Key School Board Issues
Toronto is one of the greatest cities in the world, but we are at a crossroads. Our city is becoming increasingly unaffordable and income inequality is widening faster than ever before. People, communities, and an entire generation are being squeezed out. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The decisions made at the school board can either take our city along a more