Monthly Archives: February 2015

CTV News covers #fixourschools twitter campaign!

CTV helped launch the #fixourschools twitter campaign on Feb. 27. Click here to have a look! 

Fix Our Schools wants to raise awareness of the unacceptable state of TDSB schools and encourage Kathleen Wynne’s government to work with the TDSB and the City to come up with funding and governance solutions to address the over $3-billion of outstanding repairs in our children’s schools.


#fixourschools twitter campaign

Use #fixourschools to tweet about how the TDSB’s $3-billion backlog of repairs impacts students and teachers every day or, if Twitter isn’t your thing, contact us to share photos and stories. Students and teachers deserve to learn and work in safe, well-maintained buildings. The fact that students continue to achieve despite the deplorable conditions of many TDSB buildings is testament to the amazing things that go on inside TDSB schools every day.

However, to ensure the safety and well-being of students and teachers, Kathleen Wynne’s government must take the accountability that comes with being in charge of funding and work with the TDSB and the City of Toronto to address the unacceptable state of disrepair in TDSB schools.

So, with the intent of raising awareness to encourage solution-oriented dialogue, we hope you’ll share!

Kathleen Wynne is uniquely qualified

In a passionate response to concerns expressed by Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton about a different topic altogether, Kathleen Wynne outlined exactly why she is uniquely qualified to be the Premier who works together with the TDSB and the City of Toronto to “fix our schools”. 

“Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education? What is it, exactly, that disqualifies me from doing the job that I am doing?”
– Kathleen Wynne, February 24, 2015 at Queen’s Park

Wynne was also a former Toronto School Board Trustee (funny that she doesn’t mention this qualification!) and a mediator – also both beneficial qualifications to “fix our schools”.

“Land-value-capture” – a new funding approach

Hitting the front page on Feb. 25, 2015, Metrolinx is looking to sell real estate to pay for expansion, using a funding approach called “land-value-capture”, which has not been used widely in North America to date.  “Land-value-capture” is explored in detail in this discussion paper, prepared for Metrolinx by George Hazel Consultancy in August 2013.

Are there “land-value-capture” methods that could create new revenue streams for public schools in Toronto?

Having just heard the term “land-value-capture” for the first time, I am certainly no expert! However, the premise of “land-value-capture” methods seems to be that improved transportation facilities increase the value of surrounding land, therefore a proportion of this additional wealth should go to funding the transportation facility.

Arguably, improved transportation facilities lead to new development, which leads to more children who will attend local public schools, therefore perhaps some of this additional wealth should go to funding repairs and improvements at local public schools, another integral part of our public infrastructure. Another argument is that good local public schools contribute to increased land value, therefore some of this additional wealth should go to funding repairs and improvements at local public schools.

More than $3-billion of outstanding repairs and maintenance across TDSB schools is a big problem. Maybe “land-value-capture” methods could be part of a big solution?

Cold winter for Ward 7 schools

Several schools in Ward 7 have struggled with heating issues this winter…

Western Tech, UFA, The Student School, and Humberside have all been closed at least one day due to heating issues. The TDSB has been quick to complete the required repairs. However, the cost of these emergency repairs will impact the ability to complete planned repairs as the TDSB struggles to address over $3-billion of outstanding repairs with the $75-million of funding provided by the Province this year for repairs.

2015_02_13_Runnymede PS

Yes – this thermometer reads about 10 degrees and is inside a classroom!

While Runnymede P.S. hasn’t been closed at all this winter, some classroom temperatures have been operating at unacceptable temperatures. Yes – the photo to the left, showing a temperature of around 10 degrees, was taken inside a classroom. Oddly, other classrooms have been so hot that students wear t-shirts.

While repair people have been at the school regularly, heating at this 99-year old building remains an ongoing challenge. With a new boiler installed last year, the root cause of these unacceptable temperatures is a mystery. What is no mystery is that a complete resolution of this issue would likely be expensive.

Upcoming winters aren’t looking so great for Ward 7 schools either, given the following facts:

As of April 2014, almost 80% of the $73-million in outstanding repairs across Ward 7 schools were assessed as urgent or high priority by consultants working on behalf of the Ministry of Education. The 43 urgent repairs all fall into one of the following four categories: fire suppression and alarm systems; electrical systems; heating/cooling systems; and structural (foundations and stairs mainly). These urgent items are not as apparent as leaky roofs but if they fail before repairs can be done, the safety risk is far greater. All this to say that our request stands for emergency funding from the Province to address urgent repairs across all TDSB schools, as well as all leaking roofs.

TDSB proposal for sharing ownership of school sites with the City

In a recent presentation by TDSB finance staff, a proposal was made to “shift the paradigm and share the load”  in the following concept:

“Under a formal partnership agreement, responsibility for TDSB school sites would be shared with the City of Toronto. Both parties would benefit as a valuable community asset is shared.

