public education in 2007-08, climbing to an increase of $2.4 billion by 2011-12. We will continue to invest more in education as enrolment declines.
  • A John Tory government will improve the funding formula and keep it up to date. We must provide schools and school boards the flexibility to meet local needs. We will review the funding formula and make adjustments to fill the gaps Dalton McGuinty has created in the education system.

Other Education Initiatives:

  • Limit the homework burden on young children to the recommended ten minutes per grade level. Children need a life outside of schools – time with family and friends. Not an extra two hours of stress at the end of the day.
  • John Tory's Open Schools program will open up schools on weekends and over the summer to community groups. We will do this across the province, not just in Toronto.
  • Ensure English as a Second Language (ESL) programs help those who need it. Because of Dalton McGuinty's lack of leadership, school boards are not required to spend their ESL funding on ESL programs. Dalton McGuinty short-changes the school boards in other areas and allows them to raid ESL to plug the gaps, which hurts newcomers.

-30-


For a better Ontario: Leadership Matters Fairness

Implementation Commission on expanding Ontario's public school system

Ontario has funded faith-based education to varying degrees since Confederation. This inclusive approach has proven to be one of the most successful in managing religious differences within the broad reach of public education, and has allowed different religious faiths to work together to forge a dynamic province.

Ontario's Catholic school system – protected by Canada's Constitution – has existed for generations. Today, 650,000 children attend Catholic schools in Ontario, and this system has the full support of all three major provincial political parties. John Tory believes that this is a model of inclusiveness on which our province can build.

Despite the success of publicly-funded Catholic education in this province, thousands of children are excluded from public education in Ontario daily because their parents wish to retain aspects of their culture and faith in their children's schooling. John Tory believes it is unfair that the province funds the education for one faith-based group but excludes others. Many other faith-based institutions want to join the public system, but the structure of Ontario's current public school system does not allow for expanded access.

John Tory will allow other faith-based schools to have the choice to join our public system. He will strengthen our public and Catholic schools by properly funding our current public education system to ensure its' continued success. His education plan calls for a major investment in public education of $800 million in funding over 2006/07, climbing to an increase of at least $2.4 billion by the final year of the mandate.

John Tory understands that an expansion of our current education system must be done prudently, thoughtfully and responsibly with the utmost care, due diligence and meaningful consultation.

This is why he will strike a Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission chaired by one of the most respected and celebrated leaders in education in Ontario, the Honourable William Grenville Davis. The Commission will review options and make recommendations about how best to offer the opportunity to bring faith-based schools into the public school system, initially through pilot programs and then through full implementation of an expanded public education system.

The expansion of the public school system will ensure all people of this province have access to a public education with public standards. An expanded public school system will allow different groups to be united through aspects of a common curriculum, through sport, and other activities.


For a better Ontario: Leadership Matters

Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission

The Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission would be chaired by one of Ontario's most respected and celebrated leaders, former Premier, the Honourable William Grenville Davis, a lifelong supporter of public education. Other members of the commission will be identified following the election.

Guiding Principles:

John Tory and the Ontario PC Party have set out the basic principles of such an expansion, including:

  • Expanding Ontario's public school system to reflect and embrace the changing diversity in Ontario's population.
  • Using the diversity of an expanded public school system to bring people closer together and to promote integration within Ontario's public education system.
  • Preserving and strengthening Ontario's public school system.
  • Ensuring that, with public funding, comes public accountability including: requirements to teach to the Ontario curriculum standardized testing, and appropriate teacher credentialing.

These principles will guide the Commission in its' deliberations. In addition, the Commission will ensure that Ontario continues to respect its Constitutional obligation to fully fund Catholic schools and the Commission's recommendations will be guided by the principle of preserving and strengthening the Catholic system.


For a better Ontario: Leadership Matters

Draft Terms of Reference

The Commission's terms of reference will include, but will not be limited to:

  • Documenting and examining the scope of Ontario's faith-based schools.
  • Documenting the impact that bringing those schools into the public school system might have on the public and Catholic school systems.
  • Recommending measures to ensure full and proper public funding of the current public school system is respected during the transition to the new expanded model of the public system.
  • Maintaining the obligations to the Catholic system as outlined in our Constitution and laws.
  • Documenting and examining the funding of faith-based schools in other provinces to identify best practices so as to inform the expansion of our public system
  • Assessing and recommending the best way to give faith-based schools the option of joining the public system in a manner that is cost effective.
  • Examining how best to address and manage issues of governance and administration associated with expanding the public system and the principle of public accountability that balances the distinctiveness of the faith-based community while ensuring public accountability. This includes requirements for:
    • Compliance with and implementation of the Ontario common curriculum in faith-based schools;
    • Participation in mandatory standardized testing;
    • Adherence to requirements of the Ontario College of Teachers for accreditation for core and non-core curriculum subjects.
  • Identifying any required legislative and/or regulatory changes required both for pilots and ultimate expansion of the public education system.
  • Monitor and assess a pilot program to expand the current public school system by integrating selected faith-based schools for the 2008-2009 school years.
  • Developing a final plan for full expansion of Ontario's public education system and effective integration of Ontario's increasingly diverse student population within a publicly-funded education system.

The Commission will provide such interim reports as required and one final report to the Government of Ontario for review and public release.

 

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