Preparing the Grounds for Selling of Our Assets

Pools and Schools
from "Mailing Highlights", Toronto Education Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees local 4400 May/08
It seems as if we have our own “created crisis” right here at the TDSB.
Precious assets, like pools or schools located in communities (serving as a hub for strong neighbourhoods) are valued in word but not in dollar or deed.  We stand to lose 39 pools and 91 schools in the next couple of years.
How did we get here?  First of all, the Harris government took over the school board “lock, stock, barrel, and pools”, as one Trustee said.  They removed the Board’s right to tax.  Then they came up with formulas for funding that had little to do with reality:
·    halls, lobbies, basements and atriums count as ‘instructional space” so schools look relatively empty;
·    costs paid per square foot in the Board are less than is spent by the province in Toronto in their buildings, so we lose money for caretaking services;  and
·    urban schools get $952 dollars less per student than those in rural areas.
Then the Liberal government gets elected twice and doesn’t change some of the most glaring inequalities (see above).
Next step: constant problems with funding, year after year.  
Try to get “the people” to buy into the fact that there are no other alternatives.  Direct attention away from “life long learning” and “funding according to needs”.
Close pools.  Close schools and start to sell off land.  Developers happy;  bureaucrats happy;  province happy.  Communities (who lose pools or schools) — NOT HAPPY.
There was (and is) a good reason why some schools have pools.  They are not frills.  And there were (and are) reasons why communities have schools in their neighbourhoods.
We need to make sure that the human element – students, families, seniors, younger adults and all the community – start to be a factor when decisions are made.  We (collectively) can make a difference!

Schools and Pools Part 2
Preparing the Grounds for Selling of Our Assets
   June/08
There seems to be a new war on trustees. It is a necessary battle in preparing the way for selling off our schools and making policies and changes that have been resisted for over a decade.
The TDSB, and Catholic counterparts in Toronto, are responsible for billions of dollars worth of property and hundreds of thousands of students (including the credit and non-credit “consumers” of life-long learning) plus tens of thousands of employees.
Now, the province says the TDSB has a governance problem. They say it is too big to work properly – a stunning analysis, considering the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario and country of Canada are all larger, but seem to somehow carry out their assigned duties.  Education Minister Wynne quotes newly-minted “experts” (in reality a has-been Director of a legacy board and a retired bean counter who spent some years with the TDSB) who claimed —   not prove—that 450 students are the ideal for elementary schools and 1,200 for secondary schools.
However, complaints about TDSB’s “bigness” are really more about administration (making things work) than governance (representing the people who elect them, setting policy, and providing supervision to the people who make things work on a day-to-day basis).
Early in the process of melding together the new TDSB, a whole chunk (65%) of the administration was dumped.  

The folks finding their way to the door were more likely to be clerical workers, paraprofessionals and technicians than the high priced staffers (though they, too, were cut). A good deal of the workload ended up in the schools, as office administrators can attest.
Local 4400 is consistently on record saying that there is a governance AND an administration problem at the TDSB.  
The elected trustees have been reduced to part-timers even though they cover the same geographic territory as two Toronto city councillors and 6 assistants.  Trustees are responsible for a larger budget and more employees than most cities in Ontario who have full-time elected representatives and support staff.  

The Solution?
Pay trustees well enough that good people can afford to work full time looking out for the interests of students of all ages, families, parents, and employees of the Board!  Give them the tools (taxes) and freedom to create solutions that meet those needs.  Then rebuild the central administration support staff that is needed to keep the system functioning.
School Boards already have a hierarchical,  accountable system.  Supervisory officers are responsible for families of schools.  Principals oversee the teachers who have between 20-30 children per class in each and every neighbourhood.
Smoke and Mirrors
Like the Tories before them, the Liberal government is not prepared to let democracy break out anytime soon.  
The people of Ontario never voted for the original restructuring of education system.  The Liberals, who were brought in to clean up the dysfunctional model, did not listen to the constituents and give education back to the communities (through their elected representatives).
Instead, we see the beginning of another attack on trustees.
Setting the Stage
If you tell a big lie, over and over again, it begins to be generally accepted as the truth.  It helps that the media, owned by very big conglomerates, take up the lie and give it life.
We saw it happen when the TDSB Trustees were labeled “dysfunctional” by the media when they refused to take the unethical steps of doing Harris’ dirty work and forced the government to try to make the cuts. The government later fell.
An interesting side note — the supervisor couldn’t make all the cuts, because it was not possible to do so without having the system crash.
Now the political weapons are aimed at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.  Without getting involved in details, I couldn’t help but notice that the mighty Toronto Star, the editorial voice of the Liberal party,  is spending more on print over the last couple of weeks  than was allegedly misspent by even the most goofy Catholic Board trustee (a full page newspaper ad costs over $50,000).
When the Catholic Board Trustees stood up to the government last week, and said they would not make any more cuts, that story was just about blown away.  What a pity! What a disservice to education!