The Ontario Liberals promise to limit class sizes to 20 students for each grade level in the province, if elected.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says this would ensure that every student gets the care and attention they deserve.
The Liberals say that to hit the hard cap, they would hire 10,000 teachers, recruit some from other provinces and help qualified teachers immigrate to Ontario. The party says it would also work to get some of Ontario’s 80,000 certified teachers they say are not currently employed by schools to return to teaching.
At a morning press conference, Del Duca declined to commit to a specific timetable for reaching lower class sizes, but said the pledge would have ‘the full weight of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office’ behind her.
“When it comes to teachers, 10,000 is a big number. But it’s the right number to get us to where we need to be on a hard cap of 20,” Del Duca said.
“We recognize it will take some time,” Del Duca continued, adding that the goal would be explicitly included in a mandate letter to a Liberal education minister.
He said a Liberal government would start by prioritizing schools that already have the largest class sizes and schools in neighborhoods that have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Del Duca also pointed out that the Liberal proposal is a hard cap for each class, not a provincial average of 20 students, which results in some classes having many more students.
The Liberal leader said he sought advice from major teaching unions before announcing his plan.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario applauded the decision.
“Smaller class sizes help improve student engagement, achievement and well-being, and are especially critical as we move toward post-pandemic recovery,” the union said in a statement.
Additionally, the Liberals promise to end the mandatory two-credit online graduation requirement introduced by the Progressive Conservative government.
Del Duca said he would post more boards to his education platform, but wanted to address pandemic-related learning gaps and review and update the standardized testing system.
The NDP has promised to introduce a cap of 24 students in grades 4-8 and hire 20,000 teachers and education workers if elected in June, as well as scrap the two-course requirement in line.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the previous Liberal government allowed class sizes to swell and froze teachers’ salaries.
“No matter what Steven Del Duca says now, he had 15 years to make sure we had smaller classes, and the Liberals refused to do that,” she said in Toronto.
“They’ve had 15 years to pay attention to our public education system, but instead they haven’t done that job.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said the Liberal government had in fact closed schools.
“That way they won’t have to worry about capping anything because they won’t have the schools to place students there,” he said.