Monthly Archives: January 2017

2017/18 Provincial Budget must contain $1.4-billion for school repairs

We’ve been looking back on history in order to learn and move ahead in funding education in Ontario. We’ve gone back as far as 2002 to examine the Rozanski report on the education funding formula. In this post, we’ll only go back to 2015…

In December 2015, Ontario’s Auditor-General looked at school conditions in this province and began to examine how $15-billion of disrepair had accumulated in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. She used an industry acknowledged standard of allocating 2.5% of the value of your capital assets each year to routine maintenance to confirm that in order to keep Ontario’s schools in a state of good repair (which they clearly are not, given the $15-billion repair backlog in schools across the province), the provincial government must provide $1.4-billion per year to school boards to use on school repairs. 

In June, 2016, the Liberal provincial government acknowledged that funding for school repairs had been inadequate for too long. Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter announced a new $1.1-billion investment over two years for school repairs. When this $1.1-billion was added to the money previously allocated to school repairs, the total investment in each of 2015/16 and 2016/17 added up to the $1.4-billion per year for school repairs recommended by the Auditor-General.

Kathleen Wynne’s government is now in the process of collecting input to forming the 2017/18 provincial budget. Surely, they will not go backwards and reduce annual funding for school repairs to be less than the $1.4-billion that industry standards recommend?  Surely, we can count on our provincial government to provide an adequate yearly revenue source to school boards that they might endeavour to keep schools in good condition for the 2-million Ontario children who spend their days in these buildings?  As per the presentation we made as part of the Pre-Budget ConsultationFix Our Schools will be looking to Kathleen Wynne to allocate a minimum of $1.4-billion in 2017/18 to Ontario school boards for school repairs. 

Rozanski Report: Guiding principles for education funding

The following excerpts from the 2002 Rozanski Report are still incredibly relevant today!

“I believe that the process for funding public education in Ontario should be guided by the following interrelated and interdependent principles:

  • Adequacy
  • Affordability
  • Equity
  • Stability
  • Flexibility
  • Accountability

Adequacy. The goals of high program quality, high levels of student achievement, and continuous improvement in both will not be met, in my opinion, without a concomitantly high level of public investment. While financial support is not the only kind of support needed, it is important that it be adequate to meet the objectives school boards, teachers, and students are being asked to achieve.

Affordability. I tend to agree with those who say we cannot afford not to provide adequate funding to meet our goals for public education. Our children deserve no less; our economic future requires no less. But education is only one public priority, and taxpayers’ pockets are not bottomless. The Province and the education community must engage in a continuous dialogue and a continuous process of assessing need, determining the appropriate level of funding to meet that need, then assessing results, including levels of student achievement, and reassessing need and the appropriate level of funding.

Equity. Equity means fairness. All Ontario students deserve equitable access to education and to the financial resources necessary for a high-quality education. Equity is not equality. Equality is not always equitable. One size does not fit all.

Stability. To plan for continuous improvement, boards and schools need to be able to count on a stable and predictable education funding system. When boards and schools are issued a new or an expanded mandate, they need assurances that they will also be given time to build the capacity to implement the change and resources that are adequate to meet the new demands.

Flexibility. Ontario is a vast and diverse province, and the needs of students in one board’s jurisdiction are not necessarily the needs of those in another board. The funding system should be both flexible and adaptable to allow boards and their schools a certain amount of discretion in assessing their local needs and spending part of their funding allocation to address those local needs.

Accountability. In the context of Ontario’s publicly funded education system, reciprocal accountability means that every demand by the public and the Province for improved performance involves a responsibility to provide appropriate resources to meet the demand, and that every investment accepted requires school boards, principals, teachers, and other staff to demonstrate accountability for using those resources efficiently and effectively for the purpose intended.”

Our input to the coming provincial budget

On December 8, 2016, Fix Our Schools had the opportunity to make this presentation to the Provincial Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Affairs in a pre-budget consultation meeting.

In large part, we referenced the 2002 Rozanski Report, commissioned by the PC Education Minister at that time, Elizabeth Witmer.

We study history to learn from our predecessors. In this spirit, the working group of the Fix Our Schools campaign reviewed the 2002 Rozanski Report, which analyzed the provincial funding model behind Ontario’s education system. We paid particular attention to the elements of the Rozanski Report that pertained to the funding for school maintenance and repairs.

After our review, we would encourage all provincial parties to review this report. The recommendations outlined by Rozanski would have served us well if we had instituted them 15 years ago. Indeed, our belief is if his recommendations had been followed, there may now be only a negligible amount of disrepair in Ontario’s schools.

However, Rozanski’s recommendations have withstood the test of time and, while 15 years later than would be ideal, his recommendations would still serve us well. It is time for our provincial government to acknowledge that debt financing is needed to deal with a $15-billion repair backlog that accrued in Ontario’s schools over the past 20 years. It is time to for our provincial government to admit that annual budget allocations alone will not address an issue of this magnitude.

“Better late than never” seems to be an appropriate adage to reference here!