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:
- Keep special School Condition Improvement (SCI) funding at $1 billion per year until the repair backlog is gone.
- Increase annual School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding from the current $357 million per year to $1.7 billion per year, and maintain that funding at 3% of the replacement value of Ontario’s schools to conform to the generally accepted level of renewal funding required to keep schools in a state of good repair.
- Create a new and separate capital stream of funding to replace the 346 school buildings across the province determined to be too expensive to repair as of the most recent provincial review cycle; an estimated $3.9 billion one-time capital injection amortized over 40 years would result in a new budgetary expense of $100 million per year.
- Increase the current operational maintenance budget by $165 million per year (an 8.7% increase from current levels, based on industry averages) and ensure that the formula used to determine this annual figure explicitly recognizes the underlying drivers of differences in operating costs for schools in the province including: labour costs in the community, heating costs and climate, age & design of school buildings.
We know this is a lot of new money to be asking for in the provincial budget. However, we also know that:
- Schools are a critical element of our public infrastructure
- 2 million Ontario children spend their days in school buildings and need safe, healthy, well-maintained places to learn
- Teachers, education workers, adult learners, and preschoolers who attend child care facilities in local public schools also need safe, healthy, well-maintained environments in which to work and learn
- Repairs in Ontario’s schools are only going to get more expensive if we do not fully address the $15.9 billion repair backlog as soon as possible.
- School boards can only be effective and efficient in carrying out their school repair plans if the Province provides adequate and stable funding
So, if we collectively agree that we value our children and we value their education then we will start to do what it takes to truly fix Ontario’s schools and fix the broken provincial funding approach to education that has allowed $15.9 billion of disrepair to accumulate in Ontario’s schools.
In our submission to the pre-budget consultation process, we also urge the provincial government to:
- Develop and implement a standard of good repair for Ontario’s schools
- Update the provincial regulation that guides the collection and use of EDCs
- Revise the provincial approach to school closures
- Pursue community hubs as an effective and efficient use of school assets