Ford government giving up to $250 per child to parents of school-aged students

The Ontario government is sending money to parents to help their children catch up on missed classroom time. Richard Southern with who is eligible, and whether there are any restrictions on how the payments can be spent.

Against the backdrop of a provincial education workers strike, the Ford government says parents can begin applying for additional financial help through its Plan to Catch up program, which will provide for tutoring supports, supplies or equipment that enhance student learning.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says parents with school-aged children up to 18 years old can apply for payments of $200 per child, while parents with school-aged children with special education needs up to 21 years of age can apply for $250.

The payments are available through a secure website that parents can log into and applications will be accepted until March 31, 2023.

When questioned, Lecce says he confident that those applying for the supports will use the money for its intended use rather than going to pay down their personal debt.

“I have confidence in the parents of this province to put these dollars to work for their kids,” he said Thursday.

“I know they will do the right thing because we’ve done this multiple times before and I know they are putting those dollars to good use for after-school programs, for learning and literacy development, for technology – this all helps.”

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said the “catch up” payments are nothing more than a petty scheme designed to pit parents against education workers.

“I call on the government to put taxpayers’ dollars to actual work for Ontario kids by hiring more educators, paying all education workers what they deserve, and fixing aging school infrastructure,” Schreiner said in a statement.

“Premier Ford, you can’t have it both ways — claiming to focus on students’ wellbeing while shortchanging and threatening education workers who ensure a positive school experience for our kids.”

Lecce’s announcement also comes on the heels of Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) results for the first round of standardized tests that students have written since before the pandemic. It showed that students’ math scores across three grades have either fallen or are stagnant at low rates.

The Progressive Conservative government campaigned in 2018 on bringing in a new math curriculum, criticizing the former Liberal government’s so-called Discovery Math curriculum and years of declining EQAO math scores.

In response to the report the Ford government has announced it is developing a new Math Recovery Plan that will review teacher education and training to ensure they are prepared with the skills to support students to succeed, particularly in math and literacy.

As well a slate of new digital resources were announced, including math course packs and access to the Grade 9 online math course for additional review and practice, and the deployment of math action teams to underperforming school boards to promote high-impact math teaching practices in Ontario classrooms.

“We have to do better for these kids which is why we are stepping up supports – more tutoring, more staffing, better training of our teachers, and more support for parents across the province so that we can help establish a normal, a more better, a more positive outlook for children as they get back on track in the fundamental subjects that matter – reading, writing, and math,” said Lecce.

RELATED: Negotiations stalled between CUPE and provincial government, no progress made

The announcement comes one day after the union representing about 55,000 Ontario education workers says almost no progress was made over three days of contract talks with the government.

CUPE, which represents workers such as educational assistants, custodians and early childhood educators, said the mediator assisting with bargaining this week concluded the two sides are too far apart and talks should be adjourned.

Negotiations are set to resume on Nov. 1, just days before the union will be in a legal strike position.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, said they are still working to determine what kind of strike action they would take on Nov. 3, but said in the past, work-to-rule campaigns have “not worked on this government.”

CUPE is seeking annual wage increases of 11.7 per cent, while the Ford government is offering between 1.2 and 2 per cent for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all other workers.

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