Schools belong to all of us – City Councillors

Schools belong to all of us – City Councillors

school buses

Two city councillors have penned an open letter to east-end parents about the importance of protecting local schools.

Ward 30 (Toronto-Danforth) Councillor Paula Fletcher and Ward 31 (Beaches-East York) Councillor Janet Davis released the memo on Wednesday, Feb. 4 in response to recent discussions about the possibility of closing 130 under-utilized schools within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

“There will be impacts: 53 child care centres and over 3000 spaces in jeopardy; hundreds of adult learners and newcomers losing programs; and important public assets sold off,” the letter stated.

As a result, Fletcher and Davis are calling for changes to the “outdated and punitive” funding formula approved in 1998 to determine school space.

As it stands, the Ontario Ministry of Education determines the square-footage of school space required as well as the “surplus” space per school board based on pupil enrolment.

School boards are expected to dispose of so-called surplus space at full market value to raise capital funds to pay for maintaining and building schools. Capital grants from the province are not provided to school boards with excess surplus space.

“These formulas and calculations are short-sighted, and contrary to the “Schools First” policy for child care, which is now the responsibility of the Ministry of Education,” the memo said.

“Provincial policy going back to the 1980’s has promoted, but never protected, child care space in schools. It’s time to finally fix this problem.”

Fletcher and Davis also pointed to Regulation 444, which they called an “obstacle to protecting school facilities for community and public use.”

They believe this requirement to pay or lease property at full market value is a barrier to municipalities or other community-based non-profit or government agencies re-purposing schools and feel it must also be fixed.

Further, Fletcher and Davis have submitted a Notice of Motion to City Council for the February 10 meeting to identify child care centres at risk and develop a plan to save them.

“In Toronto, we cannot stand still — we must stand firm. Schools belong to all of us. Make your voice heard. Call or write your MPP to fix the school funding formula. Show your support for our Trustees working to keep schools as community hubs.”

They are also encouraging people to sign a petition (http://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/save-our-schools-1) to protect the TDSB’s schools.

– See more at: http://m.insidetoronto.com/news-story/5322567-councillors-fletcher-and-davis-pen-letter-to-protect-local-schools/#sthash.DiHaonH4.dpuf