Baby, it’s HOT outside…

Who can focus and learn in a hot room?

On very warm days, chances are that your children learn in classrooms with open windows but no air conditioning. Their classrooms are stifling hot. Students and teachers struggle to stay focused and get the job done. You and I went to school in those same classrooms and survived… so what’s the big deal? 

Things have changed: 

• Firstly, we have warmer average temperatures for the shoulder seasons. Spring and fall are hotter than when we attended school. Children have to cope with difficult classroom temperatures for much longer periods most years. 

• Secondly, Ontario schools are not designed for intense heat, and they are being retrofitted with safety windows that now barely open. There is no cross ventilation with other classrooms, as is evidenced in the photo here.

• Thirdly, there is also research that shows that controlling the classroom temperatures significantly improves the academic success of the class.

There is a solution but it won’t come any time soon without your help. There are new options available for classroom temperatures in Ontario that cannot be rolled out until Provincial funding is made available. 

The most difficult part of this issue is that politicians with the power over school funding sit in cool, air conditioned offices in the summer and warm heated ones in the winter. Is it any wonder there is no empathy for our students and teachers?

Contact your MPP now to demand funding for safe, well-maintained schools. Call or email your local MPP at their Constituency Office. You are their constituent and they care what you think because they want your vote in June 2018. 

So important to share how disrepair impacts students and adults in schools!

To exert pressure, we need your stories and photos. We must ensure that Ontario citizens far and wide are as affronted as we are by the unacceptable temperatures in classrooms, the leaking ceilings, the disgusting washrooms, the asbestos, the mould, the crumbling stairs, and the list goes on…

So please take a minute, and send us a photo of disrepair in your local school and explain to us the impact to students and adults who spend their days in this school.

Have we even stopped the bleeding on the $15-Billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools?

In August 2016, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) led the way in transparency, when it released detailed information on disrepair in its schools, including both Facility Condition Index (FCI)  and the Renewal Needs Backlog

Feeling pressure to follow suit, the Ministry of Education released information on disrepair for all Ontario schools, confirming that over $15-Billion of disrepair existed in our publicly funded schools. 

The Ministry of Education has increased funding for school repairs significantly over the past three years. In fact, since 2014 when Fix Our Schools began, funding for school repairs has increased by $1.25-Billion/year to $1.4-billion/year – the level it always ought to have been. As a result, a lot of work has been done to schools this past year and a lot of work is continuing to happen at schools to address disrepair.

How much of the $15-Billion repair backlog has been addressed? Citizens will have no idea unless the data that the Ministry of Education released a year ago is updated each year and made public. It would be nice to know if we’ve even stopped the bleeding on the year-over-year increase in disrepair in the buildings where 2-million Ontario children spend their days! 

This type of accountability seems highly reasonable. Our schools certainly don’t look as if everything has been fixed!

If the provincial government claims that $1.4-billion/year for school repairs is sufficient to ensure that all Ontario children attend safe, well-maintained schools then we deserve to know how this funding has actually impacted our children’s schools. 

So Minister Hunter, “When can we expect to see updated data about the FCI ratings and outstanding repairs for all Ontario schools”? 

Shame on you for even making us ask. Your Ministry should, in the interest of being transparent and accountable, automatically update and issue this information every year! 

You should feel proud!

Summer is drawing to a close and the 2017/18 school year is about to begin.

Many Ontario students will return to schools that are in better shape than they were a year ago. Over the summer, countless people from all over the province made comments to me about how much construction work seemed to be going on at schools in their communities. Hurrah! Finally!

For too long, the money provided by our provincial government to school boards for school repairs was a mere fraction of what it ought to have been. Industry standards suggest that $1.4-billion per year is the bare minimum required to ensure that Ontario’s schools are kept in a state of good repair.

When the Fix Our Schools campaign started over 3 years ago, annual provincial funding for school repairs was a mere $150-million. No wonder school boards were having trouble keeping up with school repairs and repair backlogs were growing, given that the Province was only providing 10% of the money actually needed to properly maintain schools!

The Province is now providing $1.4-billion per year to school boards for school repair. Hurrah! Finally!

We realize that there is still much work to do, given that $15-billion of disrepair accumulated in Ontario’s schools over the two decades when annual provincial funding for school repairs was grossly inadequate. A repair backlog of this magnitude obviously must be addressed. All children in Ontario deserve to attend a safe, well-maintained school. 

