On February 22, Fix Our Schools was at Queen’s Park demanding that Kathleen Wynne’s government provide the funding needed to fix Ontario’s crumbling schools, as covered by CBC.
We were joined by teachers, students, childcare advocates, trustees and school board staff to highlight that disrepair in Ontario’s schools is an important issue impacting real people every day. Students, preschoolers, teachers, principals, and community members all deserve safe, well-maintained schools!
Spencer Higdon-McGreal, a grade 12 student who accompanied Fix Our Schools at Queen’s Park on February 22, spoke about how cold classrooms in winter make learning challenging, as covered on CTV News at 6 pm. Spencer has experienced firsthand the negative impact of disrepair in schools for the past 14 years.
Students in this province should not need to wear winter coats in their classrooms!
Premier Wynne: Will you increase annual provincial funding for school maintenance to provide the $1.4-billion/year to school boards that the Auditor-General has identified is required to maintain Ontario’s publicly funded schools?
Fix Our Schools asks Premier Wynne, “Will you release the $1.7-billion that is needed to fix the critical and urgent disrepair that your Auditor-General has confirmed exists in our children’s schools?” at Queen’s Park press conference covered on CTV News at Noon on February 22, 2016.
Fix Our Schools was joined by ETFO President Sam Hammond, who spoke about specific examples of disrepair that impacts both students and teachers in this province; Carolyn Ferns from the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare, who spoke on behalf of the preschoolers and families who rely on childcare housed in publicly funded schools, and Spencer Higdon-McGreal, a Grade 12 student who spoke about how disrepair in schools impacts students.
Students, preschoolers, teachers, staff, principals and community members all deserve safe, well-maintained schools and ask that these important community buildings start to be funded as the critical public infrastructure they are.
Every week, our provincial government meets to discuss its priorities. You can impact these discussions by making a simple phone call or sending an email to your MPP.
Not sure what to say? Here are some ideas:
- Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed the Province should have allocated $7-billion over the last five years for school repairs but they only allocated $1.2-billion, creating a funding shortfall of $5.8-billion for buildings where 2-million children learn each day.
- How are you going to ensure the provincial government addresses the gross and chronic underfunding of school maintenance identified in the 2015 Auditor-General’s report?
- How are you going to ensure the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is addressed, especially the $1.7-billion identified as both critical and urgent?
- As a citizen, I expect the provincial government to fund schools as critical public infrastructure to ensure they are safe, well-maintained buildings.
Contact information for all Ontario MPPs
In an open letter sent on January 29, Fix Our Schools requested a coordinated response to the following three questions by February 19 from Premier Wynne, Deputy Premier Matthews, Finance Minister Sousa, Infrastructure Minister Duguid, and Education Minister Sandals:
- Will you, as a provincial government, release $1.7-billion to fix the critical and urgent disrepair the Auditor-General has confirmed exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools?
- Will you increase annual provincial funding for school maintenance to provide the $1.4-billion/year to school boards that the Auditor-General has identified is required to maintain Ontario’s publicly funded schools?
- How will you address the remaining $13.3-billion of capital repair items that provincial governments have allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools?
We received an entirely unsatisfactory response letter on the evening of February 19.
Premier Wynne and her government fail to explain how they are going to immediately address the $1.7-billion of critical and urgent disrepair that Ontario’s Auditor-General says exists in our children’s schools. Our provincial government also fails to explain how they will account for the gross and chronic underfunding of public schools in this province and ignores the question on whether they will increase annual provincial funding for school maintenance to the $1.4-billion/year that Ontario’s Auditor-General says is required to maintain our schools.
Disappointed with our provincial government’s response, Fix Our Schools will be publicly asking the three questions above yet again on Monday, February 22 at a press conference being held at Queen’s Park.
As you know, Fix Our Schools is an Ontario-wide campaign. However, we are knocking on every door in an effort to raise awareness on disrepair in our schools and encourage action to address the $15-billion of disrepair currently plaguing Ontario’s schools.
With this in mind, Fix Our Schools attended the City of Toronto’s joint City-School Boards Advisory Committee meeting on February 11, 2016 and made this presentation, which calls upon Ontario’s largest municipality to consider how it can work together with all four local school boards to help Fix Our Schools.
Parents continue to express concerns over disrepair in their children’s schools in this CTV piece, which aired on February 2, 2016.
“Our principals are becoming engineers,” said one parent. “They’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re working on fixing leaks on roofs.”
“Our bathrooms — there’s no privacy because the locks don’t work,” said a Grade 5 student.
“The unfortunate part is that the … physical nature of (my son’s school) is just so degraded that it’s embarrassing,” said another parent.
We first wrote about school washrooms in June 2015 when we asked the question, “Would you go to the washroom if it looked like this?”
This photo was taken at a public high school in a washroom. You’ll note the broken window. Looks like nothing has changed in the last six months so our question remains, “Would you go to the washroom if it looked like this?”.
Fix Our Schools and former School Board Trustee Howard Goodman submitted the following letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail. While it did not get published, we felt it worth sharing with you!
Don’t forget our school buildings
We applaud big-city mayors for being strong advocates for investment in public transit. Unfortunately, there is no voice at the table for another piece of infrastructure that is vital to quality of life and economic development – our community-based public schools.
Many school buildings in major cities were built for baby-boomers and after 60-plus years are overdue for major upgrades. Roofs and windows, along with electrical, heating/cooling, and communications systems need to be replaced. But the need goes beyond replacing worn out parts.
Businesses want to hire people with strong creative, collaborative, and communications skills, and yet our current school buildings were designed for 19th century education when only 2% of children went to university in 1921. The goal of schools then was to get boys ready for factory work and girls ready for being housewives or secretaries. Classrooms that have the teacher at the front of the room with students at desks arranged in rows just don’t meet today’s needs.
It isn’t surprising that mayors are lobbying for commuters and ignoring students; schools aren’t within their jurisdiction. The federal government needs to meet with the Chairs and CEO’s of the major school boards if our children and communities are to have the school buildings that they deserve.
Howard Goodman, EdVocate.ca & Krista Wylie, Fix Our Schools Campaign
A former TDSB student interviewed Fix Our Schools members in Spring 2015 as part of a class project. We recently were sent the final 8-minute video, which you can see here.
The student raises excellent questions about how well the provincial funding formula is serving the students of Ontario. While this video’s focus is on the TDSB, the issues raised are ones that many school boards across the province face.