Ministry of Education releases disrepair data for ALL Ontario schools!

On Thursday, August 25, Ontario’s Ministry of Education released data about disrepair for every single school in the province. Fix Our Schools has been calling for transparency on this information so commends the Ministry for making all of this data public. This new level of transparency is an important next step in ensuring all citizens realize the level of disrepair that exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools … so that we can ensure the $15-billion of disrepair that currently exists is addressed in short order.

 

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Toronto Catholic has been transparent about disrepair in its schools for years

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has been transparent about disrepair in its schools for years, as per this committee report dated 2014. The 2016 version of this report is due out soon.

Fix Our Schools applauds this level of transparency. We encourage all Toronto Catholic parents to read this report and, if you’re concerned with the disrepair in your local school, we urge you to contact your local MPP, the Minister of Education and Premier Wynne. Certainly copy the Principal, Superintendent and Trustee for your local school on any correspondence however these people do not have the power to fix the problem, which stems from years of underfunding by the provincial government.

Local school boards have no way to raise money for repairing schools except to rely on the funding provided by the Ontario government. While provincial funding was recently increased to an industry-accepted level of yearly funding for repairs, this new level of funding does not address the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools that has been allowed to accumulate over the past two decades. To adequately address this backlog will require further work by Premier Wynne’s government so be sure to let your MPP know this is an issue of importance to you!

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If you’re surprised by the disrepair in your local school…

The TDSB was the first Ontario school board to release information about disrepair in all of its schools, with complete itemized lists of outstanding repairs along with an indication of whether each repair is urgent, high, medium or low priority. We expect that many citizens will be surprised to see the long lists of outstanding repairs at their local schools.

We urge you to contact your local MPP, the Minister of Education and Premier Wynne to express your concern. Certainly copy the Principal, Superintendent and Trustee for your local school on any correspondence however these people do not have the power to fix the problem, which stems from years of underfunding by the provincial government.

Local school boards have no way to raise money for repairing schools except to rely on the funding provided by the Ontario government. While provincial funding was recently increased to an industry-accepted level of yearly funding for repairs, this new level of funding does not address the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools that has been allowed to accumulate over the past two decades. To adequately address this backlog will require further work by Premier Wynne’s government so be sure to let your MPP know this is an issue of importance to you!

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TDSB first to make disrepair information public for each of its schools

Fix Our Schools commends the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for taking a leadership position and being the first school board in Ontario to voluntarily publish detailed information on the disrepair in each of its 588 schools.

The Ministry of Education has been collecting data on outstanding repairs at all Ontario schools for the past five years but has not shared this important information publicly. Our hope is that all of Ontario’s school boards will follow TDSB’s lead and become more transparent with disrepair information since every single one of them has a repair backlog. Similarly, we would expect the Ontario government to make information on disrepair in schools readily available to parents and citizens.

Only when the general public knows there is a problem can the problem be fixed. For too long and for a variety of reasons, the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools has not received much attention. Therefore, this step by the TDSB is a crucial one in raising awareness on the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

By visiting the TDSB website and clicking School Repairs List or by visiting the TDSB Home Page for an individual school, parents and citizens can readily find:

  • a complete list of outstanding repairs for a school along with a ranking of whether the repair is classified as urgent, high, medium or low
  • a Facility Condition Index (FCI) number, expressed as a percentage. FCI is calculated by taking the total dollar amount of a school’s repair backlog and dividing that total by the dollar figure of how much it would cost to replace that school (rebuild from new). For instance if there is $1-million of disrepair at a school and the estimated cost of rebuilding that school is $5-million, then the FCI would be 20% whereas if that same school had $4-million of disrepair, then its FCI ranking would be 80%. A higher FCI percentage generally indicates a larger dollar value of disrepair at that school.

 

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Ask Federal Government to refund 100% of GST collected back to Canadian School Authorities

School authorities (ie school boards) are funded through taxpayer dollars. Currently, our federal government collects GST on all goods and services purchased by school authorities, and then refunds only 68% of the amount collected. The remaining 32% is a tax on a tax.

In recognizing this situation, a petition has been launched to amend the Excise Tax Act (School Authorities) and call upon the House of Commons to support Bill C-241, which seeks to have the full 100% of GST collected by Canada Revenue Agency refunded to school authorities.

To sign this petition, click here. If you have issues signing this petition online – please contact your local MP, since this is a federal petition.