However, through our grassroots, child-focused, non-partisan activism, Fix Our Schools has achieved what many thought was impossible. We have effectively and consistently raised the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, becoming a critical force in pressuring Kathleen Wynne’s government to increase annual funding for school repairs by $1.25-billion. If you have engaged in any way, large or small, with the Fix Our Schools campaign then you should feel proud of this accomplishment. Whenever you see a school under construction, know that you contributed to making that school improvement possible.

Photos of Ontario schools in disrepair

What school is this?

It really doesn’t matter… so many of Ontario’s schools are in a similar state of disrepair that these photos could have been taken in any number of communities across the province.

Ask your MPP why schools have been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

More importantly, ask your local MPP what they plan to do to Fix Our Schools. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separating fact from fiction in political announcements

As we’ve said, we’re going to see a lot of media coverage related to provincial politics this coming year, as we move towards the June 2018 provincial election. Here is a guide to deciphering recent misleading media coverage about “new funding for school repairs”.

THE NEWS STORY

In June, Premier Wynne announced that $1.4B has been allocated for school repair and renewal in 2017/18 and that $200-M from the Province’s cap and trade program will go towards making Ontario schools more energy efficient.

CBC’s June 13, 2017 article entitled, “Ontario earmarks $200M from cap and trade to make schools greener”, covered Wynne’s announcement, where she acknowledged that over half of Ontario’s schools were built over 40 years ago and are in need of repair.

Interestingly, Premier Wynne was quoted as saying that, “School boards around the province have done a good job of keeping schools in good repair, but there comes a point where there needs to be an extra investment in the schools because big things start to break down. It’s our responsibility to make sure that a school board has the money that it needs to invest in schools and to keep them in really good shape.”

PC Education Co-critic Lorne Coe was quoted as saying, “We are pleased that the Liberal government is finally answering our calls to address the state of disrepair in Ontario’s schools that has accumulated over the past 14 years, but they’ve only announced these funds because it’s an election year.”

Let’s decipher this article:

NOT NEW FUNDING:

  • The $1.4-B annual funding for school repairs is not new funding. This funding level was announced weeks ago as part of the provincial budget announcements for 2017/18. Politicians seem to try to get as much goodwill as possible from one financial commitment so they often announce funding as though it is new, in the hopes we will be fooled into thinking that even more money has been allocated to a specific cause.
  • The $200-M for making schools more energy efficient is part of that $1-4-B/year for school repairs; it is not additional funding. The only new information provided in this announcement is that the source of funding for the $200-M will be from the province’s cap and trade program.

PROVINCE ACKNOWLEDGES THAT SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE DONE WELL DESPITE CHRONIC UNDERFUNDING:

  • This may be the first time that the Provincial government has acknowledged Ontario school boards as having done a good job of maintaining schools in the province and taken responsibility for providing adequate funding to school boards. Hurrah!  What Wynne fails to state is that for almost 20 years, the provincial government fell far short in providing adequate funding for school repairs.
  • Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed that $1.4-B/year is needed for school repairs. We were able to compare this figure to the amount that was actually provided between 2011 and 2016 to reveal that the provincial government underfunded school repairs by a total $5.8-B in that 5-year timeframe.  This constitutes chronic and gross underfunding. 
  • Although as of June 2016, Wynne’s government has committed to $1.4-B/year for school repairs, they have not committed to funding solutions to eliminate the $15-B repair backlog that accumulated in Ontario’s schools over the last twenty years, when provincial funding has been grossly inadequate.

CHRONIC, GROSS UNDERFUNDING OCCURRED UNDER BOTH LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENTS:

  • Lorne Coe coincidentally states that the $15-B repair backlog accumulated only over the last 14 years that the Liberals have been in power. In fact, the disrepair in Ontario’s schools has accumulated over the past 20+ years and so his PC party can certainly take some of the blame as well!

Stay tuned in the coming months as we help decipher fact from political rhetoric for you!

 

Time to gear up for the 2018 provincial election! What matters to you?

The Ontario Liberal, PC and NDP parties are all gearing up for the June 2018 provincial election. In the coming months, you will see a lot of announcements and media coverage, with each party trying to convince us that they are best positioned to govern our province for the next four years. 

As citizens with the power to vote, we must also gear up for the provincial election planned for June 2018.  We need to give serious thought to the issues that really matter to us and ensure that those issues are on the agenda!

