“Canada is one of the best countries in the world in which to get an education”, according to a recent report issued by Environics Canada. Despite this glowing commendation, school buildings across the country have been left to crumble in recent years.
Let’s have a look at New Brunswick public schools, which serve approximately 87,000 students – and which hit a crisis point in December 2010…
Two public schools had to be shut down due to health and safety concerns – a huge wake-up call for the Progressive Conservative provincial government that was in power at that time. In response, Education Minister Jody Carr announced $98.3 million in funding to upgrade and build new schools, the largest capital budget ever for New Brunswick’s Ministry of Education at $1,100 per student – and an important investment in the children of that province.
This investment allowed for Moncton High School to be rebuilt. Arguably, had the original school been well-maintained over the years, it could still be serving the community. However by 2010, the building was unsafe for students and the cost of restoring the original building outweighed the cost of rebuilding from scratch.
After reflecting on how New Brunswick schools had reached the crisis point of actually having to close public schools because they had become unsafe, Education Minister Carr concluded that provincial governments had not spent enough to keep schools well-maintained.
“It was clear to me that successive governments have not worked hard enough to fund, maintain and repair our aging school buildings,” Carr said in his budget speech. “I’m also convinced that we need to better prioritize, plan and manage school upgrades across our province,” he said.
Fast forward four years to December 2014…
With a Liberal provincial government now in power in New Brunswick, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Serge Rousselle announced another large investment of $95.9-million (another $1,100 per student!) in maintaining, fixing and rebuilding public schools across the province.
“New Brunswick’s public schools must continue to offer safe and healthy environments that meet the needs of students, teachers and staff,” Rousselle said. “This significant investment in educational infrastructure will result in new and enhanced schools that will support students as they continue their journey of learning.”
If Ontario were to invest $1,100 per student this year into school infrastructure, that would translate into $2.2-billion. Our provincial government is investing nowhere near that amount in Ontario’s school infrastructure. In fact, only $250-million was allocated to School Condition Improvement in 2014-15 and $500-million was allocated in 2015-16. Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals – are you listening? Let’s start to make a real investment in Ontario’s school infrastructure.