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Full-day JK-SK to be cut?

Windsor Star

February 11, 2012

Linda Nguyen, Postmedia News
In a highly anticipated report due next week, economist Don Drummond will suggest that Ontario scrap its full-day kindergarten program to save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a media report Friday.

Citing a senior government source, the Toronto Sun reported that Drummond proposes axing the program for four-and five-year-olds across the province.

The Liberal government has spent $200 million since it began phasing in the full-time program in the 2010-11 school year.

This year, it plans on spending another $300 million on the program, which is currently in 800 schools.

Drummond, a former economist with TD bank, was tasked in the last few months to review Ontario's finances and to help the province bring under control its $16-billion deficit.

His lengthy report, which will be released Wednesday, is expected to put forward dozens of cost-cutting measures to the province.

News of the recommendation drew criticism Friday.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the province's largest teachers' group, called the proposed move "short-sighted and counter-productive."

It says Ontario should look at other ways to cut spending by eliminating mandatory provincewide Education Quality and Accountability Office student testing, which is mandatory provincewide testing for students in reading, writing and mathematics. The province also can try to recoup savings by reducing corporate tax cuts and loopholes, the group says.

"Full-day kindergarten, along with other government initiatives, like reducing primary size classes, is providing children with a definite advantage and head-start when it comes to developing literacy, numeracy and social skills," ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Premier Dalton McGuinty wouldn't confirm the report but said the government looks forward to Drummond's recommendations.

"I think it's also very important to note that while we certainly appreciate Mr. Drummond's advice, on all fronts, the government will be moving forward with its own plan," press secretary Neala Bartons said in an email.

Education Minister Laurel Broten was unreachable for comment Friday.

Provincial PC member Lisa MacLeod called the move a political tactic by the Ontario Liberals to have the PCs "baited" into comment on something that has not happened yet.

"Obviously, we're going to wait for the report to see what he has to say," said MacLeod, who is also the party's education critic. "It's all speculation."

MacLeod called the leak an attempt by the Liberals to divert attention from the first day of the PC annual general meeting this weekend in Niagara Falls.

"My opinion is that they're playing politics with families and with kids," she said.

MacLeod said the report should be released early to prevent future leaks to the media.

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