Public Education & Human Development
Across Ontario, grade 8 students are required to register for high school courses which are classified into three levels: academic, applied, and locally developed/essentials. Typically, students take the majority of their courses at the same level, constituting a stream or pathway. Not only do these decisions impact students’ educational pathways through high school, they can have significant bearing on their post-secondary and career options.
While our education system strives to level the playing field for marginalized students, children of colour and lower income students are over-represented in lower streams which can limit their future opportunities and may not reflect their goals or potential.
Family income is one of the most powerful factors affecting student success. Students from economically and socially marginalized conditions face greater external challenges and consequently require the system to adapt to meet their needs. In recognition of this, the Ontario Ministry of Education provides all school boards with the Learning Opportunities Grant of which the largest portion is flowed through the Demographic Allocation (LOG-DA). Toronto remains the child poverty capital of Canada and yet the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) only spends about half of the LOG-DA on programs and supports for students living in poverty, according to data they published earlier this year.
The LOG-DA is intended to finance programs such as breakfast programs, homework clubs, reading recovery, and one-on-one support within the classroom, all of which help to level the playing field for marginalized students. However, because of chronic underfunding of the education system by the Province, the Toronto District School Board, like other school boards in Ontario, uses the LOG-DA to balance budget lines not related to the grant’s purpose. This means that the students with the greatest need are failing to benefit from the resources that they are entitled to – about $61 million worth of resources each year.
Next week high school will officially let out for summer vacation and many students will find themselves with a considerable amount of free time. How they spend this time, and whether they have adult supervision and productive outlets, will play an important role in determining their outcomes.
In the past two years the City of Toronto introduced seven enhanced youth spaces and will be opening three more this year. These spaces, which emerged as the result of community outcry, are founded on three pillars: dedicated space, dedicated staff, and responsive programming.
Toronto is one of North America’s most multicultural urban centres and is home to over 65,000 newcomer youth. The settlement process can be a particularly stressful experience for youth who are already making the important transition from childhood to young adulthood. Newcomer youth in Toronto face additional challenges as most live in low-income households, do not speak English as their first language, and are members of racialized groups. Recreation is an important tool in supporting the healthy development of youth and the successful settlement of newcomer youth into Canadian society.
Lost in the Shuffle: In Support of Children in Transition is both a resource manual and a workshop guide The workshop guide involves the use of case studies, video, discussion and storytelling to help staff build awareness, develop strategies and share practices that will help children who are dealing with a great number of stresses. The resource manual includes workshop guide materials but also contains additional information that examines the factors underlying the state in which these children find themselves and shares information about the school and shelter context to help staff have a better understanding of relevant policies from each other’s work environment.
Lost in the Shuffle: In Support of Children in Transition is a resource manual and a workshop guide that aims to build a greater understanding of the barriers children living in shelters face in their attempts to be successful in school and provides strategies for school and shelter staff to assist children. The workshop explores the underlying context of the lives of many of the children who live in shelters.
The purpose of the resource manual and workshop guide is to:
- Help parents to better understand students and their families who are struggling with multiple transitions,
- Give parents tools to build children’s emotional resilience and reduce the emotional impacts they experience,
- Share promising practices from the community.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is the largest school board in Canada and has a total operating budget of approximately $2.8 billion. The Ministry of Education provides funding based on student enrolment and the unique needs of each school board.
Across Ontario poverty is deep and persistent; 1.6 million people lived in poverty in 2008 (Campaign 2000, 2010, pg. 2). Child poverty is worsening with 412,000 children living in poverty and the number is increasing. In Toronto it rose from 24% in 1990 to 32% in 2005. Poverty is racialized as children of non-European heritage make up about one half of the Greater Toronto Area‟s children, and seven out of ten of the children living in poverty. (Children‟s Aid Society Toronto, 2008, pg. 2) Poverty is geographically concentrated as Toronto becomes segregated by income. While our downtown core gets richer, the middle class is disappearing and the number of low-income neighbourhoods in our city has increased every year since 1970 (Hulchanski, 2007). In the City of Toronto all growth in the number of children living in poverty since 1997 occurred in the inner suburbs, where rates of child poverty now surpass those of downtown (Children‟s Aid Society Toronto, 2008, pg. 2).
Policy without Practice: Barriers to Enrollment for Non-Status Immigrant Students in Toronto’s Catholic Schools
This research project is a follow-up to Social Planning Toronto’s 2008 report entitled, “The Right to Learn: Access to Public Education for Non-Status Immigrants”, which documented the experiences and barriers that non-status residents were facing in enrolling their children into Toronto’s public schools. This report was distributed to all trustees from both the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). In the report we found that despite a clear provincial law (Ontario Education Act) which states no child shall be denied admission to an Ontario public school, even if they or their parents lack immigration status, some families had in fact been denied access, were unaware of their rights, or faced obstacles during the registration process. As well, parents raised issues concerning their child’s safety while attending school and feeling the need to “stay under the radar”, which impacted both parent and child involvement in school activities.
Access to public education for children and youth in Ontario, regardless of immigration status, is both a right and a requirement under provincial law. Yet many non-status families with school-aged children and youth have experienced difficulties with and expressed deep concerns about accessing the public education system in Toronto. Many are unaware of their child’s right to an education, or are reluctant to exercise that right for fear of being reported to police or immigration officials. While educators, school administrators, trustees, community legal workers, lawyers, services providers, advocates and affected students and their families are aware of some of the problems with access to public schools, to our knowledge no studies have documented these barriers or the first-hand experiences of non-status families accessing public education in Toronto or elsewhere in Canada.