1,000 signatures reached
To: Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Government
Save our Schools!
Dear Premier Wynne,
I’m writing today about the recent directives from the Provincial Government to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). I support efforts to bring about improved governance at the school board.
However, I do have some concerns about the Minister of Education’s directives, particularly the instructions to sell-off schools your government sees as “underutilized”.
Our public schools provide valuable utility to communities beyond just the use of teaching classrooms.
The Government does not currently consider the use of schools for other community programs like adult education, ESL, or other programming for children and adults not paid for by the TDSB, when measuring their utilized capacity.
Students across Toronto need better access to adequate educational resources and supports, and too often are attending schools in need of critical repair.
Sadly, the Province currently does not allow the TDSB to access Education Development Charges like their Catholic Board counterparts. The Board has a backlog of over $3 billion in repairs. Children in the public school system deserve equal access to these necessary resources.
I urge you to:
- correct the flaws in the calculation that is used to determine whether or not a school is “underutilized”, to reflect the true uses and functions currently undertaken in our schools, that benefit youth, senior citizens, communities and families
- commit to protecting all daycare spaces currently in existence in TDSB schools
- join the City of Toronto and the TDSB as equal partners in the development of a strategy to make school spaces in to community hubs, as reflected in your mandate letter here http://goo.gl/sR5YaB
- rectify the formula that allots only 5% of available capital funding to Toronto’s public schools while we educate 12% of Ontario’s students, and
- ensure that the TDSB receives an equal share of development charges (the Catholic board received $840 for each of the 180,000 condo or townhouse units in development while the TDSB currently receives nothing).
As a former Trustee yourself, I know that the development of a Community Hubs Policy is something that your government has committed to, and I hope it’s not too late for our Toronto schools.
I urge you to carefully consider how you determine whether a school is ‘well utilized’, take into account whether it serves as a hub for communities, and work to make the changes necessary to properly resource public education – our students’ success and well-being depends on it.
Why is this important?
Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Provincial Government have recently given a list of directives to the Toronto District School Board. You can see the full list here: http://goo.gl/EPD7gL. School Board Trustees have been given until February 13th to act on these directives or risk the Government taking over.
The Government has asked the Board to provide a list of over a hundred of our community schools that the government has deemed to be “under-utilized”, and a three-year plan to deal with them. You can see the full list of schools here: http://goo.gl/psV3tH
Unfortunately, the Government’s list of “under-utilized” schools does not take into account the value that community schools bring to a neighbourhood. By not considering the use of schools for other community programs like children’s programming or Adult ESL when measuring utility, the Provincial Government is not looking at the full picture.
Schools should be community hubs in our neighbourhoods. In practice, many of our neighbourhood schools are ‘hubs’– schools with daycares, swim lessons, programs for children with special needs and afterschool programming for children and adults. Schools are important public spaces, and valuable beyond just the use of teaching classrooms.
The decision to sell schools cannot be made lightly because when we sell schools, we never get that public space back.
The Premier herself has mandated that the Ministry of Education look at schools as ‘community hubs’, but is now talking about closing schools that epitomize that model. The School Board has a ten-year plan to study school utilization and consider changes to boundaries, partnerships with community partners and other school boards, before deciding to close a school. The Province wants to speed up that plan, closing the schools within 3 years.
Together, we need to make sure that Premier Wynne and her government are looking at the full picture: recognizing the immediate and future needs of growing Toronto communities, and the necessity to use schools as vital community hubs to provide childcare and programs for youth, families and senior citizens.
Make your voice heard! Sign the petition calling on Premier Wynne to consider the many uses of public schools, and save our community schools!