Wynne’s report on spending is different than announcing new spending

Today, Premier Wynne and Education Minister Hunter announced that 28 new schools are being built in the province; and another 23 schools are being renovated. While this is great news, it is simply a report back to taxpayers on how money is being spent and is not to be confused with an announcement of new funding. The money being used to fund these new schools and renovations was already allocated and has already been announced many times – as part of Wynne’s government’s commitment to school infrastructure over 10 years.

 

Send a letter asking what the plan is to improve school conditions for Ontario’s children

On September 19, 2016, Fix Our Schools sent this letter to Premier Wynne and Education Minister asking the their government please:

  • Explore and implement funding solutions such as issuing provincial bonds to immediately address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools.
  • Work with school boards to develop measurable goals for what school conditions in Ontario ought to be; and plans/timelines for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Release disrepair data at regular intervals to ensure that the $15-billion repair backlog is decreasing; and not continuing to increase.
  • Include school conditions as a key part of your party’s provincial campaign platform.

We requested a response to these requests by October 3, 2016.

As of Monday, October 10 – no response has been received.

If school conditions are important to you and you share our concerns, we encourage you to please send this letter to Premier Wynne & Minister Hunter also! Please ensure you include your MPP; and include your name and address at the bottom of the letter.

Here is the letter below, should you wish to copy and paste instead:

To: Premier Wynne, Education Minister Hunter, Minister of Infrastructure Chiarelli & Deputy Minister Zegarac,

I am engaged with the Fix Our Schools campaign, which represents thousands of Ontario parents. Today, I ask your government to improve school conditions for all students in this province by immediately addressing the $15-billion of disrepair that has accumulated in our children’s schools.

While I commend the government’s increase in annual funding for school repairs to an industry-accepted standard, this new level of $1.4-billion/year for school repairs does little to address the $15-billion repair backlog that was allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools over the past 20 years. In September of this year, an unacceptable number of Ontario’s students headed back to aging schools with hot classrooms, leaky ceilings, and myriad other issues.

Therefore, I call upon your government to improve school conditions for all Ontario students and find funding solutions to immediately address the $15-billion of disrepair in our children’s schools. I ask that your government please:

  • Explore and implement funding solutions such as issuing provincial bonds to immediately address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools.
  • Work with school boards to develop measurable goals for what school conditions in Ontario ought to be; and plans/timelines for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Release disrepair data at regular intervals to ensure that the $15-billion repair backlog is decreasing; and not continuing to increase.
  • Include school conditions as a key part of your party’s provincial campaign platform.

Kind regards,

YOUR NAME

YOUR ADDRESS

 

School conditions in the news again

On September 13, 2016, the Toronto Star published, “Sweltering schools in September raise concerns: Students at a Bloor West high school want to see better measures to keep their classrooms cool“. This article featured students at Ursula Franklin Academy, a high school in the west end of Toronto, who were raising classroom conditions – heat specifically – as having negative impacts on their ability to learn.

On September 22, 2016, the Torontoist covered the issue of school conditions in an article entitled, “The TDSB’s Repair Backlog is the Result of Years of Underfunding: Its 588 schools require $3.4 billion in repairs”. Reporter Rhiannon Russell explores how chronic and gross underfunding of school repairs in this province over the past 20 years has led to the current state of disrepair in so many publicly funded schools.

Repairs underway for Ontario’s schools

brookmill-blvd-jr-ps-new-roof

Students and teachers at Brookmill Blvd. Junior Public School were happy to return to dry classrooms this September after a new roof was completed over the summer.

In June 2016, the provincial government announced $1.1-billion of new funding for school repairs – to be allocated to Ontario’s school boards over two years. This money brings annual funding from the province for school repairs to the $1.4-billion per year that Ontario’s Auditor-General said was required to keep schools in a state of good repair. What this money doesn’t do is address the $15-billion of disrepair that was allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools over the last 20 years.

 

Toronto Star covers issue of classroom conditions

The extreme temperatures during the first week of school sparked a lot of media interest in classroom conditions across the province. This Toronto Star article, entitled, “Back-to-school heat wave provokes extreme measures” explores how unseasonably high temperatures impacted our children’s classroom learning environments.

Fix Our Schools co-founder Krista Wylie is quoted as saying, “Problems that surfaced in the heat wave are just another sign of a system overlooked for too long, leaving Ontario schools with a repair backlog totalling $15 billion.

