Won’t refuse ‘catch-up’ dollars, but this is no educated solution

On Oct.20, the Ontario’s provincial government announced the “Catch Up Payments” plan. Unfortunately, most parents of school-aged children still haven’t heard about the $200 to 250 dollars available through a simple online application process.

According to its press release, the Ministry of Education’s “Plan to Catch Up,” is “to keep students in class learning for the entirety of the school year” because students’ 2021-2022 EQAO results allegedly show that students need to catch up in math, reading, and writing.

The catch-up payments provide parents $200 or $250 per child “to help offset costs as they support their children as they catch up.” According to the release, this “commits a total of $365 million in direct financial relief for parents.” Except, not a lot of parents know about it.

If you live in Ontario and are a parent of a student from kindergarten up to 18 years old or are 18 years old, you can apply for $200 per child. Parents of special education needs children up to the age of 21can apply for $250. It takes less than five minutes to apply at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/catch-up-payments. I write this hoping that as many Ontario parents and students as possible are able to apply and get their funds before the deadline of March 31, 2023.

In addition to the catch-up payments, the province says that it has also “provided over $600 million in learning recovery investments to publicly funded schools.” They announced new digital resources, math action teams for underperforming school boards, early reading enhancements, to help reach young students sooner, extending the tutoring program, continued modernization of curriculum, and attendance supports for struggling students. Yet, we have an educational workers strike right now, telling me that the money is probably being misdirected.

I understand that the idea behind the catch-up payments is to help parents pay for additional learning supports, but this seems like a very small Band-Aid. Worse yet, the Band-Aid puts money into private tutors’ hands instead of funding the public system properly.

Also, the full $365 million will never be spent, as there really hasn’t been much publicity about the initiative. How will the remainder be spent?

I have teacher and educational assistant friends who already know that they are the ones who will have to help kids catch up. Shouldn’t they be getting all or more of the $365 million? Couldn’t we avert the education workers strike by paying them a living wage or hiring more of them?

Regardless, I’m not going to turn down $200 dollars of my own tax dollars, but this really doesn’t seem like the solution.

After my quick application process online, within a couple days I got an email to confirm my application. Within two weeks I was sent an email with instructions on the upcoming Interac transfer, and notified that my $200 transfer would appear within two days after that email.

Share this information widely, so that everyone eligible will go to https://www.ontario.ca/page/catch-up-payments and get their $200 or $250. It may not be the band-aid to fix shortfalls in learning, but it will buy several packages of Band-Aids.

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