While this issue is slightly beyond the scope of the Fix Our Schools campaign, which is focused on addressing the $15-billion of outstanding repairs in Ontario’s publicly funded schools, we believe that every dollar going back to school boards to benefit students is a good thing!  And so, in this spirit, encourage you to sign this petition.

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What should new school buildings look like?

299_232648Amelia Earhart and Gompers Elementary Middle Schools were both built in recent years as part of the Detroit Public Schools Construction and Modernization Program. Each earned the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver level award; incorporates the latest technology; and benefits from thoughtful design that takes into account:

• separate areas for JK-Grade5 and the Grades 6-8

• many well-placed windows allowing plenty of natural light

• colourful, exciting structural elements

• integrated Smart Boards 

• excellent lighting

299_476071Ontario needs to invest in the best education for our children, which includes quality school buildings designed to maximize learning and achievement. Let’s start imagining what our publicly funded schools ought to look like.


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Now is the time to join us to Fix Our Schools

The Fix Our Schools campaign is led by a small group of passionate parents and students with a clear vision that all children attending Ontario’s publicly funded schools have the right to be educated in safe, well-maintained buildings that provide environments conducive to learning. We want Ontario’s children to be global citizens who can compete for jobs and educational spots world-wide. We know that school conditions matter because they impact students’ learning environments and teachers’ working environments. 

Over the last two years, we’ve created a large network of engaged citizens who have been demanding that the provincial government begin funding schools as critical infrastructure. … and the provincial government is starting to hear us.   

We are pleased that the provincial government is going to increase funding to school boards for school repairs. Every school board in our province has an unfathomably large repair backlog and new funding was desperately needed. However, this new funding is not going to immediately address the $15-billion backlog that has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools. Which is why Fix Our Schools remains committed to working with all MPPs and School Boards to ensure that:

  • The new level of investment of $1.4-billion/year starts to decrease the $15-billion repair backlog that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
  • The issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is a major election issue in the next provincial election in 2018; and continues to be an important focus of our provincial government.

So now is the time to help grow this campaign! You can help do that by sharing Fix Our Schools with your network and encouraging them to join us and/or engage with Fix Our Schools on Facebook or Twitter 

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Deciphered: School Condition Improvement (SCI) and School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding

SCI funding, as explained on pages 127-28 in the Education Funding Technical Paper, 2016-17:

This funding is intended to help boards address the identified renewal backlog from the data collected to date through the Ministry’s five-year Condition Assessment Program, which began in 2011.

Beginning in 2015–16, the Ministry changed the funding approach for SCI. SCI funding is now allocated in proportion to a board’s total assessed renewal needs under the Ministry’s Condition Assessment Program.

80% of SCI funds must be targeted to key building components (foundation, roof, windows, etc.) and mechanical systems (electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc.)

20% of SCI funds are discretionary, offering school boards flexibility to allocate towards locally-identified projects at existing schools, which are listed in the VFA facility database.  (e.g. science labs, interior finishings, etc.)

School boards have the flexibility to prioritize schools and individual components and systems that fit under these categories and deal with problems as they emerge, rather than having to wait for the next condition assessment of a building.

Unspent funds from a board’s SCI allocation may be carried forward to the following year.

Boards will be required to report spending of this SCI funding in the VFA facility database. Reimbursement of board expenditure is contingent on timely reporting. Payments will be made twice a year based on reported expenditure. The Ministry will fund short-term interest costs related to these expenditures reflecting that SCI funding will occur on a bi-annual basis, consistent with other capital programs.

Boards must use this funding on depreciable renewal expenditures in schools that are expected to remain open and operating for at least five years. Boards should use the funding to address renewal priorities of the board, including addressing health and safety, replacing and repairing building components, improving the energy efficiency of schools, and improving accessibility. Boards are not to use this funding to expand the size of schools, build new schools, or to service debt.

SRA funding, synthesized from information on pages 114-22 in the Education Funding Technical Paper, 2016-17:

The provincial government allocates SRA funding to school boards predominantly based on the number of pupils in a given board, although other factors such as age of buildings and utilization rates of schools are also taken into consideration in how this funding is allocated.

School boards are to use this money for repairing and renovating schools. Generally, school boards use SRA funding for more “cosmetic” repairs such as painting – which are also included in the $15-billion repair backlog total. These types of repairs are important in sending a positive message to students about their learning environment, to teachers and staff about their working environment and to the community, in general, about the importance of our publicly funded schools as critical infrastructure. Therefore, SRA funding is a good complement to SCI funding.

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