Posts Tagged Kathleen Wynne

Ontario NDP Digs Huge Hole With Millennial Vote Over College Strike

(Andrea Horwath Looks Tone Deaf on Biggest Voting Demographic)

The decision by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to order striking college workers back to work was a decision that was based purely on politics geared towards getting the millennial vote ahead of provincial election.  Wynne has seemingly backed the Ontario NDP into a corner on their union values, as the NDP fights back to stall back to work legislation.  It’s an interesting position, considering Ontario students have long suffered under Liberal rule as a result of educational unions, and lack of oversight in the public educational sector for well over a decade.  A lot of the banter between both the Liberals and NDP has less to do with Ontario’s students, and more to do with the millennial vote.

The NDP had all the time needed over the past decade to bring up serious concerns of Ontario students, that being the lack of supports and oversight in our public education system on special needs students, the lack of compliance with human and charter rights of students in the system,  and the fact that many students attending college and university can’t even afford rent let alone pay for classes they haven’t received as a result of this strike. Instead the NDP decided to die on a hill of its traditional values of workers’ rights.  As the leader of Ontario’s NDP party Andrea Horwath put it in the Ontario legislature today regarding standing up for their party’s values for Ontario workers over Ontario’s students:

“We do it before an election, and we do it after an election”

Horwath went on to read a letter from a Niagara College student regarding how this student felt about workers’ rights and how the NDP should stand up against back to work legislation.  I attended Niagara College myself for journalism back in the 90’s where our professors and staff were also threatening a strike at that time.  Thankfully a strike was averted; however had any strike been applied during my studies I would want to be compensated for that by the college. Nowhere in Horwath’s speech today or even from the Liberals has there been any talk of compensation for lost time in class as a result of this strike (which includes not just tuition but living expenses), and the rights of students to seek such compensation.

While Horwath’s speech focused in on the rights of college professors to earn a living, the rights of students to simply live with a roof over their head, and food on the table seemed to have been grossly disregarded.  With the biggest voting demographic now up for grabs, will the Ontario NDP’s traditional values line up with those who out number financial donors to the party, and whether or not the Ontario NDP just shot itself in the foot with the millennials as a result of being completely tone deaf to the biggest voting demographic in Ontario.  Wynne may be playing politics with respect to this back to work legislation; the NDP’s wounds seem to be rather self-inflicted.

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UPDATED: Ombudsman to Ontario Parents and Students – We Don’t Believe You!

(Ontario Ombudsman Taking A Hands Off Approach To Systemic Issues With Ontario’s School Boards)

Just as the Ministry of Education’s probe of more mishandling of public funds at the York Region District School Board becomes clearer, the Ontario Ombudsman has sent a strong message to tax payers that it will not comment on the lack of systemic investigations into the education sector.

In a response to questions this blog sent into the Ombudsman’s office outlining several concerns of those that have written into this office over the past two years, spokesperson Lina Williamson had this to offer:

Your email asks our office to comment on complaints and issues in a public forum (your blog). Due to the confidentiality of our process, this would not be appropriate. We invite you and any parents with whom you are in contact who have unresolved issues with school boards to contact us through our confidential complaint process (more info at this link):

https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Make-a-Complaint.aspx

Williamson also has a message for parents of special needs kids that have complained into the office and feel that the Ombudsman isn’t taking the issues seriously:

[Their] allegations that the Ombudsman has not been tackling issues that matter to Ontarians are unfounded and contrary to the facts. The Ombudsman and his team are deeply committed to enhancing governance in the public sector by promoting transparency, accountability, and fairness.  We do that by resolving more than 21,000 complaints and inquiries every year in the most efficient manner and at the lowest level possible. In fact, 80% of cases are resolved within two weeks.  In the 19 months since his appointment, Ombudsman Paul Dubé has published two Annual Reports, reported on 47 investigations of closed municipal meetings, and published five reports on systemic investigations, calling for policy and procedure reforms in police training, the placement and tracking of inmates in solitary confinement, supports and services for adults with developmental disabilities, and most recently, the provision of school busing services in Toronto. All of the Ombudsman’s 161 recommendations in these investigations have been accepted, and the organizations in question have pledged to implement them.

