We, at the Fix Our Schools campaign, are all for unsexy investments in public infrastructure. So we were thrilled to read about “bucks for the unsexy side of transit” by Edward Keenan in the May 7, 2016 Toronto Star and see that Justin Trudeau’s federal government has pledged up to $840-million for TTC maintenance. Yes, that’s right – maintenance of public transit!
While politicians are keen to make sexy investments in brand new infrastructure, they often forget the next logical step of allocating the required funding to maintain that new investment.
In Ontario alone, over $15-billion of disrepair has been allowed to accumulate in our publicly funded schools because our provincial government has chronically and grossly underfunded the maintenance of these important buildings – where 2-million childen spend their days.
Perhaps ribbon-cuttings for new roofs and new boilers in schools is warranted? Somehow, we need to make investing in the maintenance of our publicly funded schools sexy for politicians.
An equipment failure shut down Toronto’s entire subway system on Monday, June 8 and impacted over 100,000 riders. This shutdown certainly highlighted how integral the TTC is to our City’s infrastructure. CEO Andy Byford said that $2.7-billion is needed to complete all the work that needs to be done, pointing out that none of this work is of the “nice to have” variety.
Surely, the same could be said of the $14.7-billion of outstanding repairs in Ontario public schools. None of the repairs to roofs, boilers, fire systems and structural elements of children’s schools are simply “nice to have” – they are all things we need to be doing. Disrepair in schools impacts students and teachers every single day. Ceilings leak, causing some children to slip and hurt themselves. Boilers break down, leading some students and teachers to wear winter coats as they try to learn and teach. Lead is discovered in water, meaning students and teachers cannot drink safely from school water supplies. Stairs crumble in front of fire exit doors, placing children and teachers at risk. Luckily, most of what happens inside these Ontario public schools is pretty great and, as a result, most children head home happy each day. But one does wonder what would have to occur to highlight the funding needs of public schools across this province…and to highlight how integral public schools are to public infrastructure?