Ontario is pledging to pay parents to 'help kids catch up.' Some say that's not the solution

·2 min read
In March, the province's Financial Accountability Office reported that the Ford government spent $5.5 billion less on education than it planned to in the first three quarters of the 2021-2022 fiscal year. (Jonathon Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
In March, the province's Financial Accountability Office reported that the Ford government spent $5.5 billion less on education than it planned to in the first three quarters of the 2021-2022 fiscal year. (Jonathon Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Premier Doug Ford's Tuesday throne speech pledged $225 million in direct payments to parents "to help their kids catch up" but some aren't sure that's the right solution.

The promise comes after more than two years of pandemic-disrupted learning has worsened Ontario students' mental health and academic outcomes.

So far, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy hasn't said what amounts parents might get, and whether it would be tied to tutoring or if it would be means tested. He said the money would come from contingencies in the budget.

Vanessa Vakharia, founder and CEO of the Math Guru, which offers tutoring in Toronto, believes the measure would "directly benefit" her.

Nevertheless thinks it's "a pretty horrible idea."

"I'm a little suspicious seeing that there are continuous cuts to education being made," Vakharia told CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I don't think it's fair at all to put the onus on parents to go out and supplement their kids' education."

In March, the province's Financial Accountability Office reported that the Ford government spent $5.5 billion less on education than it planned to in the first three quarters of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

A direct cash transfer is not a solution, said Prachi Srivastava, an associate professor in global education at Western University.

Srivastava told Metro Morning that research does not show benefits from direct transfers unless they're "earmarked specifically for education and… unless you're in a context where you're also supplementing or actually investing sufficient resources in the education budget."

Take the promised $225 million and divide it up between the province's children and you get perhaps between $70 and $90 per child, she said — "really laughable."

"We have to understand that we're starting in Ontario at a place which is a true outlier in Canada, and actually in North America and Europe in terms of the number of weeks of school closures that we've suffered," Srivastava said. "We really cannot take any kinds of measures that are ad hoc."

Vakharia agreed, noting that while learning gaps are a problem they're not the only problem.

"I think we're sort of using those to cover up the fact that there has been a continuous decline in what kids are receiving in schools," she said.

"What we've seen is real, socio-emotional loss when it comes to education, real confidence issues, real issues with anxiety in the classroom."