The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a meeting in Toronto on April 28 and 29, 2023.
On the evening of April 28, Board of Directors members received a presentation from Association of Municipalities of Ontario Executive Director Brian Rosborough.
Education policy and program matters that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below:
Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations and collective bargaining.
Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Symposium
More than 160 Trustees, Directors of Education, Supervisory Officers, Human Resources and Labour Relations Practitioners came together in Toronto on April 27 and 28 to share, strategize and learn about next and best practices and explore practical solutions to the challenges faced by Ontario school boards. With keynote speaker Jason Lietaer of Enterprise Canada, and outstanding panelists and workshop speakers on a wide variety of relevant issues, OPSBA was excited to the host the first in-person Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Symposium since 2019.
Provincial Update (formerly Legislative Update)
In May, there are 11 sitting days and a constituency week after the Victoria Day weekend. In June, there are five sitting days before the summer recess that begins after Thursday, June 8, 2023.
Parliamentary Assistant Matt Rae has moved to the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs – his files have transferred to Parliamentary Assistant Patrice Barnes. NDP Leader Marit Stiles also announced a revised critic portfolio list. Chandra Pasma (MPP Ottawa West—Nepean) remains the Education Critic, and Teresa Armstrong (MPP London—Fanshawe) becomes the critic for Child Care.
The Ministry of Education also announced recent and upcoming senior staff retirements, which include: Deputy Minister Nancy Naylor (June 30), Assistant Deputy Minister Denise Dwyer (March 14), and Assistant Deputy Minister Denys Giguère (June 30).
The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act
A robust discussion on this legislation, which was introduced on April 17, 2023 by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, occurred. The bill proposes changes to the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007, the Education Act, and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996. It also suggests minor wording changes in the French version to the preamble of Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001. The bill will most likely move quickly through the legislative process and OPSBA staff will monitor for any referral to Committee. OPSBA will be taking the necessary time to review each proposed change and addition and released an initial statement shortly after the legislation was announced.
With respect to the Education Act, some of the proposed amendments include:
- “setting provincial education priorities on student achievement” and requiring school boards to create multi-year plans to meet those priorities. Parents will need to be consulted on the development of their local school board’s plan twice per year and receive progress reports;
- requiring school board trustees and senior officials to undergo provincially mandated training to make sure they have the “skills and competencies” to deliver on the government’s priorities;
- standardizing performance assessments for directors of education;
- establishing a new “impartial integrity commissioner-led process” for Code of Conduct complaints about school board trustees;
- creating a new, faster process for declaring school board land as surplus; and
- working with municipalities to help implement the province’s subsidized childcare agreement with the federal government.
The bill was also posted for commentary on the Ontario’s Regulatory Registry with a feedback deadline of May 16, 2023. OPSBA has an extensive consultation plan to respond to these proposed changes that involves senior staff, the Policy Development and Education Program Work Groups, Executive Council, as well as key stakeholders. It will also refer to any relevant past commentary made by the Association.
Annual General Meeting
The Association is celebrating 35 years at this year’s AGM, which will be held June 8 to 10 at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, Ontario. Priorities and directions for the coming year will be determined. The AGM will also feature keynote speakers such as Karl Subban and Njeri Damali Sojourner-Campbell, professional development sessions and fun opportunities for trustees to network and connect. Registration is now open!
The nomination deadline for OPSBA’s elected positions is May 9 at 4:30 p.m. For more, see the links below:
A summary of important B and SB memos that have been released since the last Board of Directors meeting in February was provided. B and SB memoranda for 2022-23, as well as prior years, is available from the ministry website.
2023-24 Education Funding
The provincial government released the 2023-24 Grants for Student Needs (GSN) on April 17. Per-pupil funding is rising at a rate much lower than inflation. In a statement on the GSNs, President Cathy Abraham said, “Just like for families and businesses, all costs in school board budgets are going up due to inflation. If we don’t see a corresponding increase in funding, there will be an impact on students.” GSN funding is projected to be $27.1 billion, while the average provincial per-pupil base funding is projected to be $13,125 in 2023–24 (base funding excludes one-time funding and funding for debt service costs). There is a further $516.2 million in Priorities and Partnership Funding (PPF), of which a portion will go to school boards and a portion will go to other education partners.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy delivered the 2023-24 Ontario Budget, Building a Strong Ontario, on March 23. Compared to spending plans presented in the Fall Economic Statement, education spending was down $47 million over the past year. OPSBA’s Budget overview is available on the website.
