Monthly Archives: February 2015

Province’s response to Fix Our Schools’ letter asking for help

In Education Minister Sandals’ response letter to the letter that Fix Our Schools sent in November, 2014, she highlights that:

  • For the 2014-15 school year, the Ministry is providing the TDSB with $74.9-million to use for repairs and renovations. This amount represents 2.1% of the total backlog of $3.5-billion outstanding across all TDSB school buildings.
  • School boards are responsible for determining how to allocate the funding provided by the Ministry to ensure that students have safe and healthy learning environments. Locally elected Trustees are responsible for the provision of suitable and adequate accommodation for students in their jurisdiction. Trustees are responsible for ensuring that each school is in compliance with all appropriate provincial and municipal health and safety requirements.

Minister Sandals encourages us to discuss our concerns with our Trustees, who are the ones accountable.

Trustees are not magicians. The funds provided by the Province to the TDSB for taking care of its school buildings are insufficient and Kathleen Wynne’s government needs to take the accountability and responsibility that comes with being in control over the money. It is time for the Province to stop blaming the TDSB and work together to ensure our children attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings. 

The Province’s math doesn’t add up for funding TDSB repairs

On average, the sale of a TDSB school will net the TDSB $10 million (as per TDSB staff).

So if the TDSB were to immediately sell all 130 schools operating at below 65%, it would net a total of $1.3-billion in revenue. This money could, theoretically, be used to address repairs and maintenance at TDSB schools and reduce the total backlog to approximately $1.7-billion.

However, money from selling schools actually goes to Provincial coffers, and the Province determines how it actually gets spent. At the moment, the Province has issued no guarantees that money raised by the TDSB selling off schools will be used to address the TDSB’s backlog of repairs and maintenance! 

But wait – we digress from the mathematics at hand. Let’s factor in that the TDSB wouldn’t have to repair any of the 130 schools it sells so we could subtract the repairs backlog from those 130 schools from the total backlog. Even though there would also be some savings in operating expenses from the 130 sold schools, it seems prudent to allocate those saved operating funds to student programs and not repairs/maintenance so we won’t worry about those savings in this mathematical exercise.

If we take the total $3-billion backlog and divide it by 588 TDSB schools, each TDSB school has an average of $5.1-million outstanding repairs. So, if we assume that the 130 schools being sold in this fictitious example each have a repair backlog of $5.1-million, then the TDSB could effectively eliminate another $663-million from its total backlog of repairs and maintenance to arrive at a new total backlog of outstanding repairs and maintenance of $1.04-billion.

The Province’s math doesn’t begin to add up to the TDSB being able to address its outstanding repairs and maintenance by selling off “empty” schools – even if it immediately sells off every single school currently operating below 65% and even if the Province agrees to allocate funds received from these sales to the TDSB repairs/maintenance backlog.

Keep in mind that this fictitious math problem also doesn’t take into account the following facts:

  • The process for selling off schools takes years – not days.
  • Outstanding repairs and maintenance items will get more complicated and more expensive the longer they are deferred.
  • There is no way the TDSB will or should sell off all 130 schools operating at below 65% for many, many good reasons (see any number of blog posts on this site!).

So let’s use the following equation to summarize the math here:

$3-billion total backlog of repairs/maintenance across TDSB schools

less: (130 schools operating at less than 65% X $10-million/per school sold in revenue)

less: (130 schools X $5.1-million/school in saved repairs/maintenance costs if all 130 schools sold) 

equals: $1.04-billion of outstanding repairs/maintenance that would still exist across TDSB schools even if the TDSB immediately sold off all 130 schools operating below 65% 

Clearly, we need a different approach to funding our public schools than the one being proposed by Kathleen Wynne’s government to ensure our children attend safe and well-maintained schools.

If the Province is motivated to find money – it will!

An interesting juxtaposition of facts in the Globe and Mail on February 9, 2015.

“Parents fear loss of daycare should schools close” mentions the Province’s continued refrain that the TDSB must sell schools to pay for its $3-billion capital repair backlog. Stay tuned for a quick analysis of the Province’s math in tomorrow’s post!

“Gas plants: Faist says he was told to wipe data on 20 computers” mentions the estimated $1.1-billion cost of cancelling the gas plants.

So when motivated, the Provincial Liberal government can find vast sums of money. We need to motivate the Province to find the money to fix our schools.


City interested in public education

In a letter to Education Minister Sandals and the Chairs of both the TDSB and TCDSB, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory says he wants the City to be meaningfully consulted before any decisions are made about the sale of surplus schools by the TDSB.

Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that “the Province needs to recognize that schools fulfill a greater purpose within their communities than simply classrooms for school-aged children – for example, as daycares, gathering places for seniors and greenspace for neighbourhoods”.

Hurrah! City politicians and staff are interested in public education! Let’s hope this interest evolves into involvement.