2006 – Bill 52 and Homeschooling

Historical Archive - This information is shared so that you can see what the OFTP's involvement and arguments were in this issue at that time. For up-to-date information about compulsory attendance, please see the current text of the Education Act.

Bill 52 2005 was "an Act to amend the Education Act respecting pupil learning to the age of 18 and equivalent learning and to make complementary amendments to the Highway Traffic Act."

When the bill was introduced in mid-December 2005, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) sent a letter to the Education Minister (at that time, Gerard Kennedy) to ask how the Act might affect homeschoolers and to request a meeting to discuss our concerns. As of the end of April 2006, we had not yet received a reply and therefore sent a letter to the Minister (at that time, Sandra Pupatello) explaining our position, as well as all MPPs asking for their help in getting our voices heard. MPP Shelley Martel quoted from that letter during the Second Reading held on May 31st 2006 and encouraged the Minister to agree to meet with us. On June 12th 2006, we again contacted the Minister's office to request a meeting. Our phone call was returned by the office of MPP Kathleen Wynne, at that time Parliamentary Assistant to the Education Portfolio, and a meeting was set for June 29th 2006. The meeting went well and revealed that Ms. Wynne was understanding of homeschooling, having considered it herself. Ms. Wynne later took on the position of Minister of Education.

Our thoughts, concerns and recommendations to the government are outlined below. Like the HSLDA and OCHEC, we called on all homeschoolers (in fact, all citizens) to contact their MPP and voice their concerns so that the government would have a true sense of the opposition to this bill.

The bill passed Second and Third Reading and hearings by the Standing Committee and, as a result of letters, visits to MPP offices and presentations to the Committee, was altered somewhat from its original draft.

Partial success: According to Education Critic Frank Klees (November 3rd, 2006), the government bowed to the wishes of all the stakeholders who, through letters, phone calls, emails and presentations to the standing committees, expressed concern about the punitive measures of Bill 52, and agreed to withdraw the bill's proposed provisions that would have linked driver's licenses to compliance with school attendance laws.

Thank you to all of you who contributed to the effort to bring our concerns to the government in time to have this partial impact on legislation.

OFTP Presentation to the Standing Committee

On Tuesday August 29, 2006, OFTP liaison Katie Toksoy made an oral presentation to the Standing Committee on Legislative Assembly on behalf of the OFTP. There were about 12 presenters speaking on Bill 52: Teachers Federations, homeless advocates, and homeschoolers including OCHEC (represented by Bill Groot-Nibelink) and OFTP (represented by Katie Toksoy). Katie's presentation lasted about 8 minutes, then there were 2 minutes left for questions. She gave an overview of the "2006 Homeschooling Perspective," followed by three points:

  1. OFTP does not support the coercive and punitive legislation which links driving privileges to school attendance.
  2. If the bill does pass, we ask that homeschoolers not be required to obtain confirmation of homeschooling status from our local school boards.
  3. In case it should be required that confirmation of compliance with attendance laws must be provided to the Ministry of Transportation, we offered a form which a homeschooling parent could fill out, have signed by a guarantor (much like a passport application) and submitted directly to the Ministry of Transportation. This would avoid any contact with school boards.

After Katie finished speaking, MPP Rosario Marchese (NDP - Trinity Spadina) asked her if OFTP had had a chance to meet with the Ministry of Education. She told him that we had had a meeting back in the Spring and although the validity of the bill was not discussed (because we oppose it and they introduced it), the ministry staff were receptive to the idea of the "passport-style" confirmation of homeschooling form that we introduced. MPP Frank Klees (education critic) said that our recommendations would be implemented into their proposed amendments to the proposed legislation.

You can visit the Ontario Legislative Assembly website for the transcript of the hearings including the full transcript of OFTP's presentation of August 29th.

OFTP's Response to Bill 52 — Letter to all MPPs

April 3rd, 2006

Dear [Name of MPP]:

When Bill 52 was introduced in mid-December 2005, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) sent a letter to Education Minister Gerard Kennedy seeking clarification of the Act's effect on homeschoolers and requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns. As of this date, we have not received a reply. We have members in your riding and wonder if you could help us have our voices heard on this issue.

