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. 

Send us your story on Facebook. Share with us the issues you are having getting your local school fixed. 

Tips on meeting with your local MPP

Meeting with your local MPP about an issue is the single most powerful thing that you, as a voter, can do to let the provincial government know that an issue is a priority for you. If enough people raise the same issue with their local MPPs, this issue inevitably gets attention by the government!  With this in mind, here are some tips to make this process easy for you.

How to Book a Meeting with your MPP:

• Call the constituency office of your local MPP and ask to schedule a meeting. Let them know the reason why you want to speak to your MPP.

• Take someone with you. They can take notes while you speak.

• Decide beforehand which of your points are the most crucial and organize your notes so that they are discussed early in the meeting.

• Near the end of your meeting time, ask your MPP to support stable and adequate funding for education in Ontario.

• If you have brought a local petition, let your MPP know the number of signatures you have collected on the petition.

• Ask to take a photo shaking hands with your MPP for facebook/twitter. Post it with a thank you to your MPP.

• Be polite and solution-oriented.

• Don’t be nervous. Remember, our MPPs works for us.

School library ceiling falls in during school hours

In a Toronto school last week, a piece of the ceiling in the library fell to the ground during school hours. Luckily, no student was sitting underneath the ceiling that collapsed.

 

The ceiling had been retaining water from a roof leak and eventually gave way. The TDSB struggles to keep up with the backlog of repairs needing to be done across its schools due to the decades of underfunding by the provincial government and incidents such as this one are the result.

 

 

The provincial government would push responsibility to the school boards to better manage their finances but when the provincial government has been allocating a mere fraction of what has been needed each year to properly maintain schools, this type of argument is akin to a parent getting upset with their child for failing to purchase weekly groceries for a family of four when given $10 by the parent to do so.

The provincial government has the power over the money that funds our children’s schools and it is time for them to take responsibility for the $15-billion of disrepair that plagues Ontario schools.

 

 

 

 

Fix Our Schools wins award for outstanding contribution to publicly funded education

Fix Our Schools was recently awarded the Greer Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Publicly Funded Education in Ontario by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.

At the award ceremony, Fix Our Schools was given the following introduction and accolades, which was a great reminder of the many things that our grassroots campaign has done and has accomplished since we began three years ago. Congratulations to ALL Fix Our Schools members on the part that you have played in effecting positive change in publicly funded education in Ontario! Whether you have written a letter to your local MPP, made a presentation at your local school, shared Fix Our Schools with your network, volunteered at a Fix Our Schools outreach event, or simply signed up to receive our newsletters as a show of support, your contribution has been integral to our achievements.

Introduction of the Fix Our Schools Campaign at the Awards Ceremony

2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the Greer Award for outstanding contributions to publicly funded education in Ontario. The award was established in memory of Dr. V.K. Greer, a distinguished Ontario educator. Over these 70 years, we have had many outstanding and deserving recipients, and this year is certainly no exception. 

Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign of citizens across Ontario. Its major goal is the promotion of safe, well-maintained schools that provide a positive learning environment for our students.

The organization’s belief that there is strength in numbers and power in grassroots, non-partisan activism has been proven in their success. Since its founding in 2014, Fix Our Schools has built a strong direct base of over 2,000 Ontario citizens and a large additional base of support via relationships with ETFO, OECTA, OSSTF, OPSBA, OCSTA, and many Ontario school boards.

In a little over two years, the organization shifted the narrative around school conditions and disrepair in schools to ensure that schools are considered integral public infrastructure. They have obtained increased transparency on school conditions with the public release of Ontario School Facility Condition Index (FCI) data, first by the Toronto District School Board, Ontario’s largest school board, and then, by the Ministry of Education in August 2016. Their pressure on the provincial government to recognize the chronic and gross underfunding of school repairs was confirmed in the 2015 Auditor-General’s report.

The provincial government subsequently released an additional $1.1-billion of funding for school repairs over two years, effectively bringing annual funding for school repairs to the $1.4-billion/year that is deemed necessary to keep Ontario schools in a state of good repair. 

Fix Our Schools continues to build their network and lobby those in power to work together to ensure that all Ontario students attend school in buildings that are safe and well-maintained. They believe that a one-size-fits-all education funding formula does not work and that the provincial government has the power over all education funding; therefore, they strive to encourage the provincial government to take responsibility for the delivery of public education. They will take a major role in the lead up to the 2018 election by encouraging every political party to make public education a priority within their platform. 

