Province must fix funding or $10.5m more cuts in fall

 In The public board -TDSB

It was the day the music didn’t die. Thursday 20 June 2013

Toronto trustees saved music instructors but slashed school budgets as they debated the 2013-14 board budget late into the night.

Facing a $55-million deficit in their $2.9-billion budget, trustees earlier this year voted to cut teachers and other school staff to save about $27.7 million, and on Wednesday discussed proposals to find the remaining $27.3 million to balance the books.

Refusing to cut the music instructors and hours of programming added $2 million to the savings to be found, and Toronto District School Board Chair Chris Bolton said it would be added to a budget line called “in-year savings” — which basically means they will be found during the next school year through not filing job openings right away or through lower utility costs.

That boosts the in-year savings to be found to $10.5 million.

Bolton said, however, that while music has grabbed the public’s attention — many trustees spoke about how the outcry was the biggest they’d ever seen — other cuts like those to school budgets were going to affect programs

“Textbooks cost more,” he said. “The problem is, you don’t have the materials to start up classrooms or to do new initiatives,” he said after briefly leaving the meeting to speak with reporters.

“This is a victory — the Toronto District School Board has one of the best music programs in the country and we’re going to be able to maintain it for at least another year,” said Trustee Chris Glover after the budget vote.

Trustees were told that school budgets would lose about $2 million in total, or by four per cent. For a small elementary school, that could be anywhere from $600 to $2,100; a mid-sized elementary from $2,000 to $4,000 and a large elementary up to $9,200.

For secondary schools, the impact would be bigger: small schools up to $2,500, medium from $3,000 to $9,000 and large up to $22,000.

“I was a principal of what is considered a large elementary school and if I lost ($9,200), I would be pretty devastated,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, Bolton said that previously, the board had been “cutting at the edges,” but “we are now at the point where the decisions that we make have the potential to affect programs.”

The board now has to “work in a creative fashion to minimize that effect.”

Other proposed cuts include reducing maintenance supplies, overtime for caretakers and reducing two of four “reading recovery” lead teachers.

Trustee Cathy Dandy said her son is now 23, and the board has been making cuts since he was 5.

Glover warned that projections for next year’s budget is already a $30-million deficit, so trustees will be making more cuts next year.

“We need the province to step in and fix the funding,” he said.

The cuts to music programs would have axed itinerant musicians who travel from school to school helping elementary teachers with the complex music curriculum, including vocal, recorder and Orff. As well as the hours of those instructors who teach steel pans, string instruments and band.

Bolton said he was unsure if the provincial government would allow the board to budget for $10.5 in in-year savings. This current year, it planned for $10 million in such savings, and didn’t meet that target but came close, said Bolton.

After passing their budget, trustees met in private to discuss a plan to sell off 11 land sites to bring in $162.2 million and end the province’s freeze on funding for new school buildings and major renovations.

By:  Education Reporter, Published on Wed Jun 19 2013

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