TORONTO — Following two years of global learning disruption, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government announced record funding for the 2022-23 school year. The funding will support learning recovery and mental health supports for students to enable them to return to a more normal school year next year.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce today introduced Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action Plan – a five-point plan to strengthen learning recovery in reading and math, anchored by the largest provincial investment in tutoring supports, summer learning and mental health. The government outlined investments that will bridge learning gaps, supporting academic success and focus on overall mental health and wellness.
Increasing Investment to School Boards
Together, this total funding amounts to over $26.6 billion in 2022-23 — the highest investment in public education in Ontario’s history, with highlights including:
1. A $683.9 million increase in Grants for Student Needs (GSN) funding, with projected total funding of $26.1 billion. This represents a 2.7 per cent increase from 2021-22
2. Average per pupil GSN funding is projected to rise to $13,059, which is an increase of $339 or a 2.7 per cent increase from 2021-22
3. Over $500 million in Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF)
4. $90 million in total mental health investments, representing a 420 per cent increase in funding since 2017-18
5. $15 million to deliver expanded summer learning opportunities
6. $92.9 million increase in Special Education Grant funding through the GSN where it is projected to increase to over $3.25 billion, the highest amount ever provided in Special Education Grant funding
7. $304 million in time-limited additional staffing supports, through the COVID-19 Learning Recovery Fund as part of the GSN. This funding will go towards the hiring of an estimated 3,000 front line staff – including teachers, early childhood educators, educational assistants, and other education workers to address learning recovery.
The government is also continuing to provide $1.4 billion for the repair and renewal of schools for the 2022-23 school year.
Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action Plan
The Ontario Government’s $600 million Learning Recovery Action Plan will help students recover from the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be available to students this year and into next school year. $175 million is being invested to expand access to free publicly funded tutoring in small groups after school, during school, on weekends and over the summer. This province-wide program will start in April 2022 and continue until December 31, 2022 to ensure continuity of access to tutoring to ensure students can catch-up as they start the next school year.
The plan leverages and expands proven, high-yield programs and supports, and introduces new initiatives to address critical gaps, with the following five pillars:
a. Introducing comprehensive tutoring supports for students through school boards that will also include partnerships with community organizations
b. Supporting student resilience and mental well being
c. Strengthening numeracy and literacy skills
d. Modernizing curriculum and programs to emphasize job and life skills
e. Resuming EQAO assessments to measure and assess learning levels.
Many parents and educators have noted stagnation or regression in reading skills. To further support literacy and numeracy focused learning recovery, the government is providing $40 million in foundational learning supports in reading and math, including $25 million for professional assessments and reading intervention programs for children who face difficulty learning to read.
The Government is also expanding summer learning with $15 million, building on Ontario’s historic investments in the largest summer learning programs initiated in 2020 in response to the pandemic. Summer programs in 2022 include $10 million in funding for students with special education needs and opportunities for summer learning for First Nation students living on reserve.
In addition to in-person tutoring opportunities, the government also announced an expansion of teacher-led, one-on-one digital tutoring. Ontario is also supporting the expansion of online tutoring through Mathify and Eurêka! so more students can access these services.
Nationally, Ontario students continue to be among the top performers in math, reading and science, as demonstrated in the 2019 Pan-Canadian Assessment Program results. These investments will help preserve the province’s competitive advantage and ensure students have the skills they need for the jobs of the future as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Historic Mental Health Funding Commitment
To support student mental health and well-being in 2022-23, Ontario will be investing more than $90 million including $10 million in new funding, of which $5 million is to be used for evidence based mental health programs and resources. This funding will help to retain the existing mental health workers in schools, including the 180 mental health professionals that are providing critical supports directly to students in secondary schools across the province.
This investment will support the mental health and well-being of all students and will enable school boards to continue to assist students who are experiencing mental health challenges that are impacting their learning.
In addition to stabilizing and strengthening historic mental health funding made available in 2021-22, the ministry, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs. Consultations are expected to start in summer 2022.
Minister Lecce also announced the mental health components of the learning recovery plan may include:
a. Mandatory professional development on mental health for educators
b. Working with the Ministry of Health to consult with stakeholders, including parents and students, to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs and the potential of a graduation requirement on resilience and mental well-being
c. Continuing to support student resilience and well-being with the following goals:
~mentally healthy classrooms and learning environments
~effective and responsive school mental health and addictions supports
~connections to the broader comprehensive system of mental health care.
The Ontario government also announced $26 million to renew funding for school-focused nurses in public health units, with up to 625 nurses supporting student health and well-being, along with and infection prevention and control plans and other supports to keep schools as safe as possible.
“No government in Ontario history has invested more in public education, tutoring supports, mental health, and special education than ours led by Premier Ford,” said Minister Lecce. “We are bridging learning gaps that have emerged over the past years through a massive increase in small group tutoring programs and through the expansion of mental health supports to benefit children across all schools in Ontario.”
Priorities and Partnerships Funding
In addition to the GSN, Ontario’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) enables school boards and third parties to undertake important curricular and extra-curricular initiatives that promote student success, development, and leadership skills. In 2022-23, the PPF will include more than $500 million to fund approximately 150 high-impact initiatives that include a focus on STEM, mental health and well-being, job skills, tutoring, reading supports, de-streaming transition programs, and summer learning, as part of Ontario’s plan for learning recovery.
Preparing Students for Jobs of Tomorrow
As part of its plan to prepare students for in-demand jobs, the government is investing more than $8 million in the 2022-23 school year to:
~Launch entrepreneurship education pilot programs requiring partnership between school boards and third-party organizations to help students develop these important skills
~Pilot experiential learning programs that support students to gain important job and life skills outside of the classroom
~Expand access to Dual Credit programs to support skilled trade pathways
~Respond to Apprenticeship Youth Advisors recommendations by developing online modules on skills needed to succeed in the skilled trades and funding experiential learning for guidance counsellors to help students navigate and access the required training.
Building Student Potential
As part of our plan to support student achievement and help them reach their full potential, we are funding targeted initiatives intended to address unique barriers that some students may face. Some of these initiatives include:
~Focus on Youth
Focus on Youth provides learning and employment opportunities for youth in select low-income neighbourhoods who face challenges that hinder their learning, achievement and full participation in school, and barriers to employment due to circumstances directly linked to systemic inequality, racism and discrimination and their lived experiences of socio-economic disadvantage.
~Community Literacy Catalyst Program
Community Literacy Catalyst Program builds local capacity and expertise for sustainable, community-based literacy programming through a partnership between Frontier College and five First Nation communities in Northern Ontario.
~Graduation Coach for Black students
Graduation Coach Program for Black Students helps to create inclusive spaces that will help to dismantle systemic barriers, eliminate disparities and close the achievement gap for Black students. Funding provides intensive, culturally responsive support to Black students by hiring Graduation Coaches with lived experience and connections to Ontario’s diverse Black communities who work with school staff and board leadership and offer direct supports and mentorship to Black students to support their well-being and academic achievement.
In addition to funding available in the GSN for de-streaming, the ministry is also investing $11M in PPF to support transition programs and early interventions for students with special education needs.