The Toronto Star has uncovered a document which clearly elucidates the Ford government's vision of education in the province of Ontario. Rob Ferguson and Kristin Ruchowy report that:
A “confidential” government document obtained by the Star shows Premier Doug Ford’s government considered keeping online learning optional until 2024 and planned to slash school board funding while creating courses to sell to other jurisdictions at a profit.
The “implementation plan for Ontario’s transformed online learning system” comes to light amid high-stakes contract talks between the province and teacher unions fighting Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s plan for compulsory e-learning starting in Grade 9 next fall.
Marked “not for distribution,” the six-page document also envisioned allowing students to get high school diplomas “entirely online” starting in September 2024, a prospect Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president Harvey Bischof called “weird.”
Online education has distinct advantages. Not every student can do well in a standardized system. But what is most revealing is the advantages the Fordians saw in online courses:
The document also called for a commissioning process to create a new delivery entity to maintain and create a catalogue of “gold standard” online courses in English and French so that “maximum revenue generation may be realized.”
Under the heading “cost saving and revenue generation,” the document noted “the system does not generate any revenue for the province” and warned “costs for creation of online learning tools and resources may be duplicated across multiple delivery partners.”
The plan directed the education ministry “to develop (a) business model to make available and market Ontario’s online learning system to out-of-province and international students and examine feasible options for selling licensing rights to courses/content to other jurisdictions.”
The plan calls for $34.8 million less in the school year starting September 2020, $55.8 million in 2021, $56.7 million in 2022 and $57.4 million in the 2023-2024 school year.
After that, there would be “continued cost saving of $57.4 million annually with full catalogue of online ‘gold standard’ courses,” the plan predicted.
Put simply, the plan was to cut costs and eventually generate out-of-province profits. Forget a public education system that undergirds democracy. It's all about the money.