As you know, Fix Our Schools is an Ontario-wide campaign. However, we are knocking on every door in an effort to raise awareness on disrepair in our schools and encourage action to address the $15-billion of disrepair currently plaguing Ontario’s schools.
With this in mind, Fix Our Schools attended the City of Toronto’s joint City-School Boards Advisory Committee meeting on February 11, 2016 and made this presentation, which calls upon Ontario’s largest municipality to consider how it can work together with all four local school boards to help Fix Our Schools.
The TDSB will receive only $74.9-million from the Province this year to take care of its buildings; an amount that would pay for only 2.3% of the $3.3-billion of repairs plaguing TDSB schools. To take care of the entire $3.3-billion repair backlog in TDSB schools, $13,414 of funding must be found for each of the 246,000 TDSB students.
The Province insists the TDSB must fund the repair backlog by selling schools. However, the Province’s math doesn’t add up! Even if the TDSB immediately sells all 130 “empty” schools, there would still be over $1-billion of repairs in the remaining 458 schools.
Kathleen Wynne’s government must start working with the TDSB and the City to secure other funding solutions to address the unacceptable state of disrepair in TDSB schools.
The Province is exploring issuing equity in Hydro One to raise billions of dollars for new transit. The City approved a property tax increase, including a special 0.5% levy to pay for the Scarborough subway. At the City budget meeting on March 11, a motion was also made to explore reinstating the $60 car registration tax. Unfortunately, the TDSB has no power to pursue funding solutions such as these.
Surely, the Province and City believe that public schools are as integral to our public infrastructure as transit and will help secure the required funding to ensure TDSB students attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings?
Mayor Tory has urged the TDSB, the Province and the City to work together to take shared responsibility for public schools. Excellent.
Fingers crossed the City will come to the table with a willingness to think creatively and to contribute in a tangible way to public schools in Toronto. We sent Mayor Tory and all City Councillors a letter urging them to do just that.
In a letter to Education Minister Sandals and the Chairs of both the TDSB and TCDSB, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory says he wants the City to be meaningfully consulted before any decisions are made about the sale of surplus schools by the TDSB.
Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that “the Province needs to recognize that schools fulfill a greater purpose within their communities than simply classrooms for school-aged children – for example, as daycares, gathering places for seniors and greenspace for neighbourhoods”.
Hurrah! City politicians and staff are interested in public education! Let’s hope this interest evolves into involvement.
The Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC) has a $2.6-billion, 10-year plan to repair hundreds of aging buildings that have fallen into a state of disrepair. This plan relies on all three levels of government. To date, only the City of Toronto has committed its $860-million share; neither the province nor the feds have contributed a cent.
Greg Spearns, President and CEO of TCHC, says, “The logic is compelling. What we are asking for is a one-time investment of $50,000 a unit to fix our homes and that compares with a cost of $250,000 to $300,000 per unit if we have to shut them down and rebuild. It makes smart economic sense as well as being extremely socially responsible.”
Stop – does this sound familiar?
The TDSB has a $3.5 Billion backlog of repairs on its 600 buildings. Only at the moment, there is no plan to address this issue fully so TDSB is schools are falling into a further state of repair. We should be watching this TCHC example closely to see if there if anything can be learned that could apply to the TDSB. One thing is certain, to address the magnitude of repairs at the TDSB is going to require multiple levels of government working together.
Great news today about transit in Toronto – the Ontario government may get more involved in the TTC and may actually pay for some of its operating expenses.
Ontario considers picking up part of tab for operating TTC
Equally great news is that our mayor-elect is already developing a positive working relationship with Queen’s Park. Hallelujah! A good working relationship between the City and Province is critical if we want to see public education get the same treatment as transit – namely more involvement and attention from both the City and the Province!