Building new schools will help chip away at the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario schools

The article entitled, “15 new schools slated to be built across the GTA: Ontario announces details of new schools slated for GTA, among a total of 28 set to be built across the province” by Andrea Gordon appeared in the November 1, 2016 edition of the Toronto Star.

School boards, communities, parents and students alike were excited to hear details about which schools were going to be built – or re-built. However, the $470-million being spent on building these new schools does not represent new money towards improving school infrastructure in this province. As per the 2016 provincial budget:

“Over 10 years, the Province plans to provide more than $11 billion in capital grants to school boards to help build new schools in areas of high growth, reduce surplus space through school consolidations, and improve the condition of existing facilities.”

Therefore, the $470-million announced for new school buildings, is really simply a report back to taxpayers on how money that has already been committed is actually going to be spent, as Fix Our Schools is quoted as saying in this Toronto Star article.

However, Fix Our Schools recognizes that building new schools is an important step towards decreasing the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools. This massive repair backlog was allowed to accumulate in Ontario schools over the past 20 years, when provincial funding for school repairs was grossly inadequate, compared to the $1.4-billion per year that Ontario’s Auditor-General says ought to be allocated for school repairs in order to keep schools in good condition.

When Premier Wynne’s government announced additional funding for school repairs in June 2016, they finally brought annual funding for school repairs up to the $1.4-billion that ought to have always been allocated annually to keeping our children’s schools in good condition. However, this new level of funding does not allow school boards to deal effectively with the huge repair backlogs that have accumulated over the past 20 years. Therefore, new schools represent a tangible way to chip away at the massive repair backlog – since when a new school is built – the millions of dollars of disrepair that existed in the old school get written off the books!

Therefore, investment in school repairs and investment in building new schools are both important.