Continuing education given reprieve

Toronto Star April 18, 2008   Kristin Rushowy   EDUCATION REPORTER

Continuing education will continue as is – for now.

Toronto trustees decided at a meeting Wednesday night to remove continuing education, including adult English as a second language, from a report on program planning that could have meant major cuts.

French programs were also removed from the report of the General Asset and Program Planning working group, which recommends some drastic changes to Toronto public schools, including closing small, under-enrolled schools and using that money for new buildings and better programming.

But it also said "priority should be given to JK-12," and that daytime credit programs for adults and ESL need to be fully funded by the province in order to continue.  On adult ESL alone, the board runs a deficit of about $700,000 a year.

Trustee Chris Bolton said the board is already conducting a review of continuing education and ways to improve it.

"Some trustees believe we are a K-12 system and I'm saying we need to reaffirm that we are a lifelong learning institution, which is in our mission statement," Bolton said.

He said the continuing-ed review began a year ago "and the feeling was there was a need to evaluate some programs before we went ahead with any new initiatives."  A committee is already looking at boosting fees, starting up new programs or ending others.

Bolton said it's important for the board to serve the whole community; in his downtown Trinity-Spadina ward, 70 per cent of constituents aren't in school.

"We need to be offering service that's relevant to them," Bolton said, not only because constituents are putting tax dollars toward it, but because they'll also be engaged in public education.

He expects the continuing education review to come before the board next month. The Toronto board has 250,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and more than 155,000 in continuing education courses.

"The con-ed department is larger than almost every other school board in the province and many in North America," Bolton said. "Yet it's like the poor cousin."