In today's National Post: Toronto trustees set to defy deadline to balance budgets
The Toronto public and Catholic school boards are apparently going to ignore an Aug. 31 deadline to balance their budgets. The public board has an $84 million deficit, while the Catholic board's runs to $34.5 million. Trustees have expressed frustration with the Ontario government's funding formula. Public trustee Irene Atkinson said "We were elected to represent our communities, their needs and their aspirations and we are being opposed by an antiquated funding model which inhibits our doing exactly that." Among other things, Toronto public schools may have to terminate school breakfast and lunch programs and close 77 of 80 indoor swimming pools.
Let's set aside for now the issue of school trustees choosing to ignore the law. Let's talk instead of the "needs and aspirations" of parents who send their kids to schools out here in the wilderness of Eastern Ontario, or anywhere in rural Ontario for that matter. School breakfast and lunch programs? We have schools that don't have cafeterias or gymnasiums for crying out loud! INDOOR SWIMMING POOLS? Students out here go to school in ancient crumbling buildings dating to the Korean War. Many of our schools have upwards of half their students being taught in "temporary" portable classrooms that are now so old that they have to be renovated themselves, and are leaky, mold-infested structures that the UN wouldn't tolerate in third world countries. The nearest city to where I live, population 35 000, doesn't have one public indoor swimming pool in the entire community, let alone in any of its schools.
For decades, Toronto schools mined a rich vein of local property taxes to fund extravagant schools complete with pools and concert halls while the rest of the province's schools begged for money. Now that school funding has been removed from the local property tax base, Toronto is feeling the pinch for a change. I'm not saying that every school board should now sink to the lowest common denominator, but the Toronto school board's woes are not getting much sympathy outside the 905 area code.