Tag Archives: Ministry

To the Ministry of Education…

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.

Disappointing response from Province

While Fix Our Schools appreciates a response from the Minister of Education to the letter we sent on October 27, 2015, we were disappointed in its content. Click here to see formal response letter from  Minister Liz Sandals.

The tone is dismissive, placating and lacks any urgency to fix our schools. The content is surprising given the recently released 2015 Auditor-General’s report confirmed $1.4-billion/year is needed simply to keep schools in a state of good repair (never mind the $15-billion repair backlog that has been allowed to accumulate under the provincial government’s funding model and watch!).

We found Minister Sandals’ response to be completely insufficient for the following reasons:

  • She points to a $1.25-billion investment in schools over 3 years via the School Condition Improvement grant as a positive accomplishment. However, the 2015 Auditor-General’s report confirmed that $1.4 billion per year is needed simply to keep schools in a state of good repair. Therefore, the amount that Minister Sandals is highlighting actually constitutes gross underfunding of buildings in which children spend 6 hours each day.
  • She says, “these historic investments have led to significant improvements in Ontario’s infrastructure.”  Minister Sandals fails to acknowledge that under this Liberal government’s watch, the total disrepair in Ontario’s schools has grown to a total of $15-billion – which is surely not a “significant improvement”?
  • The $11-billion committed over 10 years to school infrastructure is simply insufficient. This funding commitment is earmarked for not only addressing the $15-billion repair backlog but also for building brand new schools and building new additions. As noted in the 2015 Auditor-General’s report, “the province’s current 10-year capital plan for infrastructure spending proposed by the ministries has only about one-third of funding allocated to renewal, and the remaining two-thirds to new projects.” Therefore, only $3.7-billion over 10 years is really allocated to addressing disrepair in Ontario schools. Compare this amount to the existing $15-billion repair backlog and we have a situation where school conditions will continue to deteriorate in our public schools unless new funding solutions are found.
  • Finally, Minister Sandals doesn’t answer the one question asked in the letter: How much of the federal infrastructure money that is expected to flow to provincial coffers from our new Liberal Federal Government will you commit to repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools?”

Overall, a huge disappointment. We have shared this disappointing response with media contacts, both provincial Education Critics and will be following up with the Province, highlighting the inadequacy of their response, urging them to take the Auditor-General’s report seriously and increase capital funding to school infrastructure in this province immediately.

CTV News covers #fixourschools twitter campaign!

CTV helped launch the #fixourschools twitter campaign on Feb. 27. Click here to have a look! 

Fix Our Schools wants to raise awareness of the unacceptable state of TDSB schools and encourage Kathleen Wynne’s government to work with the TDSB and the City to come up with funding and governance solutions to address the over $3-billion of outstanding repairs in our children’s schools.


Continued conversation is good news

Despite headlines such as, “TDSB reforms fail to meet Minister’s demands regarding schools” and “TDSB reforms don’t go far enough Sandals says”, Fix Our Schools believes things are headed in the right direction.

In a Feb. 20, 2015 interview on Metro Morning, Liz Sandals mentions ongoing conversation with the TDSB over the coming months.

If the Province had simply accepted the TDSB’s submission last week and washed its hands of the TDSB (yet again!), that would have been incredibly disappointing. Ongoing conversations are desperately needed if the adults in charge are going to take joint accountability for finding solutions to the massive issues facing the TDSB.

“My kid’s school is a disgrace” – Nayamath Syed

Sarah Fulford, editor of Toronto Life, starts her editor’s letter in the February edition with:

“The seven-year-old girl on our cover; Amal Syed, came to Canada 3 years ago from Abu Dhabi. Her father is a computer analyst who left everything behind to give his daughter a first-rate Ontario education. Like many new immigrants, they settled in the inner suburbs, and he enrolled his daughter at the local public school. He was bitterly disappointed to discover what long-time residents of Toronto have known for years – that many of the buildings where we send our kids to learn are old, overcrowded and in desperate need of repair.”

When Amal’s father is interviewed on page 29, he says, “When we complained to the TDSB, our trustee told us they couldn’t get funding from the ministry to fix the damage, much less create a new building for the students. The ministry, in turn, said it was the TDSB that hadn’t presented the case for repairs. It’s a never-ending circle of blame.”

Secord Elementary at Danforth and Main consists of a century-old main building and a series of 14 portables connected by hallways. The portables were built two decades ago as a temporary solution to overcrowding at Secord Elementary. Over time, these temporary structures have deteriorated – raccoon infestations, falling ceiling tiles and water damage are amongst the most noticeable examples of disrepair.

Several people have asked Fix Our Schools if our call for emergency funding from Kathleen Wynne’s government isn’t a bit much – is this really an emergency?  We believe it is – and Amal’s school is a perfect example.

With great power comes great responsibility

Disappointed with the Provincial government’s latest response to Fix Our Schools, we sent the following letter to Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals today:

In your government’s February 4, 2015 response to Fix Our Schools, you tell us to discuss our concerns over safe, well-maintained schools with our Trustees, since they are the ones “who are elected by and accountable to the community that they serve”. In fact, you tell us four times in a 1-page letter that the TDSB Trustees are the ones who are responsible and accountable.

Last we checked your government is also elected and therefore accountable to its constituents. To that end, your government must start taking the responsibility that comes with having sole power over the funding of public education. Trustees are not magicians. The funding being provided by your government to the TDSB is insufficient. Please stop blaming the TDSB and start working together with them and the City of Toronto to ensure our children attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings. 

