Fix Our Schools contributed this submission to the provincial pre-budget consultation process. It highlights that the $1.4 billion/year our provincial government is currently allocating for school renewal is simply not enough to start to reduce the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools. To make up for the 20 years when provincial funding was a mere fraction of what it ought to have been as per industry standards, economist Hugh Mackenzie suggests that an additional investment of $1.6 billion/year is needed to start to truly fix Ontario’s schools as per the following breakdown:
Ontario’s current approach to funding education and schools was implemented 20 years ago and it simply does not work. There are examples everywhere we look: massive repair backlogs, students’ learning being negatively impacted by their school conditions, staff teaching in rooms with outrageous temperatures or no windows.
Imagine being a rare student in Ontario who gets a NEW school built in their community! No leaking roofs, washrooms that have doors, no bugs, alarm/fire systems that work, no lead in the water and structurally sound.
In Windsor, students at St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School had that vision. However, when the Ministry of Education had finished their funding and design calculations, and the school was built – the brand new school was too small for the student population.
Parents were confused. “It’s a brand new school. You would think that they would fit all the students instead of making a portable for extra students,” said Aries Cabangon, who has one of his children learning inside of a portable.
As Fix Our Schools identified in this February 2017 blog post entitled, “Ontario communities each have unique educational issues”, no community in the province is being well served by the current provincial funding formula for education. With $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario schools, it is hard to fathom how no provincial government in the last 20 years has fixed this funding formula and repaired some of the most valuable public assets we own.
Economist Hugh Mackenzie estimates that in order to eliminate the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s publicly funded schools, an additional $1.6 billion per year in provincial funding is needed for repairing, maintaining and rebuilding schools.
The next provincial election is in June 2018. The Liberals have one more budget to issue before Ontarians head to the polls. The Ontario Liberal, PC and NDP parties are all preparing their election platforms in the hopes of forming the next provincial government.
Interesting times at Queen’s Park.
At the PC policy convention in late November, Leader Patrick Brown revealed a “People’s Guarantee” and pledged not to run for a second term if he fails to deliver on five major commitments. Sadly, there was not even a mention of the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, let alone any commitment to an additional $1.6 billion per year in provincial funding to fix our schools. This was disappointing, given Brown’s willingness to take on the issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools in June 2016.
In April, 2017, the Ontario NDP party unveiled their vision document, upon which their platform for the June 2018 election will be based. In it, the mounting repair backlog in Ontario’s schools is highlighted as an issue, noting that Ontario children are being sent to schools with leaky roofs and broken boilers. The NDP vision document states that “a New Democrat government will take immediate action to bring community schools up to a reasonable state of repair and address all repairs quickly moving forward.” However, no financial details have been outlined in an actual platform so it remains to be seen if the NDP party will commit the additional $1.6 billion per year needed to truly fix Ontario’s schools.
When the Liberals took over from the PCs in 2003, they inherited a legacy that included $5.6 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools. Today, disrepair in Ontario’s schools stands at $15.9 billion – triple the amount of disrepair they inherited in 15 years ago. To reverse this appalling trend, an additional $1.6 billion per year must be committed to repairing, rebuilding and maintaining our schools. The upcoming Liberal budget will signal their level of commitment to ensuring all Ontario children attend school in a safe, well-maintained and healthy building.
Interesting times indeed.
The photo here shows a downtown Toronto water pipe exploding last winter. The hydro vault around the corner from me caught fire this fall. When dramatic incidents happen, we come to understand, up close, why we should all care about aging infrastructure. Standing in the dark, knee deep in water we say “I get it!”
I remember as a child knowing when we’d crossed the border to the United States because the ride got a lot bumpier. Now it is our highways that are a rough ride. Highways take the brunt of our commuting in cars because of a lack of fast, reliable public transportation.
School buildings are public infrastructure owned by taxpayers and are the hubs that allow us to educate our children and build a strong economy.
Taxpayers want dependable electricity, clean water and excellent education for their children and grandchildren.
But are there even more important reasons why we should care about infrastructure? Yes!
• Poor infrastructure affects our economy. New businesses to Canada want to see a solid infrastructure in place before they’ll invest. According to Dominque Gautier of Roland Berger Canada, the most important role the government can take right now is to incent long-term investors to focus on Canadian infrastructure. Continue reading