The office seems to be deeply concerned about transparency, accountability, and fairness just not within the education sector or for children with disabilities this sector serves. With respect to the Ombudsman’s mandate, Williamson had this to offer:

As is typical of a Parliamentary Ombudsman, we are an office of last resort. The Ombudsman is appointed by an all-party committee of the Legislature (not by the government), is impartial (not an advocate), and is completely independent of government, all political parties and interest groups. Anyone with questions is welcome to contact us through our website or at 1-800-263-1830.

Finally, our office recommends all school boards and municipalities have independent integrity commissioners. This is a widely recognized best practice, as local accountability mechanisms within the communities they serve can usually resolve complaints and issues more efficiently (the province recently amended legislation to require all municipalities to have an integrity commissioner by March 2019). The Ombudsman does not replace local accountability officers, but can take complaints about them.

Once again, anyone who has an issue with a school board or other public sector body within our mandate is encouraged to contact us through our confidential online form, complaints phone line, or by emailing info@ombudsman.on.ca/

UPDATED: 11/9/2017 7:15pm

In the quest for transparency, I’ve followed up with the Ombudsman’s office regarding their responses.  There’s been some back and forth since the original posting.  Here’s what has transpired:

JK: The allegations surrounding your office not tackling the issues in the education sector, are not my own.  Those allegations come from those who have directly complained to your office and are being referred back to their respective boards for complaint resolution.  Your response below to questions regarding a specific mandate the Ombudsman has on the education sector, seems to be more generalized.  Are you stating on the record here, that the reason why the Ombudsman hasn’t followed through with SORT investigations into the education sector, is because those complaints that have come into your office regarding school boards have been resolved?  Can you please clear that up.

LW: “Are you stating on the record here, that the reason why the Ombudsman hasn’t followed through with SORT investigations into the education sector, is because those complaints that have come into your office regarding school boards have been resolved?”

No. First, the Ombudsman has done a SORT (systemic) investigation in the school board sector: The report The Route of the Problem was released in August, and all of Mr. Dubé’s recommendations were accepted. It can be found here: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Investigations/SORT-Investigations/Completed/Toronto-school-busing-issues.aspx

Second, we cannot discuss individual cases with third parties. To reiterate, anyone who has a problem that they have been unable to resolve at the school board level is welcome to contact our office through our confidential complaint process.

For your general information, we oversee more than 1,000 public sector bodies and receive more than 21,00 complaints per year. Most are resolved informally. Receiving multiple complaints on an issue does not necessarily mean the Ombudsman can, should or will conduct a systemic investigation. Several factors go into any decision to conduct a systemic investigation, including the number of complaints, available resources, whether other resolution mechanisms can address the matter, whether there is evidence of a systemic issue, whether the matter relates to administration rather than broad public policy, and whether is being addressed by the institution in question.

JK: I’m not asking you to comment on individual cases, just systemic issues that your office should be aware of through individual complaints, and media reports.  While I congratulate this office for ensuring school children get to school on time in an isolated incident within the province, I’m more than curious to see such a reluctance to put forth investigations on what happens when these kids get to school, the lack of support for special needs, the lack of application of the education act systemically, and a general lack of accountability within the school system itself.  These issues are not just widely known to your office through individual reports, they are widely documented in media.

There’s no valid excuse for not following your mandate when it comes to the education sector.  It’s truly unfortunate that our most vulnerable are caught in the middle and paying a heavy price due to the unwillingness to further, and independently investigate.  That will surely reflect on policy discussions as it comes to any future mandates your office will or will not receive by government post 2018.  The lack of engagement by your office on education issues over the past two years has been duly noted by Ontarioians who have written in to your office for help and have been slapped in the face by this office, and their respective boards.  It’s unfortunate.

JK: While the discussion revolves around recent issues, I’ve attached a response this office gave to 400 individual complaints in 2010, in which your office has outlined concerns regarding the lack of independent oversight on the education sector. There has been very little movement in law regarding those concerns since 2010 other than your mandate.  As a result the education system is in crisis, with our most vulnerable taking most of the hits in the classroom.  I’ve attached this offices 2010 response, and I’ve highlighted what should be self-explanatory.  Your office is fully and completely aware of the problems.  While I know that your office can not comment on these 400 individual complaints, it will make for some interesting public discussions around your mandate moving forward.  I’m still waiting for an interview with Dupe.  The people of Ontario would like to hear directly from him on his mandate and the independence of this office please.

