QUEEN’S PARK – Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett stressed the need to teach basic math skills during Monday’s debate on the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, 2018.

Barrett asked the Legislature what seven times eight is.

“A buddy of mine is an ironworker,” Barrett said during debate. “Whenever we run into usually a young guy, he always asks, ‘What’s seven times eight?’ 

“He trains ironworkers. He needs the best. The union needs the best. They’ve got to have the best to attract employment for the success of the union. 

“Hence, Bill 48 will require math testing for new teachers. And why do we do that? Well, over the last five years, as we know, math test scores have been declining. In spite of efforts by the previous government, the trend has not reversed.”

“To begin to increase math scores, those who teach math need a more solid understanding of the field themselves, so Bill 48 requires new teachers pass a math test before you get a licence to teach. Mathematics is paramount for employment, not only as an ironworker, obviously—as a boilermaker or as a pipe fitter. Friends of mine in the field talk about this a lot.

“Of course, in what’s referred to as the STEM field—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—again, look at the numbers. People in that field make on average $75,000 a year. In the non-STEM field—arts, social science—you’re looking at maybe $58,000, if you’re entry-level, aged 25 to 34.

“Also, there’s very high demand for those in the STEM fields—a field based on a solid understanding of mathematics.

“One other bonus: It helps you balance a chequebook—“

Barrett also highlighted aspects of the bill that require school boards to accommodate service dogs.

“So with respect to service dogs aiding the blind, the eyes for the blind and visually impaired, and other uses—as I understand, they are used to help warn of impending seizures and assist children with other special needs, such as autism spectrum disorder and mental health needs,” he said.