Is a change in outdated EDC provincial regulation coming?

Lots of stakeholders are getting involved in the discussion about Education Development Charges (EDCs), urging the provincial government to consider changing the outdated regulation that dictates which school boards are eligible to collect EDC money from new developments and how those school boards can use that money.

In the last few weeks:

  1. The Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) sent this letter  to Education Minister Hunter, highlighting the need for changes to allow for more local flexibility to address  capital and renewal needs.
  2. City Councillors in Toronto called on the provincial government to make a change to allow all local school boards to collect levies from developers. In the November 7, 2017 Toronto Star article, entitled Developers should help pay to expand overcrowded schools”, Councillor Mike Layton said, “It’s “a no-brainer” that builders should contribute to costs of school infrastructure”.
  3.  TDSB Trustees have continued petitioning the province to change the outdated regulations that guide the eligibility for and use of EDC money. You can see coverage below on CityNews Toronto and sign the petition here!

TDSB trustees petition ministry over policy change to access existing repair funds

4. Parents and community members have continued to call on the Province for change as illustrated in the October 29, 2017 Toronto Star article written by Andrea Gordon, “Parents want developers to kick in and help expand overcrowded toronto schools”.

Lots of stakeholders all asking for change! Will the Province listen? Or continue to leave much needed money for school buildings on the table?

Disrepair in Ontario’s schools grows to $15.9 billion

In 2002, $5.6 billion of disrepair existed in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. Today, there is $15.9 billion of disrepair in the buildings where 2 million Ontario children spend their days. Chronic and gross underfunding by our provincial government has allowed disrepair in schools to triple over the last 15 years.  

damaged celing tileOn Tuesday, November 14 at 10:00 am, economist Hugh Mackenzie will release his report entitled, “Ontario’s deteriorating schools – the fix is not in” – which examines the root causes of the $15.9 billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools and outlines what the next provincial government must do to fix our schools

First thing on the list? A State of Good Repair Standard for all publicly funded schools so everyone has a common (and measurable!) understanding of what shape our schools ought to be in. Next? Adequate and stable provincial funding to ensure that all schools meet this standard. 

Developers should contribute to public infrastructure – including schools!

Since its inception in 2014, the Fix Our Schools campaign has always looked to Education Development Charges (EDCs) as a partial funding solution to address the $15.9 billion repair backlog that plagues Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

And yet, our provincial government has, to date, refused to amend a very outdated regulation that governs both the collection and use of EDCs. Under this outdated regulation, many school boards are ineligible to collect EDCS, even though new developments are leading to overcrowded local schools. Furthermore, the school boards who are able to collect EDCs are prevented from using this money for anything other than purchasing land.

Trustee Alexander BrownTDSB Trustee Alexander Brown organized a public forum on October 30 at Earl Haig Secondary School where Education Minister Hunter was in attendance, as well as local City Councillor John Filion and local MPP David Zimmer. The forum was well attended by community members who sought real solutions to overcrowded local schools.

Leading up to the October 30th forum, Toronto Star’s Andrea Gordon wrote an article entitled, “Parents want Developers to Kick In and Help Expand Overcrowded Toronto Schools“.  Fix Our Schools is quoted:

“If developers are choosing to build in a certain area, in large part it’s because of good schools their buyers can go to,” said Fix Our Schools co-founder Krista Wylie. “So surely to goodness if a developer is benefitting . . . then they should contribute back.”

She said restrictions should be loosened so those charges can be used to address the estimated $15.9 billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools needing new roofs and furnaces.

CBC Metro Morning talked to TDSB Trustee Alexander Brown following the October 30th forum.

CBC News issued the article entitled, “Parents push Ontario to solve overcrowding in schools“.

55 children eating lunch in one classroom

We continue to hear from more people across Ontario about the importance of safe, healthy, well-maintained schools that provide environments conducive to learning. 

One Ontario citizen who is both a parent and an education worker sent us a copy of a letter she wrote to Premier Wynne during the heat wave in September. Many important points are raised in this letter, including the importance of ensuring that new school buildings are safe, healthy buildings that provide environments conducive to learning. 

I work in a kindergarten class, which is a new build with many new south-facing windows. The picture here was taken on day 3 of the September 2017 heat wave when I had finally had enough of three to five year olds suffering (the temperature was the lowest on this day).

We actually had to relocate the students to a cooler class (not air-conditioned) at lunch where 55 children had to eat lunch in one classroom just to be comfortable enough to eat their lunch. One child became so overheated that she had a terrible nosebleed that was difficult to stop because her temperature was so high.

Given the recent climate changes over the past few years that regularly sees parents dropping off ineffective fans for their children’s comfort, I would like you to consider increasing funding to deal specifically with the climate control in schools without air conditioning.

