Starving for Funds

Toronto Star Letters to Editor   Apr 02, 2008

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne's threat to Toronto District School Board trustees to come up with a plan to dismember the board by May or she will do it for them is scarily reminiscent of former premier Mike Harris's approach to the Toronto school boards before he unilaterally amalgamated them, and then put board operations under the control of a provincially appointed supervisor when trustees did not bend to his will.

The answer to the Toronto school board's problems is not more organizational restructuring at the hands of the provincial government but real improvements to the funding formula, which remains unchanged after more than four years of Liberal rule. In 2003, Toronto's education activists were all singing from the Mordechai Rozanski songbook about the need for billions of new dollars to restore health to the school system.

Now, in the face of another impending budget deficit at the board as a result of continued underfunding from the province, Wynne has decided to throw out her "Need to Succeed Budget" from her days as a trustee, in favour of that tried-and-true favourite from Mike Harris's playbook, "The Misdirection."

Forget the funding issue and blame the organization that is starving for funds – the Toronto school board itself.

Julian Heller, Toronto

As a family with children in the Toronto public school system since 1993, we have endured strikes by teachers and support staff (I taught my daughter to read during one such school outage), the cutbacks to "frills," such as outdoor and arts education under the Harris Tories, the imposition of "standardized testing" and the "economies of scale" promised by the amalgamation of the Toronto-area school boards.

Now Education Minister Kathleen Wynne wants the Toronto District School Board to become more "nimble" through some form of de-amalgamation. Will this move keep a single school pool open? Will it buy a single textbook? Will it add a single musical instrument to a school band? I would suggest the education minister accept the amalgamation imposed under the previous government and focus her energies on ensuring that adequate funding is available for the programs that the board delivers.

Or is she afraid that the board is currently too large to be bullied into submission by the provincial government?