You are the only level of government with the power to change the dysfunctional dynamic that is so eloquently described by Hugh Mackenzie in the quote below:

“The (Provincial) government is fully responsible for the level of funding provided but local school boards bear the consequences and are accountable for the results. Despite the government’s complete control over funding, there is no provincial accountability mechanism for the performance of and funding for the system as a whole.” – Hugh Mackenzie, “ Harris-era Hangovers: Toronto School Trustees’ Inherited Funding Shortfall”, Feb. 2015

On behalf of the 247,000 students being educated by Canada’s largest school board, please start engaging in real, ongoing dialogue with the TDSB and the City of Toronto to improve the funding and governance of the TDSB and ensure the success, well-being and safety of all its students. In the short-term, please:

  1. Release emergency funding immediately to repair all leaking roofs and complete every “urgent” repair currently outstanding at TDSB schools.
  2. Redefine school space as public space so that “utilization rates” can allow schools to be used as community hubs and valuable public green spaces.
  3. Change the Provincial regulation guiding Education Development Charges

TDSB parents expect real change in our school board. The TDSB Trustees have stepped up; the City of Toronto has stepped up; Kathleen Wynne – will you and your government please also step up and start working together to Fix Our Schools?

Kind regards,

Krista Wylie – on behalf of Fix Our Schools

Province’s response to Fix Our Schools’ letter asking for help

In Education Minister Sandals’ response letter to the letter that Fix Our Schools sent in November, 2014, she highlights that:

  • For the 2014-15 school year, the Ministry is providing the TDSB with $74.9-million to use for repairs and renovations. This amount represents 2.1% of the total backlog of $3.5-billion outstanding across all TDSB school buildings.
  • School boards are responsible for determining how to allocate the funding provided by the Ministry to ensure that students have safe and healthy learning environments. Locally elected Trustees are responsible for the provision of suitable and adequate accommodation for students in their jurisdiction. Trustees are responsible for ensuring that each school is in compliance with all appropriate provincial and municipal health and safety requirements.

Minister Sandals encourages us to discuss our concerns with our Trustees, who are the ones accountable.

Trustees are not magicians. The funds provided by the Province to the TDSB for taking care of its school buildings are insufficient and Kathleen Wynne’s government needs to take the accountability and responsibility that comes with being in control over the money. It is time for the Province to stop blaming the TDSB and work together to ensure our children attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings. 

The Province’s math doesn’t add up for funding TDSB repairs

On average, the sale of a TDSB school will net the TDSB $10 million (as per TDSB staff).

So if the TDSB were to immediately sell all 130 schools operating at below 65%, it would net a total of $1.3-billion in revenue. This money could, theoretically, be used to address repairs and maintenance at TDSB schools and reduce the total backlog to approximately $1.7-billion.

However, money from selling schools actually goes to Provincial coffers, and the Province determines how it actually gets spent. At the moment, the Province has issued no guarantees that money raised by the TDSB selling off schools will be used to address the TDSB’s backlog of repairs and maintenance! 

But wait – we digress from the mathematics at hand. Let’s factor in that the TDSB wouldn’t have to repair any of the 130 schools it sells so we could subtract the repairs backlog from those 130 schools from the total backlog. Even though there would also be some savings in operating expenses from the 130 sold schools, it seems prudent to allocate those saved operating funds to student programs and not repairs/maintenance so we won’t worry about those savings in this mathematical exercise.

If we take the total $3-billion backlog and divide it by 588 TDSB schools, each TDSB school has an average of $5.1-million outstanding repairs. So, if we assume that the 130 schools being sold in this fictitious example each have a repair backlog of $5.1-million, then the TDSB could effectively eliminate another $663-million from its total backlog of repairs and maintenance to arrive at a new total backlog of outstanding repairs and maintenance of $1.04-billion.

The Province’s math doesn’t begin to add up to the TDSB being able to address its outstanding repairs and maintenance by selling off “empty” schools – even if it immediately sells off every single school currently operating below 65% and even if the Province agrees to allocate funds received from these sales to the TDSB repairs/maintenance backlog.

Keep in mind that this fictitious math problem also doesn’t take into account the following facts:

  • The process for selling off schools takes years – not days.
  • Outstanding repairs and maintenance items will get more complicated and more expensive the longer they are deferred.
  • There is no way the TDSB will or should sell off all 130 schools operating at below 65% for many, many good reasons (see any number of blog posts on this site!).

So let’s use the following equation to summarize the math here:

$3-billion total backlog of repairs/maintenance across TDSB schools

less: (130 schools operating at less than 65% X $10-million/per school sold in revenue)

less: (130 schools X $5.1-million/school in saved repairs/maintenance costs if all 130 schools sold) 

equals: $1.04-billion of outstanding repairs/maintenance that would still exist across TDSB schools even if the TDSB immediately sold off all 130 schools operating below 65% 

Clearly, we need a different approach to funding our public schools than the one being proposed by Kathleen Wynne’s government to ensure our children attend safe and well-maintained schools.

Dear Premier Wynne & Minister Sandals – accountability please!

In response to Margaret Wilson’s report and Minister Sandals’ subsequent directions to the TDSB, Fix Our Schools wrote to the Province and encourages parents to also write Premier Wynne & Minister Sandals

Fix Our Schools is requesting:

1. long-term, constructive help to the TDSB with real dialogue focused on real change

2. another external audit of the TDSB focused on the students and teachers to unearth all the ways that classrooms are being negatively impacted

3. emergency funding to fix roofs and address urgent repairs at TDSB schools

You can easily make the same requests by clicking the link above and adding your name, mailing address and TDSB school info to the bottom of the letter and cc:ing your MPP, who is your local voice to the Provincial government and your Trustee, who is your local voice to the TDSB.

The letters that many of you sent to the Provincial government this fall are being heard. Minister Liz Sandals has spoken publicly about our requests for money to fix roofs. These requests were also mentioned by Matt Galloway on Monday’s edition of CBC Metro Morning. There is power in parent advocacy so please take the time to write!