No person can possibly learn anything or function at a reasonable level at 34 degrees celsius. We simply must ensure that adequate funding exists for each classroom to maintain temperatures conducive to learning. 

Thank you very much for your consideration of this request.

My child broke her wrist when a railing gave way

We are hearing from more and more people across the province about how the $15.9 billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is impacting them personally.

One Ontario mother contacted us to share that her daughter had suffered both a broken wrist and a head laceration when the railing shown in this photo failed at the foundation and fell in. The railing was fixed the next day. However, that repair was one day too late and only happened in reaction to the accident.

This story certainly underscores the importance of having safe, well-maintained and healthy schools. In order to meet this objective, adequate, stable funding for school repairs and maintenance is needed from our provincial government.

This story also underscores how many repairs in schools happen reactively rather than proactively, as they should. When buildings are not proactively maintained – we see incidents like railings giving way, roofs starting to leak, boilers breaking down, all of which can cause safety issues and negatively impact classroom environments. In addition, reactive repairs are much more costly than proactive repairs.

Plan to Attend! Education Forum with Minister Hunter on Monday, October 30

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is going to be attending an Education Forum in the GTA and we’d love for YOU to attend. Although this meeting was set up specific to Overcrowding in Willowdale Schools, this certainly is a great opportunity to ask questions of our Education Minister and let her know our expectation that all Ontario schools be healthy, safe, well-maintained buildings that provide environments conducive to learning and working!  Hope to see you there!

Yet another example of how disrepair impacts Ontario students and teachers…

On October 13, 2017, CBC reported on “Health worries at Regal Road P.S. after construction drags on”. The article raises concerns about the health of students and teachers at Regal Road Junior Public School, as construction work drags on well into the school year to replace the school’s furnace and deal with associated asbestos removal.

Regal Road P.S. Today

Parent Council member Stephanie Ayers says, “There’s been an increase in absences. For students that have breathing issues, asthma and that kind of thing, they are definitely having trouble. There’s one child in my son’s class who has gone home early every single day. Kids have been wheezing and coughing and at least one staff member at the school has been off since the end of September because of respiratory problems. Another child who has acute asthma ended up in hospital for four days and three nights, only to end up back in a hospital ER within 24 hours. That child has been kept home by the parent ever since.” Continue reading

10 Things you Need to Know About Your School’s Repair Backlog

Here are some things you need to know about your school’s repair backlog!

1. Your kids could tell you wild stories – but they are real.

Ask your kids pointed questions about their school’s condition. Do they wear sweaters or coats in the classroom? Do the washrooms have stall doors and is there soap? Do they have a table to eat lunch at? Are there bugs on the floor? Is there water dripping from the ceiling? Are the stairs smooth and slippery?

2. School conditions affect your child’s learning.

You’ve spent all that time wondering how to improve your child’s math mark. What if it is the building? Research shows that poor school conditions affect learning.

3. Your principal is not responsible for the physical condition of your school. Continue reading

More than 640 Ontario schools and daycares fail lead tests

After the Toronto Star newspaper spent a year trying to obtain data from Ontario’s Environment Ministry on which schools failed lead tests, the Province finally decided to publish information online this past Friday, October 6, 2017. Coincidentally, this same day, the Toronto Star published an article entitled, “More than 640 Ontario schools and daycares failed lead tests in the past two years”. Continue reading

Are Canadian schools ready for a natural disaster?

We’ve seen shocking examples of unprecedented natural disasters this fall. Scientists seem to be confident we’ll continue to see record-breaking weather events. 

While we consider how to best help the victims of recent hurricanes and devastating earthquakes, many Canadians are wondering about our country’s emergency-response capabilities. How would we fair with a Category 5 hurricane? Or a major earthquake like the one that devasted Mexico’s Oaxaca region?

Most Canadians know that British Columbians live in an area that is geologically active. B.C. has had 75 earthquakes in the last month alone. This week, B.C. experienced an earthquake measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale. An earthquake of 5+ can cause damage to buildings.

But do Canadians know that many children in schools in B.C. won’t be in buildings that are earthquake retrofitted? What would they say if they knew that the provincial government in B.C., regardless of the party in power, still can’t decide when to fully fund this retrofit?

B.C. has very similar tectonic plate setup to Mexico’s, and school boards are very concerned with the safety of the schools. The timeline to retrofit these schools continues to be pushed back.  Do Canadians have time to waste?

Canadians from coast-to-coast share a common problem: provincial governments are not ensuring children go to school in safe, well maintained buildings. Ask your local MP what they are doing to Fix Our Schools. Our children matter and they deserve better than we are currently delivering to them.