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What has your experience been with the Ombudsman’s office, and the school boards? We would like to hear from you.  Leave a comment, or message us anonymously at jkobopoli at rogers dot com

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Education Crisis Grows As Ontario’s Ombudsman Nowhere To Be Found

(Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dube is Falling Short on The Provincial Education Crisis and May Not Be Following His Mandate)

 

With media reports of students across this province being under supported almost on a weekly basis now, frustration with parents who often approach the Ombudsman’s office on lack of compliance of board staff on the education act, to what looks to be systemic misappropriation of tax payers funds by school boards,  to education sector unions demanding more money be spent on their members rather than kids – I thought it might be necessary to write into the Ombudsman’s office and find out why after two years of his mandate which is retroactive, there has been not one systemic investigation into the education sector on these issues in this province with a crisis growing by the day.

Below is a list of questions/concerns I sent into the Ombudsman’s communication department.  Apparently they don’t have a canned response to handle any of the below, and I am told this has been moved up the ladder to the Ombudsman himself, and his staff.  I’m told I should be receiving a response to this “soon” and I will post that response when it comes in.

I’m a syndicated blogger and contributor to a political and policy blog called Mind Bending Politics which follows political policy in Ontario and Canada Wide. I’ve been following the crisis in our education system now for over ten years. The predecessor to your office Andre Marin was quite adamant in getting this mandate to look into Ontario’s education sector since your office was fielding a number of complaints regarding the lack of compliance within the education act on a systematic level. I was one of the primary advocates to ensure that your office received a mandate through the province in investigating complaints within the education system.

https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1468053-region-parents-worry-about-anti-bullying-watchdogs/

Two years into your mandate, we’re not seeing a reduction of these issues outlined in the above article, in fact since your office has received your mandate on the educational sector, we’re seeing the lack of compliance within law grow exponentially across the province.

I have followed quite a number of complaints into your office, which should have sparked SORT investigations into the public education system, and the lack of compliance with the education act that is systemic and has been for some time.

I’ve received word by several parents that have written into your office that instead of actively investigating complaints on systemic non-compliance of the education act, you are telling parents that you are a last resort option and referring 100% of these cases I am aware of back to their respective boards where often these complaints end up being not resolved with respect to compliance with the law.

I have a few questions I would like to ask.

1. First, since your mandate the York Regional District School Board has and is the latest board to come under fire for non-compliance of the education act, and misappropriation of public funds, and systemic racism. It took a parents complaint into the human rights tribunal regarding racism before the province decided to step in. Can you explain how or why your office over the past two years were not aware of the situations within the York Regional District School Board that were later outlined by provincial investigators as being long term systemic issues across the YRDSB? Many parents within the YRDSB have written into this office regarding compliance with the education act, and your office has thus far refused to get involved. Can you further explain why that is?

2. Second, in your 2016/2017 annual report, this office gave praise to boards like the YRDSB who are setting up a self policing integrity office, and recommended that other boards do the same. Can you further explain why this office is advocating for a non-independent integrity review when your office has the mandate to independently and systemically investigate compliance with the education act? Why would an integrity office would be needed with your mandate, and why is this office endorsing a non-independent review of the integrity of board employees in the first place?

3. Since September 2017, I’ve seen almost weekly reports in the media and social media of special needs kids being sent home pre-maturely, not properly supported in the education system, lack of compliance with the education act on IEPs, a lack of hiring properly trained staff. Is this office monitoring those reports, and if so could you please offer comment as to why your office isn’t taking any public initiative to conduct a SORT investigation into special needs education in the province of Ontario?