As stated on the Fix Our Schools website, “We are parents, students, teachers, grandparents, principals, caretakers, and voters who believe all Ontario students should attend safe, well-maintained schools that are funded as a critical part of our public infrastructure – in par with transit, roads and water.” On behalf of the OTF and the teachers of Ontario, I thank the members of Fix Our Schools for their defence of public education and the students in Ontario.

 

Province announces education funding for 2017/18 school year

On April 12, 2017, the Province announced its education funding for the coming 2017/18 school year, ahead of the provincial budget so as to provide school boards with more lead time for planning. Capital funding is outlined on page 5 of the GSN Memo.

In June 2016, the provincial government announced a $1.1-billion infusion of money to be allocated by school boards over two years specifically for school repairs. This new money, in effect, brought annual funding for school repairs for both 2015/16 and 2016/17 to the $1.4-billion that it always ought to have been.

We were pleased that on April 12, 2017, the Province announced a continuation of this baseline $1.4-billion/year funding for school repairs, deemed necessary by industry standards and Ontario’s Auditor-General, to stop further erosion of Ontario’s publicly funded schools. However, we are very concerned about the failure to address the $15-billion repair backlog that continues to plague Ontario’s schools.

Moreover, the $200-million of the $1.4-billion that is mandated to be spent by school boards by March 31, 2018 on environmental upgrades should, in our opinion, have been provided on top of the $1.4-billion amount instead of cutting into the amount urgently needed for basic school repairs such as roof leaks. 

We call upon Kathleen Wynne’s government to find funding solutions for the $15-billion repair backlog that has accumulated in Ontario’s schools over 20 years of chronic and gross underfunding by provincial governments for school repairs. These solutions may include long-term education infrastructure bonds and education development charges. We also expect that, in preparation for the June 2018 election, all three provincial parties look to reinvent Ontario’s education funding formula to ensure that the priorities of all Ontario communities are met.

Students demand better washroom facilities at their school

Grade 5 students at one Ontario school are demanding action to ensure better washroom facilities at their school. See the letter below, which they sent to their Principal.

Dear Principal XXX,

The students of room YYY would like to present a very urgent problem to you. The student washrooms in our school are a disaster. It is absolutely necessary to resolve this issue because the health, safety and dignity of pupils are paramount.

Firstly, the state of the washrooms is not good for the health of students. There is often no soap in the dispensers; therefore the children do not wash the hands. In addition, the toilets are frequently blocked and smell absolutely disgusting.

Secondly, students need to feel safe in their environment in order to be comfortable. If there are no locks on the doors, students will not want to use the washrooms here and feel that school is dangerous. You must install working locks for the good of the school.

Lastly, the dignity of pupils is at risk when the toilets are not clean. The walls in all the washrooms are covered in bad words, mean comments, and excrement. It is below the dignity of students to use washrooms in this condition.

In conclusion, all the student washrooms at our school must be renovated immediately! The health, safety, and dignity of students are in your hands, as our Principal. Please stand up for us. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Ideas as to what we can do as students to solve this problem:

– We can have student monitors for the washrooms who let the administration/caretakers know when there is a problem in the washrooms.

– We can put up laminated signs of washroom rules to help remind students on how to behave in the washrooms.

– We can be watchful and make sure other students follow the bathroom rules and let adult know when there are problems.

– We can fundraise money to improve the washrooms with bake sales.

Sincerely,

The grade 5 class in room YYY

The Principal at this school was receptive to working with students to find solutions that could be implemented and was happy to receive this detailed feedback. The next step was for the students to conduct an audit on every washroom in the school and make detailed recommendations based on their findings.

Fix Our Schools is working with this group of students and their teacher to ensure that their message is escalated beyond their school, to the provincial government, which is the body that has power over the funding that could truly influence the state of washrooms in Ontario schools.

In Toronto, it’s kids vs. condos

Fix Our Schools was quoted in the April 9, 2017 Toronto Star article written by Andrea Gordon, entitled, “In Toronto, it’s kids vs. condos“.  This article explores how new developments being built near schools are causing issues.  Parents are concerned about safety during construction and about the overcrowded classrooms exacerbated by new developments.

The article cites Krista Wylie, co-founder of Fix Our Schools, as saying, “while school boards bear the brunt of criticism for how these concerns are handled, they don’t have the power or resources to effectively deal with (these issues).”  Andrea Gordon goes on to highlight that, “the City of Toronto and the Province do have the budgets, staff and power when it comes to negotiating and approving – and ultimately the province controls board purse strings and the appeal process through the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).”

Local schools must be considered when approving new developments. Good local public schools make for highly desirable neighbourhoods in which Developers seek to build new condos – and ultimately profit. It seems only fair that developers should contribute to ensuring that the local public schools are safe, well-maintained buildings that offer environments conducive to learning.