Campaign for Public Education: Open Letter regarding the Learning Opportunities Grant

The following is an open letter to the new Ontario Minister of Education, Indira Naidoo-Harris, concerning the use of the Learning Opportunities Grant.

Honorable Indira Naidoo-Harris
Minister of Education
Mowat Block, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Hon. Indira Naidoo-Harris,

Re: Open Letter regarding the Learning Opportunities Grant

In September, the Ministry of Education committed to making education in Ontario more equitable – to uncovering the systemic and institutional barriers that prevent some students from reaching their full potential. In order to achieve this, special attention must be paid to those students whose socio-economic positions place them at greater risk for poor academic achievement.

The Learning Opportunities Grant is provided to boards to specifically support these students. The allocation of those funds to the alleviation of the effects of poverty on students, however, is not mandatory. The outdated funding formula forces boards to redirect any flexible funds to other purposes, which affects LOG spending.

This practice was most recently noted in the Auditor General’s 2017 Annual Report. In the four school boards detailed, the Auditor found that none of the school boards use 100% of their Learning Opportunities Grant as intended. The report goes on to take a closer look at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, noting that “elementary schools in neighbourhoods with lower household incomes have consistently performed poorly compared with schools in the higher income neighbourhoods.”

The Learning Opportunity Grant is meant to address exactly this disparity. The Toronto Catholic District School Board was found to be spending only half of their LOG funds as intended. Though alarming, this information is not new. For the past decade researchers and advocates have noted this diversion of these funds. It is high time that the Ministry take action.

While we appreciate that boards need to make autonomous decisions based on local priorities, your Ministry, as the funder of public education, absolutely must ensure they are adequately resourced. Public education needs to be appropriately funded and legitimate differences in cost-drivers need to be taken into account when determining funding allocations.

We, the undersigned, represent local and regional social planning and community development organizations across Ontario. Our organizations exist to support vulnerable and marginalized populations throughout Ontario and we are deeply concerned that at-risk students are not getting the supports they need and are entitled to. We urge the Ministry of Education to take steps to ensure the Learning Opportunities Grant is used as intended and the funding formula provides adequate resources to make that possible.

Sincerely,

Campaign for Public Education
Cochrane District Social Planning Council
Community Development Council Durham
Community Development Halton
Oxford Coalition for Social Justice
Social Development Centre Waterloo Region
Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries
Social Planning Council of Ottawa
Social Planning Council of Peel
Social Planning Council of York Region
Social Planning Council – Oxford
Social Planning Toronto
York Region Food for Learning