A financial shortfall may force dozens of schools in Toronto to close if the province doesn’t step in to ease the burden, according to an education coalition.
The Campaign for Public Education, made up of concerned parents and other community groups, contends underfunding by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals could lead to the kinds of cuts proposed by previous Tory governments before being scrapped.
“As a taxpayer, my education taxes have almost doubled since I bought my house in 1998,” complains frustrated parent Chris Glover.
“But at the same time, staff and programs continue to be cut from my kids’ school. … I’m furious that McGuinty is trying to pass himself off as Ontario’s ‘Education Premier’, when he refuses to restore school funding.”
The Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) budget shortage is said to be between $80 million and $100 million. To make up some of that cash, a number of cuts are being considered, among them:
- Closing up to 64 schools and 77 of Toronto’s 80 school pools
- Cutting staff funding at parenting centres and funding for school breakfast and lunch programs
- Elimination of 500 – 700 educational assistant positions
- Cutting continuing education, school maintenance, caretaking staff, program support staff and summer camp program funding for students with special needs
Doug Hum, a spokesperson for the Toronto Federation of Chinese Parents, says the proposed slashing is unacceptable.
“This list of cuts is almost identical to the cutbacks that TDSB trustees defeated during the Harris/Eves government and would have a devastating impact on our schools, our communities and our city,” he argued.
Critics, including Ward 7 Toronto School Trustee Irene Atkinson, are asking McGuinty to restore education funding to previous levels.
“The fundamental problem is the funding model was established in 1997,” Atkinson says. “It has not been reviewed since. We have asked (former education minister) Gerard Kennedy’s constituents: Review the funding model and pay for the real cost.”
But current Education Minister Sandra Pupatello, in an appearance on CityOnline, disputes the suggestion that the province hasn’t done anything to help the city’s school board.
“There’s no question we have a need to balance the budget, but I will say that when you have a 6 per cent decline in enrollment, and it’s thousands of kids fewer, you have an 11 per cent increase in funding, that the government certainly has come to the table,” she said.
Pupatello contends that it’ll take more than the two years the Liberals have been in power to make up for cuts made by the previous Tory government.