Tag Archives: Premier Wynne

Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letter to Education Minister Hunter

mitzie-hunterIn September, 2016 – to mark the halfway point in her government’s mandate, Premier Wynne issued mandate letters to all of her ministers. Wynne’s mandate letter to Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, who was appointed in June 2016, can be read here.

Premier Wynne highlights the $1.1-billion of new money that her government allocated to school repairs over two years as a key accomplishment within the education portfolio. This new funding brings annual funding for school repairs to the recommended $1.4-billion per year but does not address the $15-billion of disrepair that has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools over the past 20 years, when annual funding to school boards for school repairs was a fraction of what it should have been.

Therefore, we were disappointed to see that Premier Wynne did not mention school conditions or the $15-billion repair backlog when laying out Minister Hunter’s mandate for the next two years. Given we know school conditions impact student achievement, health and well-being – there is no excuse for this oversight.

Premier Wynne and Minister Hunter: The condition of our publicly funded schools must be an ongoing priority for your government.

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 makes Premier Wynne take action?

On April 4, 2016, Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne took quick action on a few fronts:

  • Premier Wynne also vowed to ban corporate and union donations, ending her government’s party’s practice of “cash-for-access” fundraising. Why? Because there there had been several weeks of consistent and embarrassing media coverage. Media had revealed how Wynne’s party frequently holds unpublicized, small-scale fundraisers in which corporations and lobbyists, some of whom do business with the government, pay thousands of dollars for exclusive access to Premier Wynne and her cabinet ministers over cocktails.

The lesson here? If we want to see our children’s schools fixed – we must mount more pressure on Kathleen Wynne and her government. How? We need more media attention on this topic and we must let our provincial MPPs know that we expect action on this issue.

What can you do? 

  • Send us photos of disrepair in schools – or videos! A picture is worth a 1,000 words.
  • Share personal stories about how disrepair in schools is negatively impacting your children.
  • Email or call your MPP to let them know you expect the provincial government to take action to Fix Our Schools.
  • Ask others to join Fix Our Schools, either by signing up for emails at www.fixourschools.ca/joinus/ and/or by following us on Facebook


2016/17 Ministry of Education Funding for School Boards

On Thursday, March 24, Ontario’s Ministry of Education proudly announced an increase of $300-million in the funding to school boards this coming year. Included in the $22.9-billion total that will go to publicly funded education in this province is the money that will go towards fixing schools.

Unfortunately, there is not enough money being provided by Premier Wynne’s government to Fix Our Schools. In fact, at the levels of funding being provided, we will see the $15-billion repair backlog in Ontario’s schools continue to get larger. So, the bottom line is that the state of disrepair in our children’s schools is going to continue to worsen under Premier Wynne’s leadership. 

In 2005, this Liberal provincial government said, “Ultimately, a school’s condition reflects the state of commitment from one generation to the advancement of the next”.  The condition of Ontario’s schools has steadily declined over the past 11 years.  What does this say about our generation’s level of commitment to the next?

“Ontario’s schools are falling apart. Here’s how to fix them.”

An editorial entitled, “Ontario’s schools are falling apart. Here’s how to fix them.” was published in the Toronto Star on January 28, 2016. It examines how Ontario has arrived at a place where $15-billion of disrepair exists in our publicly funded schools and then goes on to explore how Premier Wynne’s government might consider solving the issue.

Authors Sachin Maharaj, PhD student, and Gordon Petch, lawyer, state that “of all the duties that educational leaders and policy-makers have, ensuring that schools are safe is arguably the most important.” Given that 2-million Ontario children spend their days in school buildings, ensuring safe, well-maintained schools should be of paramount importance to Premier Wynne. However, Wynne’s government continues to blame school boards for disrepair, refusing to take any accountability for Ontario’s schools falling apart. Ironically, Ontario’s own Auditor-General has confirmed that our provincial government has underfunded school repairs by $5.8-billion over the last five years.

When will Premier Wynne start to prioritize schools as important public infrastructure and Fix Our Schools?

A look at disrepair in one high school

An article entitled, “The TDSB’s billion-dollar repair backlog means schools like Northern Secondary are in disrepair” was published in Post City Toronto on March 1, 2016. In it, one Toronto high school was featured.  Photos of a broken window, rotting wood, and sub-standard washrooms were featured.

Although the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) certainly has the largest repair backlog of any Ontario school board, disrepair impacts all 72 publicly funded school boards in this province. So, while Toronto schools are often featured in the media, you could readily find schools in critical condition throughout the province where similar photos could be taken.

Ontario’s school boards work extremely hard to quickly address disrepair in schools – especially disrepair that poses an immediate health and safety concern. However, for 2015-16, Premier Wynne’s provincial government has only provided school boards with about 5% of what is needed to address the $15-billion repair backlog in schools across the province. Our provincial government hasn’t even provided sufficient funding to school boards to address the $1.7-billion of disrepair that its own Auditor-General has deemed to be both critical and urgent!  Therefore, school boards are in an increasingly tough position as repair backlogs continue to grow.

Premier Wynne – when will you stop boasting about the increased funding your government has provided and, instead, focus on ensuring the funding that is actually needed to ensure safe, well-maintained schools for our children?


Will Premier Wynne’s government commit to fixing the disrepair in our schools?

2016_Wynne and Sousa_OntBudgetEducation Critic MPP Lisa Gretzky asked a series of questions to the Liz Sandals, Minister of Education during Question Period on February 22, as is noted below in the recording of that exchange.

Sadly, during this exchange, Premier Wynne’s government seemed content to have increased funding for school repairs. Yet, our provincial government seemed oblivious to the fact that, even with the increases, the funding they are allocating for school repairs is far less than what Ontario’s Auditor-General has confirmed is actually needed to keep our schools in good repair.

Imagine if you owed $100 to Rogers or Bell for your monthly phone service and you pay them $2.50. When their Accounts folks call, you proudly let them know you’re going to double your payment for the month and pay an additional $2.50, bringing the grand total to $5 on an outstanding bill of $100. We’re quite certain that Rogers or Bell would be unimpressed with you doubling your monthly payment and would, instead, focus on the fact that you still owe them $95 of the $100 bill! We’d like Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals to start focusing on what is needed to ensure schools are safe, well-maintained buildings for our children to spend six hours each day. We’d like them to stop congratulating themselves on increasing funding, when it isn’t yet close to sufficient!

Hansard Recording from Feb 22, 2016

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Minister of Education. Schools in this province are falling apart. Over the past five years alone, this government has underfunded school repairs by $5.8 billion. Add that to the previous repair backlog and we now have a shortfall of $15 billion—that’s billions, Speaker.

Kids are being forced to wear winter coats inside because classrooms are 12 degrees. Roofs are collapsing and children are being injured by broken infrastructure. While this government starves school boards of the resources they need to address these issues, students and families are being left behind.

My question is simple. With a budget on the horizon, Ontario families want to know: Will this government stop cuts to the classroom and commit to fixing the disrepair in our schools?

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’m pleased to report that, in fact, we have continued to increase education funding. If you look at the amount of funding that was received in 2003 and compare it to today, it’s up $8.1 billion. That’s 56%, at a time when the number of students has decreased.

Interjection: I think she said “billion.”

Hon. Liz Sandals: Billion with a “b.”

The amount per pupil has gone up. The absolute amount has gone up. The amount of funding for school renewal has gone up. The amount for school renovations has gone up. The amount of money for school repairs has gone up. Everything is going up.

While there do continue to be schools that are not in great shape, we have actually fixed the funding model—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.


Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: That just shows how out of touch the minister is, because the needs of the students have increased, the cost of electricity has increased and the cost of transportation has increased. Therefore, the budgets are not sufficient.

Again, to the Minister: Ontario boasts highly qualified education and child-care workers, bright students and parents who want what’s best for their children. This morning, organizations like Fix Our Schools, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care held a press conference at Queen’s Park to demand answers. Directors of education, trustees and students also attended.

The Minister of Education needs to put our students first. Kids are paying the price for her misplaced priorities. This government must recognize that it’s unacceptable that kids are wearing winter coats in classrooms.

Will this government repair our schools and finally provide a safe and equal opportunity education for all Ontario students?

Parents demanding school repairs at Queen’s Park: CBC Coverage

On February 22, Fix Our Schools was at Q2016_CBC_toronto-school-repairsueen’s Park demanding that Kathleen Wynne’s government provide the funding needed to fix Ontario’s crumbling schools, as covered by CBC.

We were joined by teachers, students, childcare advocates, trustees and school board staff to highlight that disrepair in Ontario’s schools is an important issue impacting real people every day. Students, preschoolers, teachers, principals, and community members all deserve safe, well-maintained schools!