On Friday, November 10, 2017, the TDSB released its updated disrepair data for each of its 584 schools and the news is not good. What was a $3.5 billion repair backlog a year ago has grown to $3.7 billion.
As Andrea Gordon reports on the November 10, 2017 in the Toronto Star article article entitled, “Toronto board wants developer levies used to fix aging schools“, “Despite improved funding from the province over the last few years, the $297 million for the current school year “is not enough to keep pace with the accumulated backlog and future repair needs. Without “adequate and predictable school funding for school repairs,” the board projected the bill will reach $5.25 billion by 2021.”
The fact is that for almost two decades, our provincial government grossly and chronically underfunded school repairs and maintenance. In many years, funding was one-tenth of what it ought to have been. This is a fact cited by Ontario’s Auditor-General and substantiated by industry standards. Another fact seems to be emerging that despite increased annual funding for school repairs by the provincial government, it is simply not enough to even begin to stem the tide on a consistently increasing repair backlog in the buildings where 2-million Ontario children spend their days.
So surely now is the time to be exploring every possible funding solution available to address not only the $3.5 billion of disrepair in TDSB schools but the overall $15.9 billion of disrepair that exists across all Ontario schools. One possible additional funding source for many boards is Education Development Charges – money that developers would pay to contribute to the public infrastructure from which they are profiting.
TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey commented, “Allowing the TDSB access to education development charges to repair and replace schools would be a good start.” Given the number of new units planned and under construction in the city, access to EDCs could translate into $300 million for the TDSB to improve and expand school buildings.
Every dollar counts and at a fundamental level, we know that developers choose to build in neighbourhoods where they can profit. What makes a neighbourhood potentially profitable to a developer? Access to public transit and good local schools are the two things that jump to mind. So if developers are selecting to build and profit from the public infrastructure in neighbourhoods then it seems crystal clear to Fix Our Schools that those developers must contribute back to that same public infrastructure – and schools are a critical element!
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:
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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?
Each year, the Ministry of Education seeks input from various stakeholders before determining funding for school boards for the upcoming school year. The Fix Our Schools campaign has made a written submission in each of the past two years.
Here is the cover letter, which provides an overview for you of what Fix Our Schools submitted to the Ministry in November, 2015 for use in determining funding for school boards for the 2016/17 school year:
Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign asking for safe, well-maintained Ontario public school buildings that are funded as an integral part of our public infrastructure – on par with transit.
All 72 publicly funded School Boards in the province face capital repair backlogs, for a total of over $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools. The $11-billion in capital grants to School Boards over ten years is insufficient to address this unacceptable disrepair. New funding solutions must be found. Please give immediate consideration to:
- Revising O. Reg. 20/98 to allow all School Boards to access EDCs and use EDC money for repairs, capital projects or land purchase
- Allocating some of the promised new federal infrastructure funding to increase investment in repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools
- Allocating the capital costs of maintaining school buildings and associated green spaces used as Community Hubs, in proportion to usage by various public and community entities
The 2-million children who attend Ontario public schools deserve to have safe, well-maintained buildings; as do the countless children who attend childcare/early learning programs in these same schools; the adults who work every day in these buildings; and the community members who rely upon these buildings as important Community Hubs.
We trust that Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government will take the lead in working together with School Boards, Municipalities, other Ministries, and the Federal Government to find the funding solutions needed to Fix Our Schools.
Our provincial government must take responsibility for the $15-billion of disrepair that has accumulated in Ontario’s schools. The 2015 Auditor-General’s report confirmed that $1.4 billion per year is needed to maintain Ontario schools in a state of good repair. However, actual annual funding in the last five years has ranged from only $150 million to $500 million. This gross underfunding of school infrastructure by our provincial government means that an unacceptable level of disrepair has accumulated in our public schools and will continue to worsen…unless funding solutions are found.
One avenue for new funding sources would be for the provincial government to change O. Reg 20/98, which guides the collection and use of Education Development Charges (EDCs). The existing regulation is now antiquated and prevents many school boards from receiving money from new condo/housing/commercial developments within that board. Furthermore, the existing regulation only allows school boards to use EDC money for purchasing new land – not for building new schools or building new additions or repairing existing schools.
Therefore, in Fix Our Schools’ Submission to the Ministry’s 2016/17 Funding Consultation, we recommended that the Ministry of Education change O. Reg 20/98 so that every School Board can benefit financially from new residential and commercial development within its boundaries; and can use Education Development Charges (EDCs) for repairs, capital projects, or purchasing new land.
All 72 publicly funded School Boards in the province face capital repair backlogs, for a total of over $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools. The $11-billion in capital grants to School Boards over ten years that Premier Wynne and her government have committed is simply insufficient to address this issue. New funding solutions must be found. Given the ease with which a provincial regulation can be changed, when are Premier Wynne and Education Minister Sandals going to prioritize changing Regulation 20/98 as a new potential revenue source for many school boards in this province? Certainly, EDCs do not hold the potential to be the complete solution… but any new funding for school infrastructure in this province would be beneficial!
The two million children who attend Ontario public schools deserve safe, well-maintained schools that are conducive to learning, as do the adults who work in these buildings every day.
Fix Our Schools believes that the Provincial regulation guiding the collection and use of EDCs must be changed. The TDSB agrees, as do many other school boards across the province. We’ve been lobbying the Province for change and so has the TDSB.
Check these out to find out what the TDSB has been doing:
TDSB Press Release re: EDCs
TDSB EDC Report
TDSB Letter to Minister of Education re: EDCs
TDSB Letter to Premier re: EDCs
The TDSB recently accepted $1 million from a developer to build a new playground in exchange for abandoning the plan to work alongside the City to fight the planned development at the upcoming Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing. The proposed development casts a shadow over the entire school yard every morning, creating a sub-optimal play space for students.
Why would the TDSB agree to such a deal? Sadly, because it made sense when weighing the guaranteed $1 million from the developer against the uncertain $400,000 compensation if the OMB hearing resulted in a win.
Developers should be contributing financially to TDSB schools in communities where they build via Education Development Charges (EDCs). However, due to current provincial regulations, the TDSB doesn’t qualify so instead, we see these one-off deals where developers only contribute to public schools when backed into a corner.
The Province must change the regulation guiding the collection and use of EDC’s so that TDSB schools benefit routinely from new development. The TDSB has been lobbying the Province to do this since January, 2014 and Fix Our Schools has been lobbying the Province on this issue since May, 2014. To find out more about EDCs, visit Education Development Charges 101