Lecce rejects TDSB proposal to close schools in an effort to save on budget

The TDSB has pitched closing schools as a money-saving measure that could help them climb out of a deficit. But as Tina Yazdani reports, the education minister has shut down the efforts, accusing the board of mismanaging its budget.

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has rejected the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) proposal to save money in an effort to balance its budget for next year.

The TDSB must find nearly $27 million in budget savings for the next school year and asked the province for permission to close some schools as a way to do it.

In a statement to 680 News Radio Toronto, Lecce says it’s clear the board lacks the capacity to manage its budget and prioritize student services.

“We have provided TDSB with $128 million more funding since 2019 while effectively managing the same number of students,” the statement read.

“After running a series of deficits over the last 20 years and increasing school board staffing on the sunshine list, my message to TDSB is to focus on prioritizing students and stop subsidizing services for non-public school students.”

A spokesperson for Lecce adds that the Minister of Education has yet to receive the proposal from the TDSB, noting that they should develop a “serious plan to balance their budget and support students’ academic success and services.”

A ban on closing schools was first implemented by the previous Liberal government.

Last week, TDSB trustees unanimously approved a motion calling on the Ministry of Education to remove the moratorium, which it says will help address the growing costs of maintaining underutilized schools and facilitate long-term planning.

The TDSB also approved a reduction in central staffing, replacement costs related to sick leave and decreased spending on absenteeism, filling vacancies and contracts.

School boards across the province are required to operate on a balanced budget to comply with Ontario’s Education Act. The TDSB is facing a $26.5-million shortfall for the 2024-25 school year.

With files from Laura Carney of 680 News Radio Toronto

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