Public transit is a hot topic in urban centres across the nation. Sadly, public education is not.
In Ontario, public transit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was a key issue in both the provincial election in June and Toronto’s municipal election in October. There was much discussion on transit solutions that ought to be pursued and how those solutions should be funded.
In B.C., public transit has also been in the spotlight. Mayors in the Greater Vancouver Area (GVQ) have been working together to raise awareness of the need for transit improvements in the GVA. They’ve been actively encouraging citizens to vote yes in the upcoming special plebiscite vote asking citizens if they would pay 0.5% more in provincial sales tax to fund better transit in the region.
Despite the fact that public schools in both Toronto and Vancouver are in need of billions of dollars of repairs, this issue has received scant attention in Ontario’s recent elections and no plebiscite vote is in the works to decide how to fund public school repairs in Vancouver.
Toronto’s public schools need over $3-billion of repairs, many of which are urgent, including: fire suppression and alarm systems; electrical systems; heating/cooling systems; and structural issues. If these types of items fail before repairs can be done, there is a risk to student safety. Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government blames the TDSB for this unacceptable repair backlog, even though the Province is the sole funder of public schools in Ontario and the repair backlog has accumulated under the watch of the Province.
Vancouver’s public schools need $2.2-billion* of seismic upgrades to prevent collapse in the case of earthquakes. Christy Clark’s provincial government has delayed funding these repairs, but blames the Vancouver School Board for the delay even though the Province is the sole funder of public schools in B.C.
So we have a situation where public schools in two major Canadian cities are in need of massive repairs that could, potentially, impact the safety of students. Neither provincial governments seem interested in finding funding solutions to fix these problems and, instead, blame local school boards for the disrepair even though these school boards have no power over funding. Students are being penalized by the inability of the grown-ups in charge to take accountability and find solutions. As citizens and voters, we must start making the issue of public schools a hot topic and demanding more from our provincial governments. Students deserve to learn in safe, well-maintained buildings and, since they can’t vote yet, we need to demand that for them.
*According to VSB Trustees, the number as at September 2015 is closer to $1-billion in seismic upgrades.