After deep cuts in first mandate, Liberals promise $2.8B for education

The proposed measures include more free access to education for four year olds and additional support for kindergarten and first grade teachers across Quebec.

Measures includes more free education for 4 year olds, support for kindergarten and first grade teachers

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard unveiled his education program for youth and families in St-Felicien, Que., this morning. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Liberals have promised to provide more access to education for four-year-old children if they are re-elected Oct. 1, as the party seeks to shake its belt-tightening image and prove to voters that it can better the lives of Quebec families.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard announced $2.8 billion for education over a five-year period this morning, while campaigning in Saint-Félicien, in Quebec's Saguenay region.

The investment includes a promise made earlier this summer to provide more, free educational services for four year olds enrolled in both pre-kindergarten programs at schools and at government-run daycares (CPEs).

Couillard said that making daycare educational services and pre-kindergarten free for all four year olds would cost about $250 million per year over five years. He said whether a parent chooses a CPE or pre-kindergarten program, the quality of education must be the same.

The party also plans to make English-language instruction available at an earlier stage in elementary schools and increase support for kindergarten and first-grade teachers. The programs would begin in September 2019, Couillard said.

The Liberals plan to spend $186 million in 2019 on the support for those teachers, and that amount will increase gradually up to $384 million in the last year of their second term.

After beginning their first mandate by passing a series of austerity measures, which included government cuts to education and health care in particular, the Liberals are making their pitch to voters that they would now focus on improving those same services.

The Liberals have touted the province's strong economic record, saying they expect budget surpluses until 2021.

In their final budget before this fall's election, the Liberals boosted education spending by about five per cent to a total of $18.9 billion, most of which was directed toward elementary and high schools. 

More support in the classroom

Under the newly announced measures, the Liberals plan to provide pre-kindergarten and first grade teachers with educational assistants. The role of the assistant will vary per class, but they may provide services such as teaching, technical support, or support for students with special needs.

The party also said it would also provide more funding and education materials in preschool education, at a cost of $29 million per year over the course of its second mandate.

The Liberals plan to provide pre-kindergarten and first grade teachers with educational assistants. (Josée Ducharme/Radio-Canada)

To better align the preschool program with the school system, the party said that it would be moved from the Ministry of Families portfolio to the Ministry of Education.

Intensive English-language courses will also be available to students beginning in the fifth and sixth grades.

In a statement, Couillard said these initiatives will allow the province to "give children every opportunity to succeed." 

The age at which students can leave high school without a diploma will also be raised from 16 to 18 if the Liberals are given a second mandate. Students having trouble completing their high school education will be offered alternatives such as apprenticeship programs. 


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