Most people who took part in public consultations did not want larger class sizes
An empty classroom is seen in this undated file photo. (Source: iStock, DONGSEON_KIM)
TORONTO -- Internal documents show the majority of people who participated in Ontario’s public consultation process on education said they did not want larger classrooms.
The documents, which the Progressive Conservative government has refused to release to the public, provide a snapshot into the feedback received by the education ministry ahead of the bargaining process last year.
Of the 7,036 public submissions received by the government, about 70 per cent said they did not want an increase in class sizes.
Those who participated in the public consultation said that ”class sizes should be 20 students across all grades” and that “…the proposed change of size from 22 to 28 is much too drastic—it would be reasonable to change if from 22 to 24, but going up to 28 is just too much.”
Despite the feedback, the Ontario government announced in the spring of that year that they would be raising the average high school classroom size to 28 students.
After facing immense backlash, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced in October 2019 said the provincial average would only increase to 25 students per teacher in high schools.
At the time, the Ontario Public School Boards Association said they were still concerned as the previous increase in class size average to 22.5 students “led to significant challenges.”
Those who participated in the consultation were also asked about mandatory online learning. Only about 20 per cent said they did not support the mandatory online courses proposed by the provincial government.
However, participants recommended that if e-learning is mandated, it should be done gradually and should be administered by the school boards.
“It would be prudent to phase in mandatory e-learning,” one recommendation read. “Start in 2020-21 with a pilot of one mandatory online course by graduation. Invite interested boards to apply to be part of the pilot, then gather data on the results of the plot at the end of 2020-21.”
Class sizes and mandatory online courses are two of the biggest points of contention in the bargaining process between the PC government and Ontario teachers, in addition to compensation, teacher hiring and special education funding . All four of the major education unions have taken part one-day, rotating strikes as a result of the stalled negotiations.
The internal education consultations were released by the New Democratic Party on Monday via social media. The party accuses the premier of trying to “cover up the results of the public consultations” before posting a link to the 130-page document.
Throughout the bargaining process, Lecce’s office has maintained that the provincial government is searching for a fair deal and that the job action spurred by the teachers’ unions is having a negative impact on students.
"Strikes by the teachers' unions have resulted in millions of student days lost,” Lecce said in a statement on Friday. “Students deserve to be in class.”
The province spent close to $1 million on the public education consultations, which included two rounds of submissions—one in February 2019 and another that ran from March 15 to May 31, 2019.