Monthly Archives: November 2015

“Not looking for marble and gold” – TTC Headquarters

Aging, decaying infrastructure is a problem in Ontario. While our focus is on public schools, the November 20, 2015 Toronto Star article entitled, “TTC wants to get out of ‘hellhole” headquarters” focuses on the administrative headquarters of Canada’s largest public transit agency.

While we appreciate the economic arguments presented in this article, surely the health and safety of people working in this building is sufficient reason to move ahead with solutions? Do public schools need to use economic arguments such as “lost productivity” to justify repairing and rebuilding schools for the students who inhabit these buildings for six hours each day? Our hope is that citizens of Ontario could simply agree that everyone in this province ought to work and learn in safe, well-maintained  buildings that provide environments conducive to working and learning!

Does sending another letter really have an impact?

Wondering if you should bother taking the time to participate in the latest Fix Our Schools letter-writing campaign? The answer is emphatically YES!

Have you heard the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”?

Well, the squeaking generated by the Fix Our Schools campaign due to your involvement and activism is getting louder with each week that passes…and that squeaking IS having an impact! Politicians and political staff now know about Fix Our Schools and have started to accept and request meetings with us. They know from the letters you send that we represent a large and growing number of voters.

Since launching in October 2014, we have built a network of over 1400 people in Ontario who all want safe, well-maintained public schools that are funded as important public infrastructure – and this network is growing every day. The real power of a campaign like Fix Our Schools comes when this large network of people all take action (like send a letter!) to ask for the same thing.

So what are you waiting for? Send a letter today to the provincial government and your local MPP. Ask them to increase capital funding to school boards for repairing and rebuilding public schools. We believe this is a reasonable request, given that new infrastructure money is going to start flowing to the Province from our new federal government.  Some of this new money must go towards school infrastructure. This will only happen if we all work together to ensure that we create a very squeaky wheel!

Province mentions schools as infrastructure!

In a November 17, 2015 Government of Ontario news release, schools were noted as infrastructure!

“The government is investing more than $130 billion over 10 years in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, transit, hospitals and schools — the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history.”

Fix Our Schools considers public school buildings to be important public infrastructure. We are heartened to see our provincial government agree with us and start to refer to schools as infrastructure! This certainly confirms that the ask in our most recent letter-writing campaign to the Province is valid and reasonable:

“Will you increase funding of school infrastructure, given the promised new infrastructure funding from the federal government?”

If you haven’t yet sent this letter, click here!

Colleges looking to federal Liberals for increased funding

Our new federal government’s commitment to increased infrastructure investment in the coming years has piqued interest in many sectors.

We’re certainly calling on the Ontario provincial government to increase capital funding to public school boards, based on the promise of new federal infrastructure money. It seems that colleges across the country are making a direct call upon the new federal government for increased funding.

The November 11, 2015 article entitled, “Colleges to Liberals: we don’t have enough buildings for students”, features the college sector’s requests of the federal government. Aging infrastructure and buildings bursting at the seams are but a few issues mentioned, which require money to address.

Colleges, like public schools, are traditionally under provincial jurisdiction. However, colleges, like public schools, need funding beyond what the provinces are allocating in order to meet the needs of students.  Hopeful the new federal government will provide assistance!

$498-million investment in new schools and renovations – not enough!

On November 9, 2015, Kathleen Wynne’s government announced that $498-million would go towards:

  • 30 new schools
  • 26 major additions and renovations
  • 122 safe, high-quality licensed child care rooms, resulting in 2,135 new licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

In the 2014 budget, the provincial government committed $11-billion in capital grants to school boards over 10 years. This $498-million investment is a part of that $11-billion commitment and is certainly great news for the communities who will benefit.

However, with $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s public schools, this recent announcement is really just a drop in a very large bucket. With this level of investment, the disrepair in our children’s schools will continue to worsen and the urgency of repair items will increase.

The Province must commit to ensuring that public schools benefit from the promised new federal infrastructure funding. If you agree, send this letter to Premier Wynne and your local MPP.

Send a letter to the Province that you want schools prioritized as key infrastructure!

On November 10, Fix Our Schools is launching a province-wide letter-writing campaign to our provincial government to let them know that we expect them to prioritize the repair and rebuilding of schools. We want Premier Wynne to “do more and do it faster” … and we want her to include public schools on the list of important infrastructure to be funded!

To send this letter, click here and be sure to include your local MPP and add your name and mailing address at the end of the letter.

You can also simply copy and paste the following letter into an email.

Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Sandals, Deputy Minister Zegarac & Ontario Ombudsman

All 72 school boards in Ontario have a capital repair backlog, for a total of $15 billion of disrepair in our province’s public schools.

The 2 million students who attend Ontario public schools deserve better, as do the countless children who attend childcare/early learning programs in these same schools; the adults who work every day in these buildings; and the community members who rely upon these buildings as important community hubs.

On October 19, Canadians voted for change. We gave the Federal Liberals a mandate to deliver on their promise to increase investment in infrastructure, even if this means running a deficit. In reaction to the majority win by the Federal Liberals, Premier Wynne said:

Now that we have a federal partner with the same priority, we can do more and we can do it faster.         

As a citizen of Ontario, I urge Kathleen Wynne’s government to apply this sentiment to quickly addressing the $15 billion of disrepair in our province’s school buildings. The current commitment of $11 billion in capital grants to school boards over 10 years is insufficient. More public schools in this province must be repaired and rebuilt – and we must do it faster.

So, as those with power over the funding of public schools in this province:

Will you increase capital grants to school boards to repair and rebuild Ontario’s public schools now?

Public schools are a key component of our society’s infrastructure – and must be funded as such. I look forward to hearing back from you with an answer to the question above.

Kind regards,

YOUR NAME

YOUR MAILING ADDRESS

Thanks for helping to fix our schools!

Please include your local MPP on all letters

Your local MPP represents you in our provincial government so please include them whenever you communicate with the provincial government.

Click here if you know your local MPP’s name but need their email address.

Click here if you need to find out your local MPP’s name and then click above for their email address.

Thanks for including your local MPP’s email address on this letter you are sending today! 

If you believe your child’s school is in good shape…you may be surprised

Many parents we’ve spoken with over the past 18 months have said that their children’s school is in “pretty good shape” except for maybe needing a new coat of paint. Fix Our Schools wants to emphasize that much of the disrepair reflected in the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools is invisible. Parents, teachers and students would have no way of knowing about much of the disrepair until there was a system failure. For instance, until classes are cancelled at a school because there is no heat, people would presume the boiler was in good shape.

The takeaway here is that just because the disrepair is invisible doesn’t mean that it won’t impact students and teachers at some point and definitely doesn’t mean that it can be deferred indefinitely!  So, how is all of this disrepair calculated if much of it is invisible?  Great question!  Read on…

Over the past five years, Ontario’s Ministry of Education has engaged a company called VFA, a leading provider of facility assessment services, to assess the condition of Ontario’s approximately 4,900 public schools via a “Facility Condition Assessment’ (FCA).

An FCA involves a team of one or more specialists inspecting each system (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and architectural/structural elements) in a school building to understand its condition. The FCA team takes into account the remaining useful life of the system and also conducts a physical assessment of the school building. Unfortunately, this physical assessment is usually limited to a visual inspection and rarely involves any destructive or intrusive testing to make a better determination of the state of the building component. Therefore, an FCA team could visually inspect a school’s roof and deem it to be in good condition, and then the following week a major rain storm could prove that assessment incorrect when the roof starts to leak.

The FCA Team determines an estimated cost for each item of work that should be done on the school building’s system components (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and architectural/structural elements) and assigns each item of work a priority level: urgent, high, medium or low.

So, disrepair in public schools is based on these Facilities Condition Assessments conducted by VFA, a third party company engaged by the provincial government. Given the limitations of these assessments, the estimated $15-billion of disrepair in all 72 of Ontario’s publicly funded school boards may actually be quite conservative. Yet another reason why Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government must start to prioritize school buildings as important public infrastructure that must be repaired and rebuilt!

Feds should fund larger infrastructure projects – not curling rinks and hockey arenas!

A group of Canadian economists has concluded that the federal government would deliver more benefit to Canadians by investing in larger infrastructure projects rather than smaller projects, which include many extra administrative costs.

A series of three research papers on federal infrastructure funding was released November 2, 2015 by the University of Calgary’s school of public policy. “Striking the Right Balance: Federal Infrastructure Transfer Programs, 2002-2015” by Bev Dahlby and Emily Jackson provides the insight above and states that, “by providing more in the form of block grants, Ottawa can leave smaller stuff to smaller governments, where it, and much else, properly belongs”.

So, while it is tempting for a federal government seeking favour from voters to dole out small infrastructure projects like curling rinks and hockey arenas to many communities across the country, the wiser investment would be larger infrastructure projects – like transit, roads and rebuilding our schools!

Let’s hope Prime Minister Trudeau and his new cabinet are paying attention!