The OFTP applauds the government's recognition of the need to support the diversity of students' learning styles, interests and goals. We support plans to make available more non-traditional learning opportunities such as apprenticeships, work placement with training, and other options.

We believe, however, that such plans are best carried out without restrictive, coercive or punitive measures or associated changes in legislation. We believe the proposed measures overstep boundaries and impinge on the rights and freedoms of young adults.

The OFTP therefore urges the government to proceed as follows:

1. Amend Bill 52 or abandon it altogether to implement under existing legislation a modified plan to provide more access to and recognition of non-traditional learning opportunities.

Non-traditional services and opportunities are already available to, and in use by some, students who are pursuing their secondary education as homeschoolers, i.e. outside of the school system. We believe it is relevant to note that their learning in such environments is already recognized and validated by means of portfolios and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) when they enter the institutional education system at the secondary or post-secondary level. Virtually all universities in Ontario have developed or are committed to developing special admissions policies for homeschoolers, that do not require an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

Promotion of the above alternative process of recognition would accommodate and support more young people than would a narrowing of non-traditional options into those considered to be "equivalent learning" for the purposes of receiving an OSSD.

2. Abandon plans to raise the compulsory school age to 18.

We urge the government to recognize instead that young adults over 16 are at an age to be treated with increased respect for their personal choices and granted more leeway for their growing independence and autonomy; that, given financial and moral support and practical means, they will gladly attend learning environments that support and cater to their individual strengths, needs and interests; and that such learning opportunities should be provided by the government as a service rather than imposed as a legal requirement. We affirm that learning can be effectively validated and supported without excessive regulation.

We know from direct experience as homeschoolers that it is not necessary for young people to stay in school in order for them to be engaged in learning and motivated to maintain lifelong learning.

We believe that a broad focus on learning and a respect for autonomy and freedom of choice are more empowering and motivating than a narrow focus on school attendance.

3. Abandon any plans to link school attendance and drivers' licenses.

We believe the education system cannot "instil in young people a lasting, positive attitude toward learning" by imposing sanctions through coercive and restrictive legislation.

We urge the government to recognize that linking drivers' licenses to school attendance is a punitive measure, unfair in its incongruity, and oversteps the boundaries of the state into the private affairs of individuals. We believe that certain decisions fall under the responsibilities of parents rather than government, and that one such decision is whether or not to impose unrelated consequences (such as the withholding of a driver's license) on a youth who chooses not to attend school.

Sometimes a young person's interests and goals involve circumstances in which they may need independent transportation (i.e. a vehicle and a driver's license) to classes, training, research or employment. To restrict access to such opportunities to some young people and not to others sets up a double standard, especially given that the restriction can interfere with the very thing it is meant to promote: involvement with learning.

4. Consult with dropouts, potential dropouts, and homeschoolers, to gain a better understanding of the complexity and diversity of reasons for leaving school and the solutions that would genuinely and supportively change the motivation or ability to stay.

We believe that genuine motivation is self-motivation arising out of a desire to learn and reach goals, not out of fear of coercion or punitive legislation.

We urge the government to understand that young people will not be genuinely motivated to stay in school if their experience there is a negative one, whether in relation to teachers and other school authorities (e.g. the student feels he or she is restricted, receiving no respect, not having his or her needs met, not having his or her strengths recognized, and/or not receiving the assistance he or she needs to assimilate the lessons), or in relation to peers (being socially ostracized, emotionally abused, and/or physically threatened or abused).

What is required to address these issues is a guarantee of safety, respect, understanding, support and assistance. While access to non-traditional learning opportunities can help create a more positive environment and is a step in the right direction, it is only one step geared to one aspect of the issue.

We believe what is needed for a more encompassing solution is a genuine understanding of the diverse and complex realities that lead or force students to opt out of school. Dropouts and potential dropouts are the ones who can offer the most valuable and direct insight into which realities relate to their own reasons for leaving school, and what solutions would address those realities effectively.

Homeschoolers, too, can offer insights and a different perspective on why one might withdraw from the school system, and can also contribute information and experience about the types of learning that can and do happen outside of school.

We feel sure that the above steps would lead the government to a positive, creative and constructive solution to the dropout issue without restricting the rights and freedoms of young adults or overstepping the boundaries of the state into private matters.