Indigenous Education / Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC)
The ITC has not met since the last Board of Directors meeting, but will be meeting virtually the week of May 15. The Council has welcomed a new staff liaison, Alicia Cameron, who began her role on April 17.
Black Trustees Caucus (BTC)
The BTC is preparing to finalize a Terms of Reference and welcomed a new staff liaison, Michelle Rodney Bartalos, on April 14.
Government Relations, Public Affairs, and Communications
An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s past, current and future advocacy and awareness planning was provided. To see the Association’s appearances in the media, visit OPSBA in the Media.
Take Your MPP to School Day
The objective of this week-long initiative, taking place May 23 to 26, is to raise the awareness among MPPs of the role of trustees and build upon the relationships with MPPs following OPSBA’s Advocacy Day in November 2022. It’s also an opportunity to showcase the amazing students, staff, and programs happening in local schools, as well as the local realities of education in your communities. A “Save the Date” flyer was shared with MPPs and sent to both their Queen’s Park and local constituency offices. Senior staff have been working with political staff to promote internally among the party and OPSBA will publicize centrally as well.
Pupil Accommodation Reviews
In June 2017, nearly six years ago, the Government of Ontario (then a Liberal government) announced a moratorium on Pupil Accommodation Reviews – the community engagement process used by school boards when considering consolidating or closing a school. Since that time, our member boards have been unable to consolidate or close schools, which has led to many challenges. OPSBA released a statement on the moratorium in late February calling for the Ministry of Education to complete its review of the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines, release revised guidelines, and lift the moratorium.
Beyond Knowledge Discussion Paper
OPSBA convened an Ontario Education Partner Discussion Table in spring 2021 to create space for collaborative dialogue as school boards and schools navigated the waves and impacts of COVID-19. The group, which represents Ontario’s Kindergarten to post-secondary education partners, was brought together to share evidence, insights and hopes drawn out of the pandemic experience. The focus of the Table’s meetings from December 2022 through spring 2023 was on creating a shared vision for the future of Ontario schools, which has resulted in the creation of a new discussion paper entitled Beyond knowledge: Preparing students for an uncertain future. A key recommendation is to engage the provincial government in the next phase of these discussions. This paper will be available soon on the OPSBA website, but was not published as of this report’s publication date.
French as a Second Language (FSL)
OPSBA is leading the research and promotion of workable solutions to the issue of attracting and retaining sufficient numbers of FSL teachers. As of February 28,2023, the Ministry of Education contract to continue to mobilize research findings and workable solutions in the areas of FSL teacher recruitment, hiring, professional support and retention is finished. All deliverables have been completed. It is hoped that the ministry will continue to engage OPSBA in this work to ensure that all school boards have the opportunity to be supported in implementing these promising practices.
A new FSL website was launched in late April, which features a number of resources to assist school boards and school administrators with FSL programming.
OPSBA is engaging with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) in support of their Healthy Democracy Project, which will promote the value and importance of municipal governments in Ontario and Canada’s political system. This includes the importance of diversity of leadership and perspective. The Healthy Democracy Project will build on AMO’s We All Win Campaign to attract more diverse candidates to municipal office. It will promote greater civic engagement, greater awareness of the role of municipal government, more respect for the people engaged in democratic processes, and encourage greater participation in local democracy and voter turnout.
Project with Wilfrid Laurier University
Similar to past years, OPSBA staff will engage in a research partnership with the Master of Applied Politics program at Wilfrid Laurier University. Three students will work with senior OPSBA staff on a research project. This spring/summer project will be centred around local governance and the roles and responsibilities of public school board trustees. The students will be helping to gather 2022-2026 trustee data and information, and updating Local Government Week resources.
AODA Review Submission
OPSBA received a request to submit feedback for the fourth independent legislative review of the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). A dedicated website provides information about the review, including a consultation plan and ways to provide feedback. OPSBA provided a submission for fourth improvement review on April 19, following consultation with the OPSBA Policy Development and Education Program Work Groups and more than 20 school board accessibility staff leads.
Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)
CSBA Congress and the National Trustees Gathering on Indigenous Education is being held from July 3 to 5, 2023, in Banff, Alberta. Registration is now open.
For more information on any of the above reports, please contact OPSBA at email@example.com or your school board’s OPSBA Board of Director member. The next OPSBA Board of Directors meeting will be held on June 8, at the OPSBA Annual General Meeting at Blue Mountain.