On May 12, OPSBA President Michael Barrett presented to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs regarding Bill 181, Municipal Elections Modernization Act. As noted in previous updates, the proposed amendments focus on changes to the election calendar, accessibility, third party advertising, campaign finance and election administration. The option for ranked balloting is not an option for school board elections. The overall campaign period is shortened with nomination day being May 1 instead of January 1, and nominations would close on the fourth Friday in July instead of mid-September. Our submission reflects the input of the Policy Development Work Team, Executive Council, Board of Directors, as well as staff from our member boards. It also includes past commentary from last summer’ s consultation.
Also on May 12, the government introduced Bill 198, Immunization of School Pupils Amendment Act, 2016. Last December, the government indicated upcoming changes that will require parents who do not want to immunize their child, to participate in an education session with their local public health unit. Another change is the requirement for health care providers to share immunization information with public health in order for records to be updated. This has been an ongoing issue of parents having their children’s immunizations complete but not shared with public health. The bill has yet to be posted but the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care did issue a news release.
- NDP MPP Peter Tabuns introduced Bill 195, Child Care and Early Years Amendment Act (Waiting Lists). Tabuns called on the premier to “immediately ensure that parents are no longer forced to pay fees just to get on a wait list for child care.” Tabuns said parents in Ontario are already paying the highest fees in the country and waiting on the longest lists. In a statement, Education Minister Liz Sandals said she is “committed to eliminating child care wait list fees in Ontario” and will work with parents and child care providers to move forward on that commitment. Media reports have indicated that this may be done via regulation.
- On May 10, Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Irwin Elman released a report entitled “We Have Something to Say: Young people and their families speak out about special needs and change.” The report is based on 170 submissions received from young people with special needs. Participating youth said they often feel labeled by their special needs, and in turn are discouraged and frustrated by the health care and education systems. The report divides its recommendations into 4 categories: Family and Home, School and Education, Supports and Services and Transitions Across the Lifespan. The 10 School and Education recommendations can be found on page 79 and they are directed at the Ministry of Education, government of Ontario, and TCU.
- On May 9, regulations were filed by the Ministry of Education regarding Phase 2 of the implementation of the Child Care and Early Years Act. The Education Act regulations regarding Before and After School Programs for Children 6-12 have an implementation date of September 2017. OPSBA will be reviewing the regulations and have requested a future consultation with school boards Early Learning Leads about the changes affecting our members.
- On May 6, the government announced a $90 million investment to support child care and child and family support programs hosted in schools. The funding will also support renovations of surplus school space to make it available for use by community partners and the public. The list of public organizations able to purchase or lease surplus school property before it is placed on the open market has also been expanded. This list will now include Children’s Mental Health Agencies, First Nations and Métis Organizations and other relevant groups. More time will also be allowed for organizations to place an offer, potentially allowing greater opportunity for continued use of these properties by local communities. The financial investment and changes to Regulation 444/98 support the goals of Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan. Changes to Regulation 444/98 will be effective September 1, 2016.
- On May 4, the government released Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education Discussion Document. The document lists four key components to the strategy: Positive Mental Health, Safe and Accepting Schools, Healthy Schools and Equity & Inclusive Education. OPSBA will be connecting with the ministry about next steps in this consultation.