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Tips on meeting with your local MPP

Meeting with your local MPP about an issue is the single most powerful thing that you, as a voter, can do to let the provincial government know that an issue is a priority for you. If enough people raise the same issue with their local MPPs, this issue inevitably gets attention by the government!  With this in mind, here are some tips to make this process easy for you.

How to Book a Meeting with your MPP:

• Call the constituency office of your local MPP and ask to schedule a meeting. Let them know the reason why you want to speak to your MPP.

• Take someone with you. They can take notes while you speak.

• Decide beforehand which of your points are the most crucial and organize your notes so that they are discussed early in the meeting.

• Near the end of your meeting time, ask your MPP to support stable and adequate funding for education in Ontario.

• If you have brought a local petition, let your MPP know the number of signatures you have collected on the petition.

• Ask to take a photo shaking hands with your MPP for facebook/twitter. Post it with a thank you to your MPP.

• Be polite and solution-oriented.

• Don’t be nervous. Remember, our MPPs works for us.

School library ceiling falls in during school hours

In a Toronto school last week, a piece of the ceiling in the library fell to the ground during school hours. Luckily, no student was sitting underneath the ceiling that collapsed.

 

The ceiling had been retaining water from a roof leak and eventually gave way. The TDSB struggles to keep up with the backlog of repairs needing to be done across its schools due to the decades of underfunding by the provincial government and incidents such as this one are the result.

 

 

The provincial government would push responsibility to the school boards to better manage their finances but when the provincial government has been allocating a mere fraction of what has been needed each year to properly maintain schools, this type of argument is akin to a parent getting upset with their child for failing to purchase weekly groceries for a family of four when given $10 by the parent to do so.

The provincial government has the power over the money that funds our children’s schools and it is time for them to take responsibility for the $15-billion of disrepair that plagues Ontario schools.

 

 

 

 

Fix Our Schools wins award for outstanding contribution to publicly funded education

Fix Our Schools was recently awarded the Greer Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Publicly Funded Education in Ontario by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.

At the award ceremony, Fix Our Schools was given the following introduction and accolades, which was a great reminder of the many things that our grassroots campaign has done and has accomplished since we began three years ago. Congratulations to ALL Fix Our Schools members on the part that you have played in effecting positive change in publicly funded education in Ontario! Whether you have written a letter to your local MPP, made a presentation at your local school, shared Fix Our Schools with your network, volunteered at a Fix Our Schools outreach event, or simply signed up to receive our newsletters as a show of support, your contribution has been integral to our achievements.

Introduction of the Fix Our Schools Campaign at the Awards Ceremony

2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the Greer Award for outstanding contributions to publicly funded education in Ontario. The award was established in memory of Dr. V.K. Greer, a distinguished Ontario educator. Over these 70 years, we have had many outstanding and deserving recipients, and this year is certainly no exception. 

Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign of citizens across Ontario. Its major goal is the promotion of safe, well-maintained schools that provide a positive learning environment for our students.

The organization’s belief that there is strength in numbers and power in grassroots, non-partisan activism has been proven in their success. Since its founding in 2014, Fix Our Schools has built a strong direct base of over 2,000 Ontario citizens and a large additional base of support via relationships with ETFO, OECTA, OSSTF, OPSBA, OCSTA, and many Ontario school boards.

In a little over two years, the organization shifted the narrative around school conditions and disrepair in schools to ensure that schools are considered integral public infrastructure. They have obtained increased transparency on school conditions with the public release of Ontario School Facility Condition Index (FCI) data, first by the Toronto District School Board, Ontario’s largest school board, and then, by the Ministry of Education in August 2016. Their pressure on the provincial government to recognize the chronic and gross underfunding of school repairs was confirmed in the 2015 Auditor-General’s report.

The provincial government subsequently released an additional $1.1-billion of funding for school repairs over two years, effectively bringing annual funding for school repairs to the $1.4-billion/year that is deemed necessary to keep Ontario schools in a state of good repair. 

Fix Our Schools continues to build their network and lobby those in power to work together to ensure that all Ontario students attend school in buildings that are safe and well-maintained. They believe that a one-size-fits-all education funding formula does not work and that the provincial government has the power over all education funding; therefore, they strive to encourage the provincial government to take responsibility for the delivery of public education. They will take a major role in the lead up to the 2018 election by encouraging every political party to make public education a priority within their platform. 