If plans do proceed as currently outlined in Bill 52, the OFTP urges the government to ensure that the rights of homeschoolers are not revoked or curtailed as a consequence.

To that end, we request the following:

1) That the Ministry of Transportation be directed to acknowledge that 16- and 17-year-old homeschoolers are in compliance with section 21(2)(a) of the Education Act just as they are at a younger age (a person is excused from attendance at school if "the person is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere") and to accept as sufficient evidence thereof the parents' written statement that they are providing home education with full knowledge of their responsibilities under the law.

We respectfully assert that it is only when parents are thus presumed to be fulfilling their legal and parental responsibilities that the fundamental principles of our justice system and social order are upheld; namely, that "parents have a prior right to choose what kind of education their children shall receive" (Article 26[3] of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and that a person must be presumed to be in compliance with the law and not investigated unless there is compelling reason to suspect otherwise.

We further assert that requiring verification from a third party amounts to unwarranted investigation and that in order to remain in keeping with the fundamental principles mentioned, a family's statement of their homeschooling status must be accepted directly by the Ministry of Transportation, i.e. without school board involvement, approval or confirmation.

Although the OFTP cannot verify, investigate or be held accountable for its members' educational decisions, we are willing to issue to them a written confirmation of their membership status, which they could use to support their statement to the government that they are in compliance with Section 21(2)(a) of the Education Act and eligible for a driver's license.

2) That the government enable legal recognition and accommodation of the fact that teens who have been homeschooled may have completed their secondary studies before they turn 18 yet have no diploma to use as confirmation for the purpose of being deemed to have legally graduated in the eyes of the Ministry of Transportation. In keeping with the principles mentioned above, we request that the government treat the teen as a graduated homeschooler on the basis of the parents' written statement to that effect.

In response to the government's assertion that "no initiative is more essential to the province's future than a plan that ensures young people keep learning until they graduate or turn 18," we would like to affirm that what is most essential to the province's future, and to young adults as individuals with personal lives and human rights, is access to services and opportunities, not sanctions, and that they be empowered by free choice and support, not alienated by restrictions and coercion.

Therefore, the OFTP, through its executive, recommends and urges that the government abandon plans to raise the compulsory school age, abandon any plans to link school attendance and drivers' licenses, and focus any changes to legislation on implementing its positive plans to provide more support, choice and opportunity to young people as they transition through their secondary education to the post secondary or post educational destination of their choice.

In closing, we would like to re-iterate our willingness to engage in discussion on the issues surrounding Bill 52, 2005. Please feel free to contact one of our liaisons listed below to schedule a meeting or telephone call. We will be happy to speak to the points discussed in this letter.

Sincerely,

The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents
Katie Toksoy, OFTP Liaison
liaison1 @ ontariohomeschool.org
Kenneth Dutka, OFTP Liaison
liaison2 @ ontariohomeschool.org


An elaboration of the thoughts underlying the above requests is provided by means of a point by point response to the Preamble of Bill 52:

Point by point response to the Preamble of Bill 52

"The people of Ontario and their Government:

Believe that all secondary school pupils deserve a strong education system that provides them with a good outcome and prepares them for a successful future in their destination of choice, whether that is a work placement with training, an apprenticeship, college or university;"

The members of the OFTP:
Believe that all children and youth deserve a flexible and effective education system that provides them with the legal means by which they can avail themselves of the services and opportunities they need to succeed in acquiring the foundations of academic education, the attitude of lifelong learning, and the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for the post secondary or post educational destination of their choice.Understand that such services and opportunities include work placement with training, apprenticeship, college courses, independent study, as well as personal approaches to learning that cannot be easily evaluated.

Applaud the government's willingness to recognize non-traditional educational choices as valid, and encourage it to include all self-determined learning in that qualification.

Are aware that the services and opportunities in question are already available to, and in use by some, students who are pursuing their secondary education as homeschoolers, i.e. outside of the school system, and that their learning in such environments is recognized by means of portfolios and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) when they enter the institutional education system at the secondary or post-secondary level.

"Recognize that the education system must challenge and engage pupils with differing learning styles and make learning more relevant to them;"

Applaud the government's recognition of the need to accommodate and engage pupils with differing learning styles and make learning more relevant to them.

