Along with plans for less shortbread and more exercise, this New Year will include a provincial election. And it’s always worth looking at a variety of provincial policies during an election year.
Poverty and its effect on young people continues to be one of the hardest “nuts” to crack in our province and elsewhere. While recent international tests show that Canada and Ontario do better than most at narrowing the gap between high- and low-performing students based on socio-economic status, we still have a long way to go.
In Ontario, the Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG) was intended to support students whose socio-economic status puts them at risk of struggling in school, but the grant has a number of problems:
- The grant was originally intended to cover the cost of programs proven to help kids at risk, including things like smaller class sizes; health, nutrition and recreation programs; mental health support; and more staff such as social workers, guidance counsellors and child and youth workers. But now the grant must cover the cost of a much wider range of programs, including general literacy and numeracy programs for all students.
- The grant was cut by $130 million in 2005. While LOG funding has increased since then, it is still not enough to support the range of programs that would address the affects of poverty.
- Boards can spend the funding wherever they choose, and many boards face funding pressures in other areas. As a result, it is not clear that all of the LOG money reaches the students for whom it is intended.
Maybe it’s time to think about a new grant that would be targeted specifically at programs proven to help students who are more likely to struggle in school because of their socio-economic status. We could call it an Equity in Education Grant and it would help ensure that every student has a chance for success in education and in life.