As an MPP and parent of two children who attend TDSB schools, I am personally and politically concerned about the quality of education University-Rosedale’s 33 schools provide to our children.
The pandemic has been very hard on our kids, and their learning. Many of our kids have fallen behind their grade level, they’re struggling to read and write, and keep up in math and STEM. Many students are having an emotionally challenging year. They are struggling with behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and mental health challenges.
Here’s an update on some pressures facing our schools, and what we are doing about it.
More cuts could be coming. The TDSB is facing a huge $61 million shortfall for next year, and is looking at cutting 522 staff positions. Lunch-room supervisors, elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, social workers, and caretaking positions will be lost.
This funding shortfall is partly because enrollment has temporarily dipped, partly because the Conservatives are refusing to cover all the costs the TDSB incurred during the pandemic to meet provincial rules, and mostly because the provincial funding allocated to schools is not adequate to improve our schools. The TDSB is preparing its final budget now, and we’re joined the call for more investment.
The Ontario’s Autism Coalition is raising serious concerns over the Conservative’s decision to reduce funding for 4,000 children with autism and move them into the school system, starting in May. We’ve heard from parents who are understandably concerned about the move because they fear their kids are being thrown to the wolves, without the extra education assistants in the classroom to help their kid learn and stay safe.
Every parent has seen that TDSB sign on a construction fence, warning them that due to resident growth their local school could be too full to accommodate their child.
We are a rapidly growing city. We have more cranes in the sky than every city in North America. Without additional revenue, our school system will not be ready to educate the 30,000 additional children that are expected to enroll in the TDSB.
New construction is highly concentrated in areas of the city that do not have the services and school capacity available to meet the needs of current and new families moving into the area, and this problem is set to get worse. University-Rosedale, Spadina-Fort York, and the Eglinton-Yonge area have been identified by the TDSB as areas experiencing overcrowding. Whitney School in particular is over-capacity.
Other school boards in Ontario have the right to collect developer fees for new schools, and it’s time for the Conservatives to give the Toronto District School Board access to that funding stream as well. In June, I introduced a motion to call on the Conservatives to do exactly that to ensure developers pay their fair share to Toronto schools. The TDSB estimates education development charges will bring in approximately $500 million of revenue over the next 15 years.
These are just some of the issues we’re hearing about. Others include the TDSB’s new system for selecting students for speciality schools, and the troubling decision by York Catholic District School Board to vote against flying the pride flag during June, which is Pride Month. We are calling on the Ontario government to intervene because this is about ensuring all kids are valued at school, doesn’t matter how they identify.
As school boards finalize their budgets, every grandparent, parent, education worker, and student should be contacting their Conservative MPP and calling on them to make wise decisions for our kids and properly fund our schools. We are organizing on this issue, and please contact our office if you, your school or parent council wants an update or wishes to share information.