4. Recently Janis Jaffe-White, co-ordinator, and Reva Schafer, resource parent, of the Toronto Family Network wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star outlining concerns regarding the lack of compliance with the education act province wide for special needs students. I would like this office to further comment on this op-ed and what this office plans on doing to thoroughly investigate these issues with compliance with the education act both at the board, and ministerial level.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2017/10/31/your-letters-pilot-for-autistic-students-only-a-band-aid-solution.html

Warm Regards,

Jason Koblovsky

 

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New Poll Suggests Ontario Is Heading For A Change Of Government

A new poll conducted by Ipsos found that 76% of Ontarians want a new party in the Ontario Legislature in 2018.  The Ontario Liberals have long ignored calls from people across the province and from members of their own party that current leader and premier Kathleen Wynne needs to be ousted and people want change.  Are the Liberals now poised to recreate the mistakes of the Democrats south of the border with Hillary Clinton in ignoring calls for a change election?

Last week TVO’s Agenda aired a one on one interview with Wynne.  Steve Paikin didn’t mince words, and put Wynne on the hot seat from everything from Hydro, to Green Energy, to her unpopularity across the province, and calls for her to step down.  Wynne’s responses seemed rather tone deaf to a lot of the concerns of most people in Ontario, and she didn’t seem rather confident in her prospects post 2018.

Wynne over the past few months has been focusing the party more towards the left.  She has been trying to move people over from the NDP over to the Liberals in policies such as free tuition, and a $15/hour minimum wage hike, however that may be of more benefit to the NDP come election time as Wynne’s personal popularity has plumbed and people are looking for change.

Ipsos currently puts the PC’s upfront at 39%, Liberals at 32%, and the NDP at 22%.  The PC’s out of all the major parties have risen quite a bit of money for 2018.  The big problem is with its leadership.  No one truly knows what Patrick Brown stands for on policy other than opposing Wynne on everything she does.  He often takes up popular movements, only after the popular movement has died down. He’s not a family man, and no kids.  The party has also been plagued with infighting in nomination races, with accusations of corruption and ballot stuffing. We’ve been following Brown on a number of policy fronts over the past year, and we think that the more people get to know him, the more people will discover that Brown’s PCs will be too much of a risk to take since by all accounts the party and the leadership looks unstable under his rein.

The biggest beneficiary to a change election could be the Ontario NDP.  The only people that have their arms up over Wynne’s leftist moves in policy are the traditional PC hardcore base.  Liberal and NDP voters are likely to vote NDP next election due to this being a change election.  It would be a very hard sell to see Liberal voters voting for Brown in next election. The move to the left by Wynne in policy will likely gravitate Liberal voters who are upset with Wynne over to the NDP.

Another big factor is an aging demographic, and health care.  Boomers who have been supporters of the PC’s in the past do remember the Harris cuts to health care.  With the PC’s vaguely calling for a value for money audit on all government ministries, this screams of cuts to services.  Who determines the value for each ministry, and how will that be decided is quite a mystery at present.  Millennials are now the main demographic in Ontario and are more than likely to vote on the left.  A low voter turn out usually benefits conservatives, which is unlikely in a change election.

Traditionally when Liberals are in power federally, Ontario goes PC.  The problem is that tradition in politics globally and also across the country is no longer exists.  Free tuition, and drug plans are to be a big hit with the Millennials in which both the NDP and Liberals have adopted in policy.  With Ipsos polling NDP Leader Andrea Horwath as the most supported for premier in 2018 at 42%, one can probably expect Ontario will be Orange in June of 2018.

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Ontario Minimum Wage Increase A Good Idea

(Businesses Across Ontario Are Being Too Penny Wise With The Proposed Wage Increase)

Scary clowns are a big hit these days at the box office, and while the people of Ontario get acquainted with a clown called Pennywise from the latest version of Stephen Kings IT, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario [FAO] is warning tax payers and job seekers of another scary metamorph; a proposed minimum wage hike of $15/hour.  This increase is set to be fully implemented by 2019 and came under fire yesterday in a report from the FAO.  The FAO stated that it will cost the Ontario economy 50,000 jobs if it goes ahead with this wage hike.