As stated on the Fix Our Schools website, “We are parents, students, teachers, grandparents, principals, caretakers, and voters who believe all Ontario students should attend safe, well-maintained schools that are funded as a critical part of our public infrastructure – in par with transit, roads and water.” On behalf of the OTF and the teachers of Ontario, I thank the members of Fix Our Schools for their defence of public education and the students in Ontario.

 

Province announces education funding for 2017/18 school year

On April 12, 2017, the Province announced its education funding for the coming 2017/18 school year, ahead of the provincial budget so as to provide school boards with more lead time for planning. Capital funding is outlined on page 5 of the GSN Memo.

In June 2016, the provincial government announced a $1.1-billion infusion of money to be allocated by school boards over two years specifically for school repairs. This new money, in effect, brought annual funding for school repairs for both 2015/16 and 2016/17 to the $1.4-billion that it always ought to have been.

We were pleased that on April 12, 2017, the Province announced a continuation of this baseline $1.4-billion/year funding for school repairs, deemed necessary by industry standards and Ontario’s Auditor-General, to stop further erosion of Ontario’s publicly funded schools. However, we are very concerned about the failure to address the $15-billion repair backlog that continues to plague Ontario’s schools.

Moreover, the $200-million of the $1.4-billion that is mandated to be spent by school boards by March 31, 2018 on environmental upgrades should, in our opinion, have been provided on top of the $1.4-billion amount instead of cutting into the amount urgently needed for basic school repairs such as roof leaks. 

We call upon Kathleen Wynne’s government to find funding solutions for the $15-billion repair backlog that has accumulated in Ontario’s schools over 20 years of chronic and gross underfunding by provincial governments for school repairs. These solutions may include long-term education infrastructure bonds and education development charges. We also expect that, in preparation for the June 2018 election, all three provincial parties look to reinvent Ontario’s education funding formula to ensure that the priorities of all Ontario communities are met.

Students demand better washroom facilities at their school

Grade 5 students at one Ontario school are demanding action to ensure better washroom facilities at their school. See the letter below, which they sent to their Principal.

Dear Principal XXX,

The students of room YYY would like to present a very urgent problem to you. The student washrooms in our school are a disaster. It is absolutely necessary to resolve this issue because the health, safety and dignity of pupils are paramount.

Firstly, the state of the washrooms is not good for the health of students. There is often no soap in the dispensers; therefore the children do not wash the hands. In addition, the toilets are frequently blocked and smell absolutely disgusting.

Secondly, students need to feel safe in their environment in order to be comfortable. If there are no locks on the doors, students will not want to use the washrooms here and feel that school is dangerous. You must install working locks for the good of the school.

Lastly, the dignity of pupils is at risk when the toilets are not clean. The walls in all the washrooms are covered in bad words, mean comments, and excrement. It is below the dignity of students to use washrooms in this condition.

In conclusion, all the student washrooms at our school must be renovated immediately! The health, safety, and dignity of students are in your hands, as our Principal. Please stand up for us. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Ideas as to what we can do as students to solve this problem:

– We can have student monitors for the washrooms who let the administration/caretakers know when there is a problem in the washrooms.

– We can put up laminated signs of washroom rules to help remind students on how to behave in the washrooms.

– We can be watchful and make sure other students follow the bathroom rules and let adult know when there are problems.

– We can fundraise money to improve the washrooms with bake sales.

Sincerely,

The grade 5 class in room YYY

The Principal at this school was receptive to working with students to find solutions that could be implemented and was happy to receive this detailed feedback. The next step was for the students to conduct an audit on every washroom in the school and make detailed recommendations based on their findings.

Fix Our Schools is working with this group of students and their teacher to ensure that their message is escalated beyond their school, to the provincial government, which is the body that has power over the funding that could truly influence the state of washrooms in Ontario schools.

In Toronto, it’s kids vs. condos

Fix Our Schools was quoted in the April 9, 2017 Toronto Star article written by Andrea Gordon, entitled, “In Toronto, it’s kids vs. condos“.  This article explores how new developments being built near schools are causing issues.  Parents are concerned about safety during construction and about the overcrowded classrooms exacerbated by new developments.

The article cites Krista Wylie, co-founder of Fix Our Schools, as saying, “while school boards bear the brunt of criticism for how these concerns are handled, they don’t have the power or resources to effectively deal with (these issues).”  Andrea Gordon goes on to highlight that, “the City of Toronto and the Province do have the budgets, staff and power when it comes to negotiating and approving – and ultimately the province controls board purse strings and the appeal process through the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).”

