Parents protest rural school closures

Local schools are important to Ontario families. This is evident when any local school is at risk of being closed, a situation that is becoming more frequent as our provincial government puts pressure on local school boards to strive for the same type of “efficient use of assets” as for-profit corporations generally pursue.

Parents from across the province are heading to Queen’s Park today to let Premier Wynne and Education Minister Hunter know that local schools are important to communities and necessary to provide the best education possible for Ontario students. Children attending publicly funded schools in this province are more than mere chess pieces on a board that can be conveniently moved around (via 4-hour bus rides) to “nearby” schools in the name of operational efficiency.

In the November 20, 2016 Toronto Star article entitled, “Ontario parents protest a slew of rural school closures, claim funding model is faulty”, Annie Kidder, the executive director of People for Education, says that “while some schools (in the province) do need to be closed, there are always consequences. And those consequences go beyond individual kids.” Kidder goes on to say that, “the province and the school boards keep passing the buck back and forth about whose fault it is.”

This lack of accountability is concerning and is not yielding the outcomes we want to see in public education. The Province has held power over all educational funding and the vast majority of rules governing education for over two decades now. Ontario school boards have the responsibility to actually operate our publicly funded schools and administer the funding they receive from the province for their schools. Therefore, power and accountability/responsibility do not reside at the same level of government, making it easy to pass the buck.

In the instance of school repairs, we have gathered irrefutable evidence that from 2011-2016, the provincial government underfunded local school boards by $5.8-billion for school repairs. However, the Province tends to blame local school boards for problems. Clearly, this dynamic is not delivering what is best for students and communities and must change so that power and accountability/responsibility reside at the same level of government.