With two weeks to go before the provincial election, the Toronto District School Board on Wednesday called on political parties to pledge more support for the TDSB and school boards facing large budget shortfalls across the province.
TDSB President Alexander Brown said the board was facing a massive deficit after “exceeding expectations” to protect students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown says the board was also forced to dip into its reserves when the department would not fund smaller class sizes and other essential pandemic costs.
“All available funds have been dedicated to student and staff safety,” Brown said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Now, the TDSB currently projects a shortfall of $52.2 million for the 2022-23 school year, primarily due to pandemic costs and declining enrollment,” he said.
“If additional funds are not provided to address the impacts of the pandemic, savings will have to be found and cuts will have to be made.”
But the TDSB president says administrators and staff don’t want to make any cuts, especially now that students need stability and support after more than two years of disruption.
Brown says the TDSB specifically requests the following:
- Reimbursement of all pandemic-related expenses incurred by school boards over the past two years.
- Full support for the TDSB pandemic recovery plan.
- Reinstatement of Enrollment Stabilization Funding.
- Additional funding to cover cost increases related to employee benefits, utilities and other inflationary costs.
Brown says the $52.2 billion includes the structural deficit, which has built up over the years, as well as the pandemic costs of the past two years.
What the parties promise
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives pledged $21 billion for schools, including $14 billion in capital grants. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said $500 million will be invested in 37 school projects in 2022/2023. Ontario’s school repair backlog was estimated in September at about $16.8 billion.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Liberals say they have “listened to education workers, students and parents” and, through their input and feedback, have developed a plan to relaunch the education — “something that children and families desperately need”.
The plan proposes the following:
- Classes of 20: $1.1 billion.
- Ventilation improvements: $525 million.
- Special education and recovery of learning: $375 million.
- Summer apprenticeship: $100 million.
- Mental health: $75 million.
- Temporary virtual classrooms: $50 million.
- Free tutoring: $40 million.
- Student transportation: $40 million.
- Student re-engagement: $20 million.
- Outdoor learning: $18 million.
For its part, the Ontario NDP says it will invest to help students get back on their feet academically, emotionally and psychologically after a tough few years.
The party has pledged to hire 20,000 teachers and education workers and invest in remedial learning programs at school to help students recover from two years of learning disruption. New Democrats also promise to repeal Bill 124 – a law that caps annual salary increases for public servants, including teachers – and to “restore respect and fair compensation for those who deliver education.” “.
The Green Party of Ontario also released its plan for safe schools, which outlines how it would improve air quality and reduce class sizes.
Brown said voters should ask the candidates who show up on their doorstep how they will best support schools and public education.
“I strongly believe that education should play a bigger role in this election,” Brown said.
“This provincial government must put Ontario’s young people first, who we can all agree have suffered greatly over the past two years.”