Monthly Archives: March 2016

2016/17 Ministry of Education Funding for School Boards

On Thursday, March 24, Ontario’s Ministry of Education proudly announced an increase of $300-million in the funding to school boards this coming year. Included in the $22.9-billion total that will go to publicly funded education in this province is the money that will go towards fixing schools.

Unfortunately, there is not enough money being provided by Premier Wynne’s government to Fix Our Schools. In fact, at the levels of funding being provided, we will see the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools continue to get larger. So, the bottom line is that the state of disrepair in our children’s schools is going to continue to worsen under Premier Wynne’s leadership. 

In 2005, this Liberal provincial government said, “Ultimately, a school’s condition reflects the state of commitment from one generation to the advancement of the next”.  The condition of Ontario’s schools has steadily declined over the past 11 years.  What does this say about our generation’s level of commitment to the next?

Community hubs require effort from all levels of government

The editorial entitled, “Saving our community spaces” in the March 11, 2016 edition of local paper “The Town Crier” was written by TCDSB Trustee Jo-Ann Davis. She emphasizes the importance of public spaces (like publicly funded schools!) to both communities and economic growth. Davis also outlines the many challenges that make creating community spaces difficult right now.

While all levels of government agree on the importance of community spaces (a.k.a Community Hubs) in theory, none of the levels of government with access to funding sources – municipal, provincial level and federal – appear ready to provide the funding and leadership needed to create community. Instead, school boards (which cannot directly access funding but instead, rely upon whatever is given to them by the Province) and not-for-profits (which clearly don’t have deep pockets!) are left shouldering the responsibility of figuring out how to cobble together community spaces without any real access to dollars.

This model clearly isn’t going to lead to success. Money isn’t the only ingredient needed for successful community hubs but it is an important one!

Next time you hear a City Councillor, MPP or MP talk about the value of community spaces (a.k.a Community Hubs) – ask them what they intend to do to help create and fund these important elements of our public infrastructure. All levels of government must start working together in order for communities to have the spaces we want and need.


“Ontario’s schools are falling apart. Here’s how to fix them.”

An editorial entitled, “Ontario’s schools are falling apart. Here’s how to fix them.” was published in the Toronto Star on January 28, 2016. It examines how Ontario has arrived at a place where $15-billion of disrepair exists in our publicly funded schools and then goes on to explore how Premier Wynne’s government might consider solving the issue.

Authors Sachin Maharaj, PhD student, and Gordon Petch, lawyer, state that “of all the duties that educational leaders and policy-makers have, ensuring that schools are safe is arguably the most important.” Given that 2-million Ontario children spend their days in school buildings, ensuring safe, well-maintained schools should be of paramount importance to Premier Wynne. However, Wynne’s government continues to blame school boards for disrepair, refusing to take any accountability for Ontario’s schools falling apart. Ironically, Ontario’s own Auditor-General has confirmed that our provincial government has underfunded school repairs by $5.8-billion over the last five years.

When will Premier Wynne start to prioritize schools as important public infrastructure and Fix Our Schools?

A look at disrepair in one high school

An article entitled, “The TDSB’s billion-dollar repair backlog means schools like Northern Secondary are in disrepair” was published in Post City Toronto on March 1, 2016. In it, one Toronto high school was featured.  Photos of a broken window, rotting wood, and sub-standard washrooms were featured.

Although the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) certainly has the largest repair backlog of any Ontario school board, disrepair impacts all 72 publicly funded school boards in this province. So, while Toronto schools are often featured in the media, you could readily find schools in critical condition throughout the province where similar photos could be taken.

Ontario’s school boards work extremely hard to quickly address disrepair in schools – especially disrepair that poses an immediate health and safety concern. However, for 2015-16, Premier Wynne’s provincial government has only provided school boards with about 5% of what is needed to address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools across the province. Our provincial government hasn’t even provided sufficient funding to school boards to address the $1.7-billion of disrepair that its own Auditor-General has deemed to be both critical and urgent!  Therefore, school boards are in an increasingly tough position as repair backlogs continue to grow.

Premier Wynne – when will you stop boasting about the increased funding your government has provided and, instead, focus on ensuring the funding that is actually needed to ensure safe, well-maintained schools for our children?


A student’s perspective on disrepair in schools

2016_Questioning StudentsSpencer Higdon-McGreal is a grade 12 student who has attended three different publicly funded schools over his 14 years of schooling in this province. Fix Our Schools was so happy that Spencer was able to join us at our most recent press conference to share a student perspective…

“I’ve seen first hand how desperately our public schools need repairs.

Holes in the ceilings, peeling paint, buckets in classrooms catching water from leaky ceilings, burnt out lights, disgusting washrooms … are just a few examples of problems we see in schools across the province. An issue that is all too common at this time of year is heating, or the lack of it I should say. For the past four years at my high school, I cannot remember a winter when our boiler didn’t break at least once, sometimes for multiple days, leaving students freezing and unable to focus.

There have been classes where students had to wear their winter jackets in class. In fact, proper heating has been an issue at some point during almost every winter over my 14 years at school. This is inexcusable!

Ontario’s Auditor-General has confirmed that $7-billion OUGHT to have gone to school repairs over the past five years… but that only $1.2-billion actually DID go to school repairs. This is a $5.8-billion shortfall in funding – for buildings where Ontario’s 2-million students spend six hours each day! As a student, I find this prioritization of funding shocking, but I also find it sad. Students have come to think that crumbling classrooms are a normal part of public school.