In exchange for shared ownership of school sites, the TDSB would receive infrastructure funding from the City.”

The City has access to the tax base that the TDSB does not, as well as an ability to forge creative partnerships that the TDSB may not be able to do on its own. Out-of-the-box solutions are required to fix a $3-billion problem and it is great to see the TDSB thinking creatively to find solutions.

Next Step: Create a forum for discussion with the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario … indeed!


Continued conversation is good news

Despite headlines such as, “TDSB reforms fail to meet Minister’s demands regarding schools” and “TDSB reforms don’t go far enough Sandals says”, Fix Our Schools believes things are headed in the right direction.

In a Feb. 20, 2015 interview on Metro Morning, Liz Sandals mentions ongoing conversation with the TDSB over the coming months.

If the Province had simply accepted the TDSB’s submission last week and washed its hands of the TDSB (yet again!), that would have been incredibly disappointing. Ongoing conversations are desperately needed if the adults in charge are going to take joint accountability for finding solutions to the massive issues facing the TDSB.

“My kid’s school is a disgrace” – Nayamath Syed

Sarah Fulford, editor of Toronto Life, starts her editor’s letter in the February edition with:

“The seven-year-old girl on our cover; Amal Syed, came to Canada 3 years ago from Abu Dhabi. Her father is a computer analyst who left everything behind to give his daughter a first-rate Ontario education. Like many new immigrants, they settled in the inner suburbs, and he enrolled his daughter at the local public school. He was bitterly disappointed to discover what long-time residents of Toronto have known for years – that many of the buildings where we send our kids to learn are old, overcrowded and in desperate need of repair.”

When Amal’s father is interviewed on page 29, he says, “When we complained to the TDSB, our trustee told us they couldn’t get funding from the ministry to fix the damage, much less create a new building for the students. The ministry, in turn, said it was the TDSB that hadn’t presented the case for repairs. It’s a never-ending circle of blame.”

Secord Elementary at Danforth and Main consists of a century-old main building and a series of 14 portables connected by hallways. The portables were built two decades ago as a temporary solution to overcrowding at Secord Elementary. Over time, these temporary structures have deteriorated – raccoon infestations, falling ceiling tiles and water damage are amongst the most noticeable examples of disrepair.

Several people have asked Fix Our Schools if our call for emergency funding from Kathleen Wynne’s government isn’t a bit much – is this really an emergency?  We believe it is – and Amal’s school is a perfect example.

Mayor Tory and City Councillors step up to join conversation about public education

Mayor Tory has urged the TDSB, the Province and the City to work together to take shared responsibility for public schools. Excellent.

Fingers crossed the City will come to the table with a willingness to think creatively and to contribute in a tangible way to public schools in Toronto. We sent Mayor Tory and all City Councillors a letter urging them to do just that.

With great power comes great responsibility

Disappointed with the Provincial government’s latest response to Fix Our Schools, we sent the following letter to Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals today:

In your government’s February 4, 2015 response to Fix Our Schools, you tell us to discuss our concerns over safe, well-maintained schools with our Trustees, since they are the ones “who are elected by and accountable to the community that they serve”. In fact, you tell us four times in a 1-page letter that the TDSB Trustees are the ones who are responsible and accountable.

Last we checked your government is also elected and therefore accountable to its constituents. To that end, your government must start taking the responsibility that comes with having sole power over the funding of public education. Trustees are not magicians. The funding being provided by your government to the TDSB is insufficient. Please stop blaming the TDSB and start working together with them and the City of Toronto to ensure our children attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings. 

You are the only level of government with the power to change the dysfunctional dynamic that is so eloquently described by Hugh Mackenzie in the quote below:

“The (Provincial) government is fully responsible for the level of funding provided but local school boards bear the consequences and are accountable for the results. Despite the government’s complete control over funding, there is no provincial accountability mechanism for the performance of and funding for the system as a whole.” – Hugh Mackenzie, “ Harris-era Hangovers: Toronto School Trustees’ Inherited Funding Shortfall”, Feb. 2015

On behalf of the 247,000 students being educated by Canada’s largest school board, please start engaging in real, ongoing dialogue with the TDSB and the City of Toronto to improve the funding and governance of the TDSB and ensure the success, well-being and safety of all its students. In the short-term, please:

  1. Release emergency funding immediately to repair all leaking roofs and complete every “urgent” repair currently outstanding at TDSB schools.
  2. Redefine school space as public space so that “utilization rates” can allow schools to be used as community hubs and valuable public green spaces.
  3. Change the Provincial regulation guiding Education Development Charges

TDSB parents expect real change in our school board. The TDSB Trustees have stepped up; the City of Toronto has stepped up; Kathleen Wynne – will you and your government please also step up and start working together to Fix Our Schools?

Kind regards,

Krista Wylie – on behalf of Fix Our Schools