Education Minister Stephen Lecce unveils $365 million “Plan to Catch Up’’  

By Lincoln DePradine

Stephen Lecce

As a dispute continues between the Ontario government and education workers, the ruling Conservatives say their focus remains on students and parents.

“We’re supporting parents, we’re supporting kids,’’ education minister Stephen Lecce told reporters representing community media at a news conference last Friday.

It was convened to address the latest initiatives, amounting to $365 million, under the government’s Plan to Catch Up’’.

Among the core pillars of the plan are a government commitment to keep students in class learning for the entirety of the school year; and, a desire to enhance students’ performance in reading, writing and math.

In the latest move, the provincial government is offering parents cash to help offset the cost of catching up in school after two years of COVID-related disrupted learning. Parents with children up to 18 years old can apply for $200, while parents with school-aged children with special education needs, up to the age of 21, can apply for $250.

“It’s an opportunity for families to get some dollars into their pockets to put it to good use for their children,’’ said Lecce

Applications for these catch-up payments will remain open until March 31, 2023. Parents can apply online at

“We’re putting money back in people’s pockets,’’ Lecce added, saying it’s a demonstration of wanting to “stand up for the students so that they could stay in class’’. and to “give them the support to get back on track’’.

Money is earmarked for specific programs such as additional tutoring supports; deploying of “Math Action Teams’’ to “underperforming school boards’’; new digital resources to support parents, students and educators; and new universal screening for reading for Ontario’s youngest learners.

“When kids are disrupted, when they’re not in class and away from the teacher, they perform more poorly,” Lecce said. “These strategic investments and initiatives will further help Ontario students get back on track and prepare them for success in the future – both inside and outside the classroom.”

In the meantime, the government and education workers are no closer to an agreement in their dispute. The main point of contention is salary.

Mediation between the two sides has broken down, and union representatives say it is “very possible” that a strike could be coming next month.

A mediator has requested that both parties resume bargaining on November 1, two days before workers will be in a position to legally take job action.

More than 50,000 custodians, early childhood educators and school administration staff, who work in public school boards across the province, have been without a collective agreement since August 4.

LJI Reporter