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!


We’ve made a difference together in 2016!

As 2016 draws to a close, the Fix Our Schools campaign is happy to reflect on the many positive things we’ve accomplished together this past year:

In June, the provincial government increased annual funding for school repairs by $1.1-billion over two years to $1.3-billion in 2015/16 and $1.4-billion in 2016/17.

In August, the TDSB released detailed data on the condition of its schools, and the Ministry of Education followed suit almost immediately, providing a new level of transparency into Ontario school conditions.

In August and September, school conditions in Ontario received significant attention in the media, with Fix Our Schools frequently cited.

Thank you for your involvement in the Fix Our Schools campaign. As a collective, we have far more power than as individuals. Please continue to engage with Fix Our Schools. Together, we have made a difference and we will continue to do so.

Join Us in Making a Difference

Fix Our Schools is a parent-led, non-partisan, grassroots campaign creating a large network of citizens across Ontario who all expect: 

  • Every Ontario public school student to attend a safe, well-maintained school that provides an environment conducive to learning
  • The $15-billion of disrepair across all 72 Ontario school boards to be addressed
  • Public education to be a priority within every party’s platform in the 2018 provincial election
  • Public schools to be funded as critical public infrastructure – on par with transit .

Help us ensure that Ontario students and education workers spend their days in buildings that are conducive to learning and working.

You can make a difference if you join thousands of citizens from across Ontario in the Fix Our Schools campaign. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

We have made a difference, and we will continue to do so.

Premier Wynne: Please fix our schools and the inherently broken funding formula

When will Premier Wynne and Education Minister Hunter acknowledge that their one-size-fits-all education funding formula is not yielding the results Ontario citizens want to see in education?

The Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC) represents almost 900,000 voters across the province and wants education funding to accommodate the unique realities of communities in rural and Northern Ontario. They led a rally at Queen’s Park on November 21 to let Premier Wynne know that local public schools matter to their communities and that they expect a provincial government to provide a public education system that works for rural and northern communities in Ontario. 

Fix Our School represents thousands of voters across the province and wants education funding to address the $15-billion of disrepair that has been allowed to accumulate in all of Ontario’s 72 publicly funded schools over the past 20 years. Members of Fix Our Schools joined OAASC at the rally on November 21, recognizing that it is hard for rural communities to care about fixing their local school – if they don’t have a local school to fix! 

Our provincial government has the power over all education funding and the majority of policies that govern public education in this province. Yet, our provincial government routinely pushes all responsibility for the delivery of public education down to local school boards, which have very little power to effect change.

Premier Wynne and Minister Hunter: Please take the responsibility that must come with the power you have over public education and fix our schools – and the inherently broken formula which funds them!

Parents protest rural school closures

Local schools are important to Ontario families. This is evident when any local school is at risk of being closed, a situation that is becoming more frequent as our provincial government puts pressure on local school boards to strive for the same type of “efficient use of assets” as for-profit corporations generally pursue.

Parents from across the province are heading to Queen’s Park today to let Premier Wynne and Education Minister Hunter know that local schools are important to communities and necessary to provide the best education possible for Ontario students. Children attending publicly funded schools in this province are more than mere chess pieces on a board that can be conveniently moved around (via 4-hour bus rides) to “nearby” schools in the name of operational efficiency.

In the November 20, 2016 Toronto Star article entitled, “Ontario parents protest a slew of rural school closures, claim funding model is faulty”, Annie Kidder, the executive director of People for Education, says that “while some schools (in the province) do need to be closed, there are always consequences. And those consequences go beyond individual kids.” Kidder goes on to say that, “the province and the school boards keep passing the buck back and forth about whose fault it is.”

This lack of accountability is concerning and is not yielding the outcomes we want to see in public education. The Province has held power over all educational funding and the vast majority of rules governing education for over two decades now. Ontario school boards have the responsibility to actually operate our publicly funded schools and administer the funding they receive from the province for their schools. Therefore, power and accountability/responsibility do not reside at the same level of government, making it easy to pass the buck.

In the instance of school repairs, we have gathered irrefutable evidence that from 2011-2016, the provincial government underfunded local school boards by $5.8-billion for school repairs. However, the Province tends to blame local school boards for problems. Clearly, this dynamic is not delivering what is best for students and communities and must change so that power and accountability/responsibility reside at the same level of government.


Building new schools will help chip away at the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario schools

The article entitled, “15 new schools slated to be built across the GTA: Ontario announces details of new schools slated for GTA, among a total of 28 set to be built across the province” by Andrea Gordon appeared in the November 1, 2016 edition of the Toronto Star.

School boards, communities, parents and students alike were excited to hear details about which schools were going to be built – or re-built. However, the $470-million being spent on building these new schools does not represent new money towards improving school infrastructure in this province. As per the 2016 provincial budget:

“Over 10 years, the Province plans to provide more than $11 billion in capital grants to school boards to help build new schools in areas of high growth, reduce surplus space through school consolidations, and improve the condition of existing facilities.”

Therefore, the $470-million announced for new school buildings, is really simply a report back to taxpayers on how money that has already been committed is actually going to be spent, as Fix Our Schools is quoted as saying in this Toronto Star article.

However, Fix Our Schools recognizes that building new schools is an important step towards decreasing the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools. This massive repair backlog was allowed to accumulate in Ontario schools over the past 20 years, when provincial funding for school repairs was grossly inadequate, compared to the $1.4-billion per year that Ontario’s Auditor-General says ought to be allocated for school repairs in order to keep schools in good condition.

When Premier Wynne’s government announced additional funding for school repairs in June 2016, they finally brought annual funding for school repairs up to the $1.4-billion that ought to have always been allocated annually to keeping our children’s schools in good condition. However, this new level of funding does not allow school boards to deal effectively with the huge repair backlogs that have accumulated over the past 20 years. Therefore, new schools represent a tangible way to chip away at the massive repair backlog – since when a new school is built – the millions of dollars of disrepair that existed in the old school get written off the books!

Therefore, investment in school repairs and investment in building new schools are both important.

Conditions of school portables ought to be assessed

black-mold-not-goldThe provincial government released Facility Condition Index (FCI) data for all Ontario schools this August, which provides details of outstanding repairs on all school buildings in the province. Absent from this data is any type of assessment on school portables. Given the number of Ontario’s students and teachers who spend their days in portables, the condition of these buildings ought to be assessed and documented too! 


We received photos of a portable in a horrible state of disrepair, which highlights why assessing the condition of all learning spaces in Ontario is important. Ceiling tiles had caved in due to a leaking roof, the ceiling structure was filled with black mould and rodent feces. According to the person who sent us these photos, “the pictures don’t do the conditions in that portable justice. It was even worse than this. The mouldy smell was unreal.”

Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letter to Education Minister Hunter

mitzie-hunterIn September, 2016 – to mark the halfway point in her government’s mandate, Premier Wynne issued mandate letters to all of her ministers. Wynne’s mandate letter to Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, who was appointed in June 2016, can be read here.

Premier Wynne highlights the $1.1-billion of new money that her government allocated to school repairs over two years as a key accomplishment within the education portfolio. This new funding brings annual funding for school repairs to the recommended $1.4-billion per year but does not address the $15-billion of disrepair that has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools over the past 20 years, when annual funding to school boards for school repairs was a fraction of what it should have been.

Therefore, we were disappointed to see that Premier Wynne did not mention school conditions or the $15-billion repair backlog when laying out Minister Hunter’s mandate for the next two years. Given we know school conditions impact student achievement, health and well-being – there is no excuse for this oversight.

Premier Wynne and Minister Hunter: The condition of our publicly funded schools must be an ongoing priority for your government.