French immersion isn’t the magic cure to every social ills, but it does reach into under-resourced parts of the city and enrich the lives of kids of all ages.
But for families forced to choose between a child in French immersion or a neighbour’s or school’s, the system is not fair and not equitable.
Ontario’s education minister, Mitzie Hunter, told parents in her weekly Twitter appeal for summer school support that she is considering making some rerouting of funding this summer, but she says it’s unlikely.
“We are rerouting funding from French schools that are at capacity to other schools that are at capacity,” Hunter said in an interview last week.
Hunter said the $9-million rerouting is aimed at school-based neighbourhoods with French-immersion programs that are overcrowded. But, she added, the budget will be tightly managed. And she may go further than the proposed reallocation. “If we come to the realization that there is going to be a decline in the number of students in French immersion, then we may look at looking at other options,” she said.
Public reaction has been strong. People have been asking when a summer school session will be held for parents of children in French immersion schools. One reader described his dismay at having to choose between his child and another neighbour’s child. While it’s a reasonable question, it ignores the fact that Hunter and the provincial government are arguing about how much funding students in French immersion schools should receive. If classes were under capacity, then the systems should be shared. However, this argument assumes the shortfall is permanent. It assumes that the recent large number of new students in French immersion is here to stay, when evidence strongly suggests the number is on a “pause”, with thousands of francophone parents waiting patiently for classes.
The federal government recently announced $24.5-million to help improve the education system. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said B.C. plans to use its share to reinstate French immersion options. So it may be time for the provincial government to redirect some of its $270-million annual investment to expand options at other schools.