It’s not a surprise that businesses – whom over the past several years have enjoyed a tremendous amount of federal tax breaks – are lining up to oppose this policy and demonizing it as being economically unsound.  Ontario Progressive Conservatives leader Patrick Brown had something to say about it as well, however he brushed off the wage increase a distraction in a bizarre rant on twitter, and Brown isn’t clear on his stance on the policy at all and what he would do differently if he became Premier:

“Wynne is putting potentially 1000s of jobs at risk so she can try and distract from the fact she takes the stand at trial tomorrow #onpoli pic.twitter.com/IUVuQC1VIE

— Patrick Brown (@brownbarrie) September 12, 2017

Brown seems very comfortable in the opposition benches. Offside of the very off tone Ontario PC response, there seems to be a lot of red balloons around the economic storm drains on this policy and it isn’t even Halloween yet.

Since the market crash of 2008, we’ve been shifting from traditional conservative economic ideology (which failed miserably) towards one of managing the economy on several different levels in a bi-partisan way.  Corporate tax cuts have not produced substantial jobs in Canada, in fact the opposite has happened. A study by the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives in 2011 found the biggest employers were sitting on the money they saved from these cuts:

“From 2005 to 2010, the number of employed Canadians rose 6% while the number of jobs created by the companies in the study grew by only 5%. In essence, the largest beneficiaries of corporate tax cuts are dragging down Canadian employment growth.”

In 2013, federal conservatives were warned by then Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney that Canadian companies were sitting on vast sums of cash they have saved through tax cuts, and bail outs rather than creating jobs to bolster the economy.  As I remember it Carney stated this several times throughout his time at the Bank of Canada. While company CEO bonuses grew, so did the economic divide in Canada and in Ontario as well as a result of businesses not investing what they should in the local, regional, and federal economies.  The economy has changed post 2008 not just in Canada but globally, and managing this economy has changed as well.

If the cost of living is high throughout the country and the province, than a minimum wage increase to ensure people have the means to survive should be something we all should be embracing patriotically.  Businesses will adjust.  Yes there may be some job losses (in my opinion way less the FAO has reported will happen) in the short term by companies who are not willing to spend profit margins on their employees, however just as those jobs are lost, they will be offset by more spending power by the general worker.  As the minimum wage increases, so should increases to everyone’s wage as the economy grows as a result of more spending power.  At least that would be the working economic theory on this policy. The wage increase is cycled through the economy.  Employees who make more, become more productive and contribute more to the economy on whole.  With many people in Ontario living paycheque to paycheque, and the fact that over the past several years businesses have sat on cash from tax cuts, they can suck it up and do their part.

The Ontario NDP has been calling for this wage hike for some time.   This ideology was also adapted by conservatives who bailed out auto sectors, and bailed out the economy through “stimulus” after the disastrous effects of traditional conservative ideology of deregulation and corporate tax cuts took hold in 2008.  Change is difficult, but necessary post 2008 economics. Greed is no longer good economics, nor is it socially acceptable post 2008.

JK

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NDP Could End Up Winning Ontario In 2018

(Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath Could Be the Strongest Leader In Contention For 2018)

With the next provincial election coming into view in Ontario, have the Liberals made a fatal mistake on keeping Kathleen Wynne at the helm?  Recent polls put Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown up front, however many don’t know what he stands for besides opposing the current government, and the PC’s base in Ontario are widely viewed as far right Donald Trump supporters, rather than progressives. Could Ontario see a collapse of the right in 2018, and the NDP climb to power under a protest vote against, both the PC’s and Liberals?

The NDP in Ontario under Andrea Horwath have been pretty upfront over the past few years, including putting out some of their platform for the Ontario 2018 election which includes a universal pharmacare plan in Ontario.  The major voting demographic in Ontario are the millennials, which far surpass the aging boomer population and are more left leaning in their voting tendencies.  Over the past few months the Wynne Liberals have been trying to occupy some of the NDP’s platforms by instituting pharma and dental care for kids in Ontario.  They’ve also instituted free tuition for lower income students, and piloted a guaranteed basic income project, all of which come from the left side of the political spectrum to try and win over those votes.

Wynne is banking on a few things to secure her win in 2018.  The fact Brown is not a strong leader, and she’ll bring up memories of the health care cuts under Harris, which will be an attempt to move the aging boomer vote towards the Liberals.  Brown also has had to deal with issues over infighting for local nominations for the party, and has been tone deaf on a lot of the issues the people of Ontario are faced with until they end up in the media.  He often jumps on popular movements far too late, and takes credit for sticking it to the Wynne Liberals.  We saw this during the autism movement where Brown in question period for three weeks during the parent’s protests, not once brought up any support for that movement.  He recently claimed victory for parents stating that he fought for extra money from the province for autistic kids and won.  Over the past year, things have got worse not better for these kids, and we haven’t seen any new money flow from Wynne, instead we’ve seen cuts to support, funding for special needs education cut, and wait lists that have grown substantially from what seemingly looks like a “net zero” approach to pay off 2,100 families waiting for services in June of last year.

Wynne is also banking on making an argument that Ontario can’t afford Horwath, and bring back big bad memories of former premier Bob Rae, which is an argument that is pretty much mute since Wynne is trying to occupy the NDP platform, and to many millennials Rae is a Liberal.  Horwath is nicknamed the “Hamilton Scrapper”. Over the past few elections Horwath has had to deal with the ghost of Rae, which has overshadowed a lot of her strengths. Horwath when she sat on Hamilton City Council was a super star in her riding.  She fought vigorously for the people and businesses she represented, and got things done.  Not just done, but done correctly and fast.  If Horwath can shake the ghosts of leaders past, and come out swinging, she’ll be the only leader that will look strong from the three traditional parties on that stage come 2018.

Brown for his part will not just have an image problem because he is tone deaf, but will have a very hard time shaking off Trump when the failure of that movement could come to a head in the US during our provincial election.   With a lot of Canadians paying attention to how Russia was involved in developing fake news, and directing fake social media accounts to push the alt-right into the White House, it’s going to be very difficult for Brown to run an effective social media campaign.

For Wynne, this is a change election heading into 2018.  With the Liberals in power now for over 14 years, and the people of Ontario reminded almost weekly about mismanagement, its going to be a very uphill battle to sell that change isn’t needed and Ontario needs to stay on its current course.  For its part the Liberal Party in Ontario, may have made a grave mistake in leaving Wynne at the helm during a “change” election.

Jason Koblovsky is a freelance political and policy analyst, and syndicated political blogger commenting on Ontario, Canadian and US Politics.  He is also a senior writer and contributor to Mind Bending Politics.  If you would like to have your Op-Ed featured on Mind Bending Politics, send submissions to jkobopoli at rogers dot com

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Human Rights Appears To Be An Issue In New Ontario Autism Program

 

Minister of Children and Youth Services Micheal Coteau has been a champion of human rights especially in the black community and around racism, but when it comes to autistic kids it may be a different story.  Coteau made an announcement yesterday that was very short on detail regarding the roll out of the direct funding option for many Ontario families. I sent an e-mail to Micheal Nicin who is Coteau’s chief of staff today for further followup and clarification on several key issues relating to the transition over the past year, and providing unequal level of services to children and families.  E-mail is as follows:

Mr. Nicin,

Your ministry appears to be in violation of Section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code which states:

Services 

  1. Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 1; 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (1); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (1); 2012, c. 7,

There was a lack of detail in the Ministers response yesterday, that further confirms the government is not acting within the law.

Last June, the government immediately implemented a direct funding option for 2,500 families.  I argue the government as a result has waived any legal argument under section 14 of the human rights code due to those services not being equally distributed to other families on the wait list at that time, nor any new adds on the wait list during this transition over the past year. The government also had a legal duty over the past year to accommodate those children on wait lists with equal access to services under the code as well, in which undue hardship would not apply since the Minister during his teleconference a few weeks ago stated to parents that there was money already in the system, and that “Money isn’t the problem.”  I also argue that if there was any question regarding capacity going forward that those 2,500 families shouldn’t have been given priority treatment over the past year while others have suffered as a result of not providing them with equal treatment in services (documented), in order to be within full compliance of the law.

Can you please explain to me what is being done to ensure that the Minister and his staff are properly following the law, and exactly what the details are with respect to the roll out of the direct funding option so that all families currently on wait list currently have that option in a reasonable time frame.  I require specific details at this time.

Regards,

Jason Koblovsky

I will keep everyone informed of any responses.

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