TORONTO, ONTARIO – For #BudgetDay2019 we reflect on that affect the Ontario education system. On June 7th, 2018, Doug Ford was elected Premier of Ontario representing the Conservative Party. As part of his campaign he promised to make budget cuts to restore the economy after Kathleen Wynne’s term, and if you’ve been keeping up with the latest in Ontario politics: evidently, these budget cuts would be made to the Ontario Education System. With fewer funds classes will be made larger in high school and intermediate grades, students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and special needs students will not get the attention or assistance they need, and around 5,500 high school teachers will lose their jobs.

Ford’s changes also require high school students to take four compulsory courses online, which is presumably how he plans on getting away with having  less teachers. Online courses do not work for everyone, especially those who are auditory or kinetic learners. This will have a negative impact on students who benefit from classroom settings. As a student who has taken an online course – specifically, Civics and Careers – I can speak on how challenging this was. I would spend hours at a time staring at a screen in one position, by the end of the day my fingers were tired of typing and my neck was strained. I dealt with it because it was the decision that I had made, but Doug Ford aims to take that decision away. My name is Maisie Gorial and I am a high school student in the Greater Toronto Area. The changes that Doug Ford makes impacts myself, and all those around me. We are being told that these changes do not affect us, but students all over Ontario beg to differ: #StudentsSayNo.

Online courses have numerous students and only one teacher that can’t even put a face to. Teachers play a fundamental role in the experience of learning, removing them and all human interaction from the learning process can be draining. I disliked math, but in grade ten I had a teacher who changed that; this teacher made me look forward to the period and changed the way that I solved problems. Without that teacher I would have likely dropped math as soon as possible; instead, I have decided to pursue further education in mathematics.

Ford wants to cut one Billion dollars from the education system, he says that it will not affect teacher’s jobs but these changes are inevitable. In doing so, he undercuts student’s support system and makes students rights to Education inaccessible. About one week ago, a student in my English class had an anxiety attack right outside our classroom door; immediately, my teacher sprang into action. She was single-handedly able to calm him down, and without her physically present the situation would have escalated into something no student was trained to handle. Teachers are the people students talk to when we can’t talk to our families, they are a trusted unit within our support system. Getting rid of teachers now, when mental illness is on the rise would no doubt be a detrimental mistake.

Fewer teachers means  larger classes, larger classes then mean that teachers cannot possibly give each student the support they need. Mandatory classes now, such as science, English, and math, are currently overcrowded with approximately thirty students in each class.

A fellow high school student, Kaitlyn Damaso spoke on the changes being made:.“Provide people with the tools they need to succeed; don’t take the tools away because it helps your political platform.” These cuts could have  occured to any other system or governmentally funded program, but Ford decided to implement these changes that will affect people who cannot vote. Students all over Ontario are outraged by these changes; at the time of writing (April 1st) a student-run Instagram account: @studentssayno with 15.1k followers planned a province-wide walkout on April 4th at 1:15 PM.

Another group of individuals created a petition to counteract Ford’s changes. Oliver Szczepaniak started this petition with an original goal of twenty-five thousand supporters, which they quickly met. At the time of writing, the goal is one hundred fifty thousand, which they are close to meeting with eighty-one thousand five hundred nineteen signers, including me. You can sign this petition at: https://www.change.org/p/doug-ford-stop-ford-changes-to-ontario-education-3b137efe-fa55-454b-95d4-ae2de796ea11   

Kaitlyn stated, “Doug Ford says he wants an education system that respects parents. How about an education system that educates children with the information that they need to succeed?”

Doug Ford is blatantly ignoring what students want and need. He is cutting funding to arts programs and reframing the narrative as if it is for our own benefit. He is making very large changes within a small time frame, and by the time we have a new Premier to rectify the damage many of us will be out of the school system and in university/college or other post-secondary paths. Although, he has also made changes there, in that he also changed how the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will support students with funding.

There were other previous cuts that came as a surprise in December 2018 to the secondary system. These cuts affected our Student Leadership program as funding was cut for SpeakUp. SpeakUp project grants empower students to take action and lead projects that make a difference in their school. To date, thousands of students in grades 7–12 have actively led or participated in more than 10,000 projects in hundreds of schools across Ontario. Helping Hands gave up her holiday break to actively fight these changes.

Finally, in making these cuts the Ontarian government is saying that our future does not matter. Changes are being made by a man who has not been in the Education System for decades and does not understand the current experiences of youth in the education system today. “Making these changes is essentially saying that this generation’s education is not even worth the one billion dollars,” Kaitlyn Damaso.

Let’s hope #Budget2019 will show the government will invest in education and the future of this province.

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