Frequently Asked Questions: On Public Education

Note: This is the first of a series of posts where I will share my responses to some of the questions that residents of Ward 4 have been asking me throughout my campaign process.

Q-  Hello,

As a resident of Ward 4, I would like to know how you plan to address serious concerns displayed by parents with respect to drastic changes in childhood education at the public school system? If elected, what changes do you plan?

Concerned Parent

A- Thank you for your email. I, like many parents, am equally concerned about my children’s education. I am aware of the issues and am independently engaged in dialogues and strategies to improve the quality of public education in Ontario as well as ensuring that diverse voices are heard in response to curriculum concerns.

However, education is a provincial portfolio and school board trustees are your local representatives. Your local city council has no authority over education beyond zoning matters. Please feel free to contact me to talk further if you wish at 647-479-8871.

Some more thoughts on this:

As a mother of 4, I care about education. I have been involved in teacher training and presentations at schools for years trying to foster inclusive learning environments to ensure every child belongs. In recent years, I have been involved in private meetings and consultations with officials addressing diversity and inclusive education. I use to coordinate A.M.E.N.O. –the Antiracist Multicultural Educators’ Network of Ontario- to advance equity in school boards across Ontario. I have chaired the School Council at the Valleys for about 3 years. I have also served a term on the Peel District School Board Parent Involvement Committee when it was first mandated as well as the Accessibility Working Group.

I have been speaking to many parents in my personal and community networks and know that parents from many different communities are very concerned about the curriculum changes being implemented this September. I am also concerned. I am concerned about the timing of topics introduced and want clarification as to how these determinations were made. I am concerned about the line between fundamental human rights and individual values and morals and who is responsible to teach what to our children. As someone who is a product of public education right here, I am also aware that I was exposed to more than what my parents would have wanted as a child. My parents were not aware of the system and did not have the capacity to be involved at the time.

The one good thing this concern has sparked is the fact that parents are actively seeking information to understand what their children are being taught and they are reaching out to other parents. I am asking the ministry and school boards to invest in reaching out to parents and ensuring that they are fully informed about the curriculum and to address their concerns. The ministry sets teaching guidelines and provides tools to support the implementation of these guidelines. It is important that parents build relationships with their local schools and their children’s classroom teachers to understand each other’s values and expectations. As parents, these changes have reminded us of our role in the education of our children. We are equally responsible for what they learn and must be involved hands-on after school to make sure that they are understanding what values we are raising them within. On a daily basis, we have to make time to have a conversation with each child about what they learned at school and to discuss any particular topic from our cultural and spiritual perspective.

As Canadians, we have the right to “believe” but our “behaviour” in the public arena has to respect the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter. This is a fundamental Canadian value.