NDP Education Critic calls for Wynne government to fully address $15-B repair backlog in schools

During question period at Queen’s Park on September 14, 2016, Education Critic Lisa Gretzky called upon Premier Wynne to account for the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, citing classrooms that are too hot in spring and fall … and too cold in the winter for students to learn:

From the official hansard:

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Premier. Schools across the province are crumbling and they have reached a tipping point. There is a $15-billion repair backlog, $3.4 billion in Toronto alone. Students and education workers have been in sweltering hot classrooms and will have to wear winter jackets in the classroom in the winter.

To make matters worse, Ontario’s teachers are being forced to load French and music lessons onto carts and transport them from classroom to classroom because of Liberal cuts to education. The Premier can shake her head all she wants, but the boards are even speaking out. Will the Premier admit that her misplaced priorities are forcing our young people to pay the price?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I was only shaking my head because it is the reality that core French teachers and music teachers for many, many years in this province—itinerant music teachers—have not necessarily had a dedicated classroom. It has worked very, very well that teachers have moved from classroom to classroom. Certainly, my three children who went through the publicly funded education system in Toronto had exactly that situation, and it’s not unusual.

I think sometimes what happens is when there has been a school where there has been a dedicated classroom, and then enrolment may go up or there may be a change and then that changes so that the core French teacher is moving from classroom to classroom, that can cause an adjustment in the school. But it’s not an unusual practice and the kids get very, very good education in that way.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Back to the Premier. Premier, there are classrooms that are being closed and the teachers are being moved out of those classrooms. If you think it’s working, maybe you should actually talk to the education workers delivering the curriculum.

Recently, a school in Thames Valley had to close because of health concerns related to a lack of air conditioning. Our schools are in crisis. A teacher in Toronto was forced to spend $500 of her own money to install an air conditioner in her classroom because students were feeling faint and lethargic and she felt the environment was unsafe. Our children should not be trying to learn in classrooms without windows. I’m sure the Premier has windows in her office. They should not be in classrooms with poor air quality. Will the Premier immediately ensure that the repair backlog for schools across the province is remedied? And I’m talking about $15 billion.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that there needed to be an increase in funding in terms of the repair and renewal of schools. We added a historic $1.1 billion on top of an existing $1.6 billion. We have acknowledged that there is a need to continue to fund the renewal of schools. We will continue to work with school boards. The $1.1 billion that we put in on top of the $1.6 billion is funding projects around the province—did over the summer and continues to.

School boards make the decisions about how they use those funds. School boards have priorities. They take those funds and they apply them to the priorities.

We understand that there’s a need, Mr. Speaker, that’s why we put in over $1 billion on top of the billion dollars that was already there.

Premier Wynne questioned about state of Ontario schools

Premier Wynne faced some tough questions about the state of Ontario’s schools during question period on September 14, 2016. NDP Education Critic, Lisa Gretzky, asked, “Schools across the province are crumbling and they have reached a tipping point. There is a $15-billion repair backlog, $3.4 billion in Toronto alone. Students and education workers have been in sweltering hot classrooms and will have to wear winter jackets in the classroom in the winter. Will the Premier admit that her misplaced priorities are forcing our young people to pay the price?”

Premier Wynne cited the additional $1.1-billion her government allocated in June 2016 as an answer. However, this additional funding only serves to bring annual funding for school repairs up to the industry-accepted standard of $1.4-billion per year – where it should have been for the past twenty years! While this new level of annual funding for school repairs is a good first step, the people of Ontario look to Premier Wynne to also address the $15-billion backlog of disrepair that has been allowed to accumulate in our public schools over the past 20 years.

What can I do to help Fix Our Schools?

Many people have contacted us recently, asking, “what action can I take to help Fix Our Schools?”.

We are glad you asked! Here are a few specific things that you can do:

  1. Engage with the campaign to receive timely information and ideas for action:
    1. Sign up for our e-newsletters at www.fixourschools.ca/joinus/ 
    2. Like us on Facebook (Fix Our Schools)
    3. Follow us on Twitter (@Fix_Our_Schools)
  2. Share the Fix Our Schools campaign with your network. You could even use this amazing powerpoint presentation to highlight to your Parent Council or other community group the importance of this issue! A Fix Our Schools parent put this together and included very easy talking notes in the powerpoint so literally – any interested person could give this presentation!
  3. Contact your local MPP, the Education Minister and the Premier to let them know that school conditions are an important to you … and that you expect them to prioritize public schools.

For more specific actions to take, please, please engage with our campaign via our e-newsletter and/or Facebook and/or Twitter!