Local schools must be considered when approving new developments. Good local public schools make for highly desirable neighbourhoods in which Developers seek to build new condos – and ultimately profit. It seems only fair that developers should contribute to ensuring that the local public schools are safe, well-maintained buildings that offer environments conducive to learning.

Adequate and consistent funding imperative for school infrastructure

The Province is the government body responsible for providing all education funding in Ontario. Therefore, it is obvious that for School Boards to ensure safe, well-maintained school buildings, they would require adequate and stable funding, which could be relied upon and planned for, from year to year.

Indeed, back in 2002, when the Rozanski Report was released examining the effectiveness of Ontario’s education funding formula, he outlined “Adequacy” and “Stability” as two key guiding principles for any funding formula to work.

However, School Boards have not received funding that could be described as either adequate or stable over the past two decades. In a December 2015 report, Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed underfunding by the Province to School Boards for school repairs between the years 2011-2016 was $5.8-billion. Furthermore, school boards are left wondering what funding will be allocated from year to year, with no long-term commitment from the Province. 

Stability and adequacy. So simple … yet so elusive under the Ontario’s current education funding formula.

 

Passion for local schools gets MPP Walker booted from question period

In the April 3 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times, the article entitled, “MPP Walker booted during Question Period”  explored a heated exchange between Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, where Walker passionately pleads for the current education funding formula to be fixed.

In a news release following his ejection from the Legislature, Walker stated that, “her government promised to fix the funding formula, yet here we are, facing the possibility of as many as 600 school closures and asking for a moratorium because they broke their promise to the people of Ontario.”

During question period, MPP Walker said that the Education Minister “needs to stop misleading the communities, businesses and families who’ve stepped up to do the work. And if she still rejects a moratorium and refuses to fix the funding formula, then she needs to take responsibility for every school that shutters as a result of her incompetence and inaction, and the communities she will decimate and the lives she will ruin as a result of her narrow ideology.”

 

Chapman’s Ice Cream in Markdale desperate to save local school

Chapman’s Ice Cream in Markdale, Ontario is desperate to save the local school from closure, as is outlined in the April 3, 2017 edition of CBC’s The Current.

So desperate, in fact, that in fall 2016, Chapmans offered a multi-million donation to save and replace the school. Fix Our Schools is happy to see businesses recognize the importance of strong, local schools. Our campaign also works to encourage the provincial government to explore new funding solutions to ensure that students in all Ontario communities have safe, well-maintained local schools to attend.

The question posed in the CBC piece above was this: “But is public education still public if it’s funded in part by private money?”

An interesting question. With $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools and hundreds of Ontario schools being assessed for potential closure, must all funding solutions be on the table?

 

Toronto Mayor demands adequate and stable funding from Province; School Boards need same

Toronto Mayor, John Tory, has placed blame on the Province for lack of adequate infrastructure in Toronto, including transit and housing.  In a CBC News article entitled, “It won’t be “business as usual” until province funds Toronto’s needs, Tory warns Sousa”, Tory was quoted as saying, 

“So let me be very clear: Any closure of [social housing] units would be a direct result of the inaction of the other governments to partner with us in those repairs. Projects of that magnitude were never intended to be carried out by property taxes alone,”

Tory also has told the Province that the city needs stable funding that can be counted on and planned for from year to year.

Tory was also mentioned that provincial funding impacts citizens, and that he plans to listen to what funding ideas the other parties have, leading into the next provincial election in June 2018.

“Ahead of the next provincial election, Tory said he plans on sitting down with leaders of all provincial political parties and “canvass them for their ideas and their commitments to the future wellbeing of the city of Toronto.” 

School boards also need stable and adequate funding in order to ensure safe, well-maintained school buildings for the 2-million Ontario children who spend their days in these buildings.

For two decades, the Province has not provided the yearly funding needed for school boards to properly maintain their school buildings. In 2015, Ontario’s Auditor-General cited industry accepted standards when outlining that a minimum of $1.4-Billion per year is needed for school repairs. With this minimum funding in mind, the Province underfunded school boards for school repairs by $5.8-Billion between 2011-16.  Indeed, the Province needs to start taking the responsibility that comes with being the sole funder of public education in this Province and start implementing funding solutions to Fix Our Schools.