Do you ever wonder if giving your kids more chores will make them more responsible and mature? What if you sent them to the store with $5.00 to buy $100.00 worth of groceries and they came back with a few boxes of crackers. Would you be complaining that they didn’t buy everything on the list?
No. You would take responsibility for the fact that, with the money you gave them, they couldn’t possibly have bought $100.00 worth of groceries.
For decades, the Minister for Education of Ontario has not taken just that responsibility. Decades of extreme underfunding means we have a province full of schools with boilers about to fail, roofs leaking and issues with structural elements. The poor quality of the school buildings is affecting the learning of our next generation.
In the last 5 years, the School Boards in Ontario have been given a fraction of what is needed to keep our publicly funded schools in a state of good repair. Imagine anyone holding Ontario school boards responsible for the shocking decline in the condition of our schools when the truth is they have been grossly and chronically underfunded by our provincial government. Every parent knows it. And Premier Wynne needs to take responsibility.
We are asking the people of Ontario to urge our provincial government to prioritize schools as integral infrastructure so that school repairs get funded in the upcoming provincial budget. Together, we can send a strong message to Premier Wynne’s government by taking less than two minutes to do the following:
- Visit the Ontario Budget Talks website.
- Click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “Log in or Register”.
- Click the link that says “Create new account” and take 20 seconds to enter your personal information
- Open the email sent to you to confirm your account. Click on the link to log in, select a password and language setting, confirm your information, scroll down to bottom and click “Save”.
- Click link on upper left-hand side that says, “View all ideas”, which will take you to “Search terms”
- Search for, “Fund public schools as integral public infrastructure”.
- To support this idea, click the green “Thumbs Up” button.
- To comment on this idea, add comments in the section provided below the idea.
- Tweet using the hashtag #BudgetTalks
CTV News reported on January 22 that almost half of the 200 schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board are in critical or poor condition.
Education Minister Sandals’ response to this report is frustrating. We’ve included our rebuttal to each of her quotes below using bold italics:
“It is the board’s responsibility to keep the buildings in good repair,” Minister Liz Sandals told reporters at a news conference in Guelph. It is the provincial government’s responsibility to provide adequate funding to school boards to keep school buildings in good repair. With the levels of funding provided to school boards over the last 20 years, there is no possible way any school board could have kept its aging buildings in good repair.
“Their problem is they need to manage the money that they are receiving.” For 2015-16, Ontario School Boards are receiving less than 5% of what is needed to address their current outstanding repair backlogs. Could YOU fix $100 problem if you only had $5? Tough to be that efficient…
Sandals said the Toronto boards have greater opportunities than many other school boards in the province because they can make more money by selling schools where enrolment has dropped than in other cities, where real estate is cheaper. Selling schools takes a long time, is not always the best answer for a community (especially when Premier Wynne is actively pursuing using public assets as community hubs), and only offers a short-term and incomplete solution going forward.
Sandals said Toronto’s public board has had its funding quadrupled in the last year. If your telephone bill has $100 outstanding and last month you only paid the telephone company $2, but then quadrupled your payment this month to $8… IT STILL ISN’T ENOUGH!
She said the government has spent $13.4 billion in the last decade on new schools, retrofitted schools, additions and renewal projects. The government plans to spend another $11 billion over the next 10 years on the same expenses.
“If you add that up together, we’re looking at almost $25 billion going to school board capital. Minister Sandals is lumping together money spent on building new schools and additions with money allocated for maintaining existing schools. She is comparing apples to oranges. Only a fraction of the money required to keep our children’s schools in a state of good repair is being allocated by our provincial government and this must change if we want to see the $15-billion capital repair backlog in Ontario’s schools start to decrease … rather than continue to grow.
In the January 20, 2016 Toronto Star, Fix Our Schools was quoted several times in the article, “Schools crumbling amid $1B repair shortfall”, which focused on disrepair in TDSB schools specifically.
While the Fix Our Schools campaign is focused on addressing disrepair in all Ontario public schools, certainly the TDSB continues to stand out as the school board with the most disrepair in its buildings. Last year, the TDSB only received $2.26 for every $100 of disrepair in its schools. The Province keeps touting how it has increased funding for school maintenance, yet when they doubled funding for school maintenance this year, that still only provides the TDSB with under $5 for every $100 of disrepair in its schools…
Could you fix a $100 problem with only $5? I think it is safe to say that no matter how efficient you are, this would be impossible!
On January 20, 2016 CTV News aired a piece featuring the disrepair in TDSB schools. Fix Our Schools was quoted at several junctures in this piece, highlighting that the provincial government has been grossly and chronically underfunding public schools.
