Monthly Archives: May 2016

EQAO a potential funding source to Fix Our Schools?

In a May 15, 2016 article in the Globe & Mail entitled, “Ontario teachers encouraged to withdraw own kids from standardized tests“, an interesting question is raised:

Is the money the provincial government spends each year on EQAO testing the best use of our limited public funds?

“The Federation views province-wide testing of every student in the primary and junior divisions and Grades 9 and 10 as both a misuse of student time, and an ineffective use of funds that should be redirected to support students’ learning,” the ETFO memo stated.

Given the following:

  • Ontario’s Auditor-General has confirmed that the Province has underfunded school repairs in this province by $5.8-billion over the past five years
  • Over $15-billion of disrepair has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools

we do need to question where education funding money is being allocated to ensure that student needs are being met. ETFO raises an interesting perspective by questioning the value of EQAO testing.

With a $15-billion problem to be addressed, Fix Our Schools encourages Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government to consider all possible solutions with an open mind. It is simply not enough to say, “there is no money to fix schools”.

Join us at a Campfire in Toronto on June 9!

You’re invited to a family-friendly campfire to meet others involved with the Fix Our Schools campaign and find out more/exchange ideas on how we can work together to Fix Our Schools! Marshmallows and hot chocolate will be served. 

We know that many of you live outside the GTA but if you happen to be in town on June 9th, we’d love to see you. 

When? Thursday, June 9 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Where? Dufferin Grove Park, just south of the Dufferin subway – follow the signs to the campfire.

For more information, contact 

Why have poor school conditions in Ontario not received more attention?

Disrepair in publicly funded schools is complicated. Through our work with Fix Our Schools, we have found that at every turn, stakeholders involved in this issue are reluctant to shine a light on disrepair in Ontario’s schools:

  • Parents don’t want to believe they drop their children off at a school that is in disrepair and so would rather focus on the great things happening in their children’s schools.  
  • Teachers don’t have time or the political will to be the “squeaky wheel” every time there is disrepair in their school that needs addressing. 
  • Principals and Superintendents don’t wish to highlight their school(s) as being in poor condition and risk unleashing a maelstrom of parent anger and frustration (many parents we speak to actually blame principals and caretakers for the disrepair they notice in their children’s schools, which is totally not the case at all!). 
  • Trustees and School Boards don’t want to risk “biting the hand that feeds them” so tend to be “careful” about naming the provincial government’s funding as the root cause of disrepair in schools.
  • Teachers Unions represent individual teacher health and safety concerns when teachers raise these issues. However, they have not focused on disrepair in schools and the impact on teacher working conditions as a key negotiation issue to date.
  • Media want photographs of schools in disrepair to illustrate in vivid detail how disrepair looks and create a newsworthy, sensational story. However, they are unable to get permission to access these schools because no principal wants to be the school featured (understandable!) and so media has not provided adequate coverage to this important issue.   

And so, disrepair in schools gets ignored again and again and continues to get worse – either because of lack of perspective, time, bandwidth, courage, interest, or political will.

So, collectively, we’ve all in some small way allowed the provincial government to continue to underfund school buildings over the past several decades. To fix our schools, we must come together to not only shine a light on this issue but to demand action on this issue from our provincial government. 

To make matters more complicated, much of the $15-billion of disrepair in schools is invisible to the naked eye. Structural concerns, repairs to fire alarm and suppression systems go unnoticed until they fail. You won’t know that the boiler at a school should have been replaced ten years ago until it stops working in February and school gets cancelled for a day! You won’t know that the fire alarm system was broken until … well – you get the idea. So much of the disrepair lurks beneath the surface and is impossible to illustrate, which means people don’t know about it and cannot shine a light on it. 

Imagine if all children attended a school like…

2016_April 18_Photo of Frank Hayden new school in BurlingtonDr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School in Burlington, Ontario?

Built as part of a community complex, this high school opened its doors in September 2013. As one student wrote in a Burlington Gazette article, “I’m so jealous. I fell asleep in the middle of my math exam in June of 2012. Why did I fall asleep? No air conditioning. Well at Dr. Frank J. Hayden High School they won’t have that problem. They have air-conditioning and I’ve heard it’s absolutely gorgeous. The whole school is new; and new is spectacular!”

Indeed, new is spectacular! While not all Ontario students can attend brand new schools, all Ontario students ought to attend school buildings that are safe, well-maintained and that provide an environment conducive to learning. Let your MPP know that you expect their government to provide sufficient funding to all Ontario’s school boards to address the $15-billion of disrepair that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

Let’s fund schools as the critical infrastructure they are!

There is about $13-billion remaining to be spent by the federal government on infrastructure projects that qualify as part of the “New Building Canada Fund”, which was originally launched by the Conservatives. As highlighted in the April 25, 2016 Globe and Mail article entitled, “Liberals adding tourism, recreational works to infrastructure program”, projects such as hockey rinks and community centre repairs are now able to qualify. While this type of infrastructure spending is popular for communities, their long-term economic benefit is questionable – especially when compared to investments made in health care or education infrastructure.

According to Jamison Steeve, executive director of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, spending on health care, education and trade are the types of infrastructure that produce long-term gains in terms of high-paying jobs and increased productivity. Building a hockey rink, he said, only produces a short-term boost when looked at from a purely economic point of view.