Ontario is a wealthy province, we should be increasing funding to schools, not letting them get progressively worse. Schools are critical infrastructure in our communities and must be kept in a state of good repair.

I’ve seen enough that I could talk about this issue forever, but i’ll keep it short.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s future leaders and contributors. They need and deserve the best education they can get. With the enormous number of problems in our schools, students aren’t given the best. The Ontario government can do better, and must do better.”

Will Premier Wynne’s government commit to fixing the disrepair in our schools?

2016_Wynne and Sousa_OntBudgetEducation Critic MPP Lisa Gretzky asked a series of questions to the Liz Sandals, Minister of Education during Question Period on February 22, as is noted below in the recording of that exchange.

Sadly, during this exchange, Premier Wynne’s government seemed content to have increased funding for school repairs. Yet, our provincial government seemed oblivious to the fact that, even with the increases, the funding they are allocating for school repairs is far less than what Ontario’s Auditor-General has confirmed is actually needed to keep our schools in good repair.

Imagine if you owed $100 to Rogers or Bell for your monthly phone service and you pay them $2.50. When their Accounts folks call, you proudly let them know you’re going to double your payment for the month and pay an additional $2.50, bringing the grand total to $5 on an outstanding bill of $100. We’re quite certain that Rogers or Bell would be unimpressed with you doubling your monthly payment and would, instead, focus on the fact that you still owe them $95 of the $100 bill! We’d like Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals to start focusing on what is needed to ensure schools are safe, well-maintained buildings for our children to spend six hours each day. We’d like them to stop congratulating themselves on increasing funding, when it isn’t yet close to sufficient!

Hansard Recording from Feb 22, 2016

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Minister of Education. Schools in this province are falling apart. Over the past five years alone, this government has underfunded school repairs by $5.8 billion. Add that to the previous repair backlog and we now have a shortfall of $15 billion—that’s billions, Speaker.

Kids are being forced to wear winter coats inside because classrooms are 12 degrees. Roofs are collapsing and children are being injured by broken infrastructure. While this government starves school boards of the resources they need to address these issues, students and families are being left behind.

My question is simple. With a budget on the horizon, Ontario families want to know: Will this government stop cuts to the classroom and commit to fixing the disrepair in our schools?

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’m pleased to report that, in fact, we have continued to increase education funding. If you look at the amount of funding that was received in 2003 and compare it to today, it’s up $8.1 billion. That’s 56%, at a time when the number of students has decreased.

Interjection: I think she said “billion.”

Hon. Liz Sandals: Billion with a “b.”

The amount per pupil has gone up. The absolute amount has gone up. The amount of funding for school renewal has gone up. The amount for school renovations has gone up. The amount of money for school repairs has gone up. Everything is going up.

While there do continue to be schools that are not in great shape, we have actually fixed the funding model—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.


Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: That just shows how out of touch the minister is, because the needs of the students have increased, the cost of electricity has increased and the cost of transportation has increased. Therefore, the budgets are not sufficient.

Again, to the Minister: Ontario boasts highly qualified education and child-care workers, bright students and parents who want what’s best for their children. This morning, organizations like Fix Our Schools, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care held a press conference at Queen’s Park to demand answers. Directors of education, trustees and students also attended.

The Minister of Education needs to put our students first. Kids are paying the price for her misplaced priorities. This government must recognize that it’s unacceptable that kids are wearing winter coats in classrooms.

Will this government repair our schools and finally provide a safe and equal opportunity education for all Ontario students?

Fix Our Schools presentation

Northern 3Consider showing this presentation at your next school council meeting!

It shows in vivid detail how a school LOOKS when a significant repair backlog exists. These photos of Ontario schools in disrepair illustrate in a vivid way how a child’s learning experience is negatively impacted by the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed that our provincial government has underfunded school repairs in this province by $5.8-billion over the past five years. The recently announced provincial budget for the upcoming year continues this tradition of underfunding.

These pictures say it all. Premier Wynne and her government must start funding our children’s schools as important infrastructure to Fix Our Schools!


Premier Wynne cuts real, per capita government spending

The Globe & Mail’s editorial entitled “Ontario: A budget that dare not speak its name”, from Thursday, February 25, 2016, states that Premier Wynne’s government has a plan to,

“cut real, per capita government spending, year after year, for years”.

This editorial goes on to provide facts and figures that prove Premier Wynne’s government has made cuts to Ontario’s health care and cuts to education.

Wynne continues to underfund school repairs in this province

2016_budget.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxMembers of Fix Our Schools were at Queen’s Park last Thursday, February 25 when the provincial budget speech was delivered. Unfortunately, despite their own Auditor-General’s confirmation that public school repairs have been grossly and chronically underfunded, there was no new money announced for school repairs in this provincial budget.

Premier Wynne’s government mentioned an $11-billion investment over ten years to help build new schools in areas of high growth, reduce surplus space through school consolidations and improve the condition of existing facilities. This $11-billion was originally announced in 2014 so this is not new money for school boards to deal with capital issues. Instead, this represents an average of only $1.1-billion per year for school boards to address the following capital needs:

  • building new schools in areas of high growth
  • school retrofits and building required due to closing of under-utilized schools, and last but not least…
  • school repairs, which now exceed $15-billion across the province

Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed that $1.4-billion per year should be given to school boards JUST for school repairs. Therefore, an allocation of $1.1-billion per year for school boards to address myriad capital needs seems to confirm that our provincial government is content to continue to underfund the very buildings where 2-million Ontario children spend their days.