"Recognize that the education system must continue to provide broad supports so pupils can succeed and graduate;"

Applaud the government's willingness to provide broad supports so pupils can succeed and graduate.

"Understand the education system needs to instil in young people a lasting, positive attitude toward learning that will keep them motivated to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18;"

Believe the education system cannot instil in young people a lasting, positive attitude toward learning by imposing sanctions through coercive and restrictive legislation.Observe, on the contrary, through direct experience as homeschoolers, that young people regain motivation, self-esteem and interest, and embrace learning, when they are given charge of their own choices and provided with the respectful moral support and practical supports they need to pursue their interests and goals at their own pace, in their own learning style, and without coercion.

"Believe pupils must have a real choice through equivalent ways of learning that meet the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma;"

Believe young people must have a real choice through the freedom to choose from among learning options that are not limited by restrictive guidelines, rules or criteria of eligibility that qualify some options as "equivalent learning" and others as ineligible.Are aware that virtually all universities in Ontario have developed or are committed to developing special admissions policies for homelearners, that do not require an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

"Recognize the importance of providing pupils with academic preparation as well as skills that will prepare them for the workplace;"

Recognize the importance of providing young people with a foundation in skills of literacy and numeracy as well as basic life skills and work skills needed in adulthood and the workplace.

"Understand that motivating pupils to stay in school depends on the combined efforts of educators, parents, employers and the wider community;"

Understand that genuine motivation is self-motivation arising out of a desire to learn and reach goals, not out of fear of consequences.Believe that young people cannot be genuinely motivated to stay in school by coercive and punitive legislation.

Believe that certain decisions fall under the responsibilities of parents rather than government, and that one such decision would be whether or not to impose unrelated consequences (such as the withholding of a driver's license) on a youth who chooses not to attend school.

Understand, from direct experience as homeschoolers, that it is not necessary for young people to stay in school in order for them to be engaged in learning and motivated to maintain lifelong learning.

Understand that young people will not be genuinely motivated to stay in school if their experience there is a negative one, whether in relation to teachers and other school authorities (e.g. the student feels he or she is restricted, receiving no respect, not having his or her needs met, not having his or her strengths recognized, and/or not receiving the assistance he or she needs to assimilate the lessons), or in relation to peers (being socially ostracized, emotionally abused, and/or physically threatened or abused).

Understand that parents can convey the importance of learning and continuing education without necessarily placing great importance on attendance at high school.

Understand that parents' responsibility is toward their child as a whole person, not just toward his or her attendance at school, and that parental attitudes in regard to attendance may be a reflection of the degree to which a school is or is not effectively meeting a young person's needs as a multidimensional, whole person.

Believe that a broad focus on learning and a respect for autonomy and freedom of choice are more empowering and motivating than a narrow focus on school attendance.

"Recognize that each student deserves opportunities that build on their interests and that recognize their individual strengths; by building on the creativity and strength of Ontario's education system and by forging links with the wider community, we can create an environment committed to the success of every student; one that focuses on providing the care and support that each student needs to reach their potential;"

Applaud the government's willingness to recognize that each student deserves opportunities that build on their interests and that recognize their individual strengths; and its willingness to create an environment in which each student can succeed and reach his or her potential.

"Affirm that no initiative is more essential to the province's future than a plan that ensures young people keep learning until they graduate or turn 18, whether it is in classroom or through equivalent learning opportunities, such as an apprenticeship or workplace training program;"

Affirm that learning does not need to be regulated to be validated and supported.

Affirm that what is most essential to the province's future, and to young adults as individuals with personal lives and human rights, is that our young people be given services and opportunities, not sanctions, and that they be empowered by free choice and support, not alienated by restrictions and coercion.

"Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:" [end of preamble; details are then given as to the exact section-by-section changes proposed to be made to the Education Act.]

Therefore, the OFTP, through its executive, recommends and urges that the government abandon Bill 52, abandon plans to raise the compulsory school age, abandon any plans to link school attendance and drivers' licenses, and work within the bounds of existing legislation to implement its positive plans to provide more support, choice and opportunity to young people as they transition through their secondary education to the post secondary or post educational destination of their choice.