OTTAWA — Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party wants to halt the rollout of full-day kindergarten, increase class sizes, cut 10,000 support staff positions, introduce standardized testing for Grade 8 students to measure their scientific knowledge, and build new schools faster in burgeoning suburbs.
The ambitious plan for the province’s publicly-funded school system is laid out in a new white paper, which was released Thursday in Toronto by party leader Tim Hudak.
The 25-page Paths to Prosperity: Preparing Students for the Challenges of the 21st Century is the party’s boldest statement yet on public education, a file the Tories have largely shied away from since the disastrous 2007 provincial election, which former leader John Tory lost after suggesting he would extend public funding to Ontario’s faith-based schools.
“Education is the lynchpin of progress,” Hudak writes in his introduction to the new plan.
But the idea of saving millions by putting the brakes on full-day kindergarten — a popular initiative that is currently partway through a five-year rollout — already has the Tories on the defensive.
“The problem is we have no money,” PC education critic Lisa MacLeod told the Citizen in an interview.
“We won’t abandon it — those schools with it will continue to have it — but the full rollout won’t occur under our government until the merits of the program are there.”
That’s in stark contrast with the party’s position during the 2011 election campaign, when the party said in its platform that “it would be a mistake to disrupt its implementation” and pledged to make the program fully operational for all four- and five-year-olds by 2014, which is the current plan under the Liberals.
Tories would halt full-day kindergarten, cut thousands of jobs