For us at Fix Our Schools, that answer is easy. We want to see a provincial government committed to publicly funded education. Specifically, we are seeking a provincial government that will commit to:

  1. Continued funding levels of at least $1.4-B per year for school boards to use for school repairs.
  2. Eliminating the $15-billion of identified disrepair in Ontario’s schools within their 4-year term.
  3. Implementing standards for what school conditions ought to be (including but not limited to: acceptable temperature ranges, acceptable air quality, acceptable water quality, acceptable natural light levels); a system for routinely checking that these standards are being met; and a funding model that allows school boards to actually meet those standards.

What is the air quality like in your child’s classroom at school?

This is the time of year where our family suffers from hay fever as well as asthma. You’ve probably noticed all the pink tree blossom petals blowing to the ground, but the flower’s pollen is almost invisible. I can only see it this week because it is a fine yellow haze on the surface of my car.

How does hay fever and asthma relate to school building conditions? The quality of the air inside a building is invisible to us. But its effects are not. Ontario schools need a shocking amount of repairs so that they can provide adequate air quality for their students, including the large number who suffer from asthma.

Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism in the States, and we can assume that it is also true in Canada. Children cannot succeed in Ontario schools if they are absent! While there is presently no cure for asthma, current belief is that it can be controlled through medical treatment and the management of environmental triggers.

Air may be invisible, but the importance of having access to good air quality is not – our students need it in order to be successful. A recent 2014 study in Australia found that serious work in mold removal, ventilation or roof repairs has a significant effect on academic performance. Schools that had large budget work done in these categories could see an improvement of 4% in pass rates, and marks up by 0.15 standard deviations.*

Until recently, we didn’t realize that it is possible to improve the air in an Ontario school. There are new options available now for classroom air quality in Ontario that cannot be rolled out until Provincial funding is made available. Let your local MPP know that air quality may be a cost effective way of raising academic standards!

If you have a child with asthma, here are some resources:

https://www.lung.ca/lung-health/air-quality/indoor-air-quality

http://www.asthmakids.ca

*Tess M. Stafford, February 2014, Department of Economics, The University of New South Wales, Kensington NSW 2052, Australia https://www.gwern.net/docs/2015-stafford.pdf

TDSB lobbying Province to revisit Education Development Charges

Since its inception, the Fix Our Schools campaign has looked to Education Development Charges (EDCs) as part of the overall funding solution that could address the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

The Toronto District School Board has the most to gain from the provincial government revisiting the regulations guiding the ability of school boards to collect EDCs. With this in mind, TDSB Ward 10 Trustee Ausma Malik and parents in her Ward have launched a petition.

If you are a parent in the TDSB, we encourage you to sign this petition to let the Province know that you expect funding solutions to address the ongoing disrepair in Ontario schools.

How to find the repair backlog for your local school

In Ontario, our children attend poorly maintained schools. Unfortunately, children do not remember a time when this was not the case. They expect their schools to be broken. As parents, grandparents, teachers, and caretakers, we know the schools are in poor condition because the Ontario Education Funding formula is broken.

Since our children don’t expect state-of-the-art schools, they rarely report the poor environment they learn in every day. How can you find out what the real condition is at your local school?

In August 2016, The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) led the way in transparency, when it released detailed information on disrepair in its schools, which included definitions and context for understanding both the Facility Condition Index (FCI)  and the Renewal Needs BacklogThe information provided in these links is valuable for ALL Ontario citizens and helps all of us to understand the complicated process used by the provincial government to assess school disrepair.

Feeling pressure to follow suit, the Ministry of Education released an FCI list for all Ontario schoolsThis chart provides information on each Ontario school such as replacement value, renewal (repair) costs and FCI rating.

Check with your school board to see if you can access more detailed information such as the TDSB has provided its communities. For example, the TDSB has given a list of specific repairs needed for each school, which is very helpful for school councils to advocate for their school. Parents should know if the standpipe system that helps to put out fires needs urgent repairs! Other school boards can access that information as well; school councils can ask to see it.

For TDSB schools, start by finding your school here

Next, from your school’s homepage, you’ll see a link to the “Schools Repairs List” on the left-hand side of the screen. Click there to find a detailed list of outstanding repairs at your local schools.

Be informed. Let’s advocate for our local schools. Let’s fix our schools. 

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