“If the province does not step up and increase the funding that they provide to public schools significantly we are heading to a direction where schools will become unsafe,” head of Fix Our Schools, Krista Wylie, said.
According to this CTV News report by Naomi Parness, a Grade 2 student received a concussion when she was pinned under a broken bathroom stall door at a Toronto school ranked by the province as in need of “critical” repairs.
Ontario’s Auditor-General says there is $1.7-billion of urgent and critical repairs in Ontario’s schools. However, Premier Wynne’s government has only allocated $500-million for Ontario school repairs this year, leaving $1.2-billion of critical and urgent repairs left undone in buildings where children spend 6 hours each day.
Premier Wynne: You and your government must act now to do the right thing – increase funding to Fix Our Schools.
Each year, the Ministry of Education seeks input from various stakeholders before determining funding for school boards for the upcoming school year. The Fix Our Schools campaign has made a written submission in each of the past two years.
Here is the cover letter, which provides an overview for you of what Fix Our Schools submitted to the Ministry in November, 2015 for use in determining funding for school boards for the 2016/17 school year:
Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign asking for safe, well-maintained Ontario public school buildings that are funded as an integral part of our public infrastructure – on par with transit.
All 72 publicly funded School Boards in the province face capital repair backlogs, for a total of over $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools. The $11-billion in capital grants to School Boards over ten years is insufficient to address this unacceptable disrepair. New funding solutions must be found. Please give immediate consideration to:
- Revising O. Reg. 20/98 to allow all School Boards to access EDCs and use EDC money for repairs, capital projects or land purchase
- Allocating some of the promised new federal infrastructure funding to increase investment in repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools
- Allocating the capital costs of maintaining school buildings and associated green spaces used as Community Hubs, in proportion to usage by various public and community entities
The 2-million children who attend Ontario public schools deserve to have safe, well-maintained buildings; 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.
We trust that Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government will take the lead in working together with School Boards, Municipalities, other Ministries, and the Federal Government to find the funding solutions needed to Fix Our Schools.
The editorial by Benjamin Perrin in the Globe & Mail of January 8, 2016 entitled, “Victoria earthquake an urgent wake-up call” puts forward this scathing review and call to action:
“It is unconscionable that Premier Christy Clark’s government, which is ultimately responsible for the safety of our schools and hospitals and earthquake preparations, has been unable to get this job done. Progress has been lethargic and half-hearted. The Premier needs to make it a top priority, with tight timelines and funding on the table. Her government might look to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a hand with these major infrastructure investments.”
Perrin points out that, “dozens of schools, attended by thousands of children, are ranked as “high risk,” meaning that their century-old brick-and-mortar construction would collapse like a house of cards, killing and injuring students, teachers and staff if the quake struck while school is in session. Most of the handful of seismically upgraded or rebuilt schools are at full enrolment. Progress on making the others safer is slow – or not happening.”
Publicly funded schools in Canada are a critical element of our society’s infrastructure. All levels of government in this country must prioritize fixing our schools.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s pre-budget consultations provide an opportunity to urge our federal government to prioritize school buildings as critical infrastructure. Please engage in this process by:
Here are some bullet points to help make it easy to ask questions in-person or provide written feedback!
- Schools must be considered critical public infrastructure in this country. Yet, we’ve allowed publicly funded schools from coast to coast fall into states of gross disrepair.
- In Ontario alone – there is $15-billion of disrepair in publicly funded schools, $1.7-billion of which has been identified as urgent and critical by the Ontario Auditor-General.
- The Auditor-General has also confirmed that $1.4-billion per year is needed to maintain Ontario public schools, yet for the past five years our provincial government has only allotted between $150-500-million.
- When your government was elected in October, you committed a significant increase in infrastructure spending. Premier Wynne was thrilled, stating this will allow Ontario “to do more – and to do it faster!”
- My question is: “How will you work with provincial governments to ensure that publicly funded schools across Canada are considered critical public infrastructure and funded appropriately to ensure that the buildings in which children spend six hours each day are safe and well-maintained?”
- I recognize that public education is a provincial jurisdiction but the infrastructure funding, policies and approach provided by our federal government can certainly impact how disrepair in public schools is prioritized and addressed by Canada’s provincial governments.
What we know:
- School conditions impact student achievement.
- $1.7-billion of the total $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is deemed urgent and critical.
- $1.4-billion each year is needed to maintain Ontario’s school in a state of good condition, yet actual provincial funding over the last five years has only been $150-500-million.
Our children deserve more. Let’s Fix Our Schools.