As we’ve said, we’re going to see a lot of media coverage related to provincial politics this coming year, as we move towards the June 2018 provincial election. Here is a guide to deciphering recent misleading media coverage about “new funding for school repairs”.
THE NEWS STORY
In June, Premier Wynne announced that $1.4B has been allocated for school repair and renewal in 2017/18 and that $200-M from the Province’s cap and trade program will go towards making Ontario schools more energy efficient.
CBC’s June 13, 2017 article entitled, “Ontario earmarks $200M from cap and trade to make schools greener”, covered Wynne’s announcement, where she acknowledged that over half of Ontario’s schools were built over 40 years ago and are in need of repair.
Interestingly, Premier Wynne was quoted as saying that, “School boards around the province have done a good job of keeping schools in good repair, but there comes a point where there needs to be an extra investment in the schools because big things start to break down. It’s our responsibility to make sure that a school board has the money that it needs to invest in schools and to keep them in really good shape.”
PC Education Co-critic Lorne Coe was quoted as saying, “We are pleased that the Liberal government is finally answering our calls to address the state of disrepair in Ontario’s schools that has accumulated over the past 14 years, but they’ve only announced these funds because it’s an election year.”
Let’s decipher this article:
NOT NEW FUNDING:
- The $1.4-B annual funding for school repairs is not new funding. This funding level was announced weeks ago as part of the provincial budget announcements for 2017/18. Politicians seem to try to get as much goodwill as possible from one financial commitment so they often announce funding as though it is new, in the hopes we will be fooled into thinking that even more money has been allocated to a specific cause.
- The $200-M for making schools more energy efficient is part of that $1-4-B/year for school repairs; it is not additional funding. The only new information provided in this announcement is that the source of funding for the $200-M will be from the province’s cap and trade program.
PROVINCE ACKNOWLEDGES THAT SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE DONE WELL DESPITE CHRONIC UNDERFUNDING:
- This may be the first time that the Provincial government has acknowledged Ontario school boards as having done a good job of maintaining schools in the province and taken responsibility for providing adequate funding to school boards. Hurrah! What Wynne fails to state is that for almost 20 years, the provincial government fell far short in providing adequate funding for school repairs.
- Ontario’s Auditor-General confirmed that $1.4-B/year is needed for school repairs. We were able to compare this figure to the amount that was actually provided between 2011 and 2016 to reveal that the provincial government underfunded school repairs by a total $5.8-B in that 5-year timeframe. This constitutes chronic and gross underfunding.
- Although as of June 2016, Wynne’s government has committed to $1.4-B/year for school repairs, they have not committed to funding solutions to eliminate the $15-B repair backlog that accumulated in Ontario’s schools over the last twenty years, when provincial funding has been grossly inadequate.
CHRONIC, GROSS UNDERFUNDING OCCURRED UNDER BOTH LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENTS:
- Lorne Coe coincidentally states that the $15-B repair backlog accumulated only over the last 14 years that the Liberals have been in power. In fact, the disrepair in Ontario’s schools has accumulated over the past 20+ years and so his PC party can certainly take some of the blame as well!
Stay tuned in the coming months as we help decipher fact from political rhetoric for you!
We’ve been looking back on history in order to learn and move ahead in funding education in Ontario. We’ve gone back as far as 2002 to examine the Rozanski report on the education funding formula. In this post, we’ll only go back to 2015…
In December 2015, Ontario’s Auditor-General looked at school conditions in this province and began to examine how $15-billion of disrepair had accumulated in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. She used an industry acknowledged standard of allocating 2.5% of the value of your capital assets each year to routine maintenance to confirm that in order to keep Ontario’s schools in a state of good repair (which they clearly are not, given the $15-billion repair backlog in schools across the province), the provincial government must provide $1.4-billion per year to school boards to use on school repairs.
In June, 2016, the Liberal provincial government acknowledged that funding for school repairs had been inadequate for too long. Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter announced a new $1.1-billion investment over two years for school repairs. When this $1.1-billion was added to the money previously allocated to school repairs, the total investment in each of 2015/16 and 2016/17 added up to the $1.4-billion per year for school repairs recommended by the Auditor-General.
Kathleen Wynne’s government is now in the process of collecting input to forming the 2017/18 provincial budget. Surely, they will not go backwards and reduce annual funding for school repairs to be less than the $1.4-billion that industry standards recommend? Surely, we can count on our provincial government to provide an adequate yearly revenue source to school boards that they might endeavour to keep schools in good condition for the 2-million Ontario children who spend their days in these buildings? As per the presentation we made as part of the Pre-Budget Consultation, Fix Our Schools will be looking to Kathleen Wynne to allocate a minimum of $1.4-billion in 2017/18 to Ontario school boards for school repairs.
Students and teachers at Brookmill Blvd. Junior Public School were happy to return to dry classrooms this September after a new roof was completed over the summer.
In June 2016, the provincial government announced $1.1-billion of new funding for school repairs – to be allocated to Ontario’s school boards over two years. This money brings annual funding from the province for school repairs to the $1.4-billion per year that Ontario’s Auditor-General said was required to keep schools in a state of good repair. What this money doesn’t do is address the $15-billion of disrepair that was allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s schools over the last 20 years.
On June 27, 2016, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced an investment of $1.1-billion to repair schools across the province. Here is a detailed breakdown of how this investment will flow to school boards.
- An increase of $500-million to school boards to use for school repairs this summer; $460-million of the $500-million total will be allocated via School Condition Improvement (SCI) funding and $40-million via School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding.* When added to the existing funding commitment of $500-million in SCI funding and $320-million in SRA funding, the total funding for school repairs this 2015/16 year will total $1.3-billion.
- An increase of $575-million to school boards to use for school repairs in 2016/17; $535-million of which will be allocated via SCI funding and $40-million via SRA funding. When added to the existing $500-million in SCI funding and $320-million in SRA funding, the total funding for school boards to use for school repairs next year in 2016/17 will be the $1.4-billion annual funding that Ontario’s Auditor-General said is needed to keep Ontario’s publicly funded schools in a state of good repair.
Fix Our Schools is pleased that this new level of annual funding for school repairs follows the Auditor General’s 2015 recommendation of $1.4-billion per year, an amount that represents the industry standard of investing 2.5% of a buildings replacement value in annual maintenance in order to keep that asset in a state of good repair. School buildings are public assets that the government has an obligation to keep well-maintained.
Fix Our Schools is also pleased that this money is being allocated to school boards based on their renewal needs and that the provincial government has committed to publicly posting detailed information regarding the condition and renewal needs of each of Ontario’s 4,900 public schools.
However, a $15-billion repair backlog has been allowed to accumulate in Ontario’s publicly funded schools over the past 20 years that is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, Fix Our Schools remains committed to working with all MPPs and School Boards to ensure that:
- The new level of investment of $1.4-billion/year starts to decrease the $15-billion repair backlog that currently exists in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
- The issue of disrepair in Ontario’s schools is a major election issue in the next provincial election in 2018; and continues to be an important focus of our provincial government.
* Click here for more details on School Condition Improvement (SCI) funding and School Renewal Allocation (SRA) funding.