QUEEN’S PARK — Ahead of Wednesday’s budget, MPP Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre) called on the government for a firm commitment not to cut any of the teachers or education workers in Ottawa schools, so schools can safely re-open for in-person learning this fall, and students can be provided the mental health and learning supports they need after more than a year under this pandemic.
“This government must give families and staff hope that we can return to an in-person learning environment where students can be their fullest selves," said Harden. "Budget day is an opportunity to reverse the damaging cuts the government was making before the pandemic began, and instead fund a safe, supportive return to school this fall."
If the government resumes the cuts and class-size hikes they were pursuing before the pandemic, the impact to schools province-wide could be greater than a $1.6-billion slash, with thousands of teachers and education workers cut.
Harden noted the crisis in youth mental health, and how the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario has revealed a 30 per cent increase in youth counselling and 60 per cent increase in reported youth eating disorders since last year.
“Public schools are crucial places for youth to receive the support they need,” said Harden. “But instead of investing in mental health supports and smaller class sizes, this government’s cuts will eliminate 167 teaching positions from Ottawa-Carleton District School Board schools.
“Keeping the COVID-19 funding in place for 2021-2022 and beyond, and increasing the investment will enable schools in Ottawa to offer safe, small classes and provide more mental health resources to students.
“Families want to know: is this government going to invest in our children, or take even more away from them?”