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.

Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC)

The Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC) represents 49 school groups, 6 counties and 18 district school boards across the province, largely in rural and Northern Ontario. They emerged out of the belief that a local school is integral to the fabric of any thriving community and that no community should be isolated by having its local school closed. You can find out more about the OAASC here.

Fix Our Schools had the privilege of joining OAASC at a recent panel discussion hosted by CUPE and seeing this presentation by OAASC.


Rozanski Report – still worth implementing 15-years later!

After reviewing the 2002 Rozanski Report, Fix Our Schools found this 15-year old report to still be incredibly relevant today.

In 2002, Mordechai Rozanski conducted a comprehensive review of Ontario’s education funding formula and made recommendations to improve both the adequacy and structure of education funding in Ontario. Unfortunately, most of his recommendations have not yet been implemented. However, with a provincial election in 2018, all political parties are starting to pull together their platforms. We would urge all parties to integrate Rozanski’s recommendations into their respective education platforms.

The funding formula for education is not meeting the needs of the 2-million students who attend publicly funded schools in this province. Improvements are desperately needed and the Rozanski report provides a framework for doing just that.

Rozanski found the following issues with the provincial funding formula for school repair and renewal; and made the accompanying recommendations.

Issue 1: As of 2002, yearly funding to school boards for school renewal (repairs and maintenance) was $266-million for school assets valued at $28-billion. This was less than 1% of the value of the facility replacement value of schools. Established guidelines recommended that governments provide annually a minimum of 1.5% to 4% of the current facility replacement value of a building for renewal needs.

Rozanski Recommendations: 

  • Update the benchmark costs within the education funding formula and increase annual funding for school renewal to meet industry guidelines.

Where this issue is at today:

in 2015, Ontario’s Auditor-General issued a report stating that $1.4-billion per year ought to be allocated to school boards for school repairs and maintenance, a figure that represented 2.5% of the value of school assets in Ontario. Between 2011-2015, provincial funding for school repairs was $5.8-billion less than it ought to have been, according to these Ontario Auditor-General numbers, which obviously contributed to the ballooning deferred maintenance backlog.

In June 2016, the Liberal provincial government did announce $1.1-billion of new money over two years for school repairs (after significant pressure from Fix Our Schools and both the NDP and PC parties). This new money brought annual funding for school repairs in both 2015/16 and 2016/17 to the $1.4-billion recommended. Therefore, annual funding for school repairs is finally at a level that it always OUGHT to have been at!


Any responsible provincial government would protect a minimum annual provincial budget allocation of $1.4-billion for school repairs to ensure routine maintenance of the buildings in which 2-million Ontario children spend their days.

Issue 2: As of 2002, $5.6-billion of deferred maintenance had been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools

Rozanski Recommendations: 

  • School boards should secure capital financing needed to quickly address this deferred maintenance via debentures
  • Province ought to support school boards with $200-million of additional funding for interest and principal payments on these debentures

Where this issue is at today:

The provincial government never pursued the solution of debt financing to a degree that impacted the deferred maintenance backlog in Ontario’s schools. As of 2017, the deferred maintenance backlog in our schools has ballooned to $15-billion.


Our provincial government must admit that annual funding allocations will never address a $15-billion issue that took 20 years to manifest. Solutions such as issuing bonds to allow Ontario citizens to invest in our publicly funded schools must be considered.

Green Bonds fund infrastructure … an interesting model for education?

Fix Our Schools would like Kathleen Wynne’s government to consider issuing bonds to fund investment in fixing and rebuilding Ontario’s publicly funded schools – much like how the province has been issuing Green Bonds to fund environmentally friendly infrastructure.

According to the February 3, 2017 news release from Ontario’s provincial government entitled, “Green Bond Proceeds to Fund Environmentally Friendly Infrastructure Projects”:

Ontario has successfully issued its third green bond, raising $800 million to help build clean transportation and environmentally friendly infrastructure projects in communities across the province.

Proceeds from the bond will support 12 projects, including:

  • St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, targeted to achieve LEED® gold-level certification
  • ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development in Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville, expected to achieve LEED® silver-level certification
  • York VivaNEXT Bus Rapid Transit Expansion in York Region
  • GO Transit Regional Express Rail in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

Green bonds help Ontario’s efforts to fight climate change and build on initiatives such as setting a cap on pollution, ending coal-fired electricity generation, and electrifying and improving the province’s commuter rail network.

Building green, environmentally friendly infrastructure is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts

  • Pioneered by the World Bank in 2008, green bonds raise capital for projects with specific environmental benefits.
  • In 2014, Ontario became the first province in Canada to develop and sell green bonds, encouraging investment in environmentally friendly projects and attracting new investors.
  • Ontario is the largest issuer of Canadian dollar green bonds, with three outstanding green issues totalling $2.05 billion.
  • On January 26, 2017, Ontario successfully priced a $800 million bond with a maturity date of January 27, 2023.


How do cities and school boards secure sufficient funding for infrastructure?

In the February 16, 2017 Toronto Sun article entitled, “Mayor Tory urges province, feds to step up to the plate”, John Tory states that, “Toronto is locked in a pair of “prehistoric handcuffs” and senior governments have the keys.”

Tory made these comments outside of a Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) building in Etobicoke as he urged the provincial and federal governments to help address the $2.6-billion repair backlog that has been allowed to accumulate in the city’s social housing buildings. Tory goes on to say, “Another year of tweaking and fiddling on the budget front without real help from them just won’t cut it in terms of our responsibility that we have to the people of this city.”

In the January 27, 2017 CBC News entitled, “Mayor Tory decries ‘short-sighted’ road-toll rejection by province”, Tory says that, “he’s tired of Queen’s Park treating him like a “little boy in short pants,” when he’s trying to to secure money to pay for billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects.”

And in a February 21, 2017 editorial in the Toronto Star, entitled, “The Province must deliver long-term funding support to Toronto”, Mayor Tory continued this general theme.

Mayor Tory is understandably frustrated by the fact that he feels a great responsibility to meet the needs of the people of Toronto and yet is unable to accomplish this because the provincial government holds more power and access to funding.

School board trustees throughout Ontario are likely very familiar with Mayor Tory’s “prehistoric handcuffs”. For years, they’ve undertaken to do what is best for the students, families and communities they serve – but must rely on the province for almost all funding. Given that the Province routinely blames school boards for not meeting the needs of students, Ontario school boards are also familiar with the frustration of trying to secure adequate funding when they can’t control the sources of those funds. Ontario’s 72 school boards must be able to access stable and adequate funding to repair and build new schools so that the real people in short pants, our children, can go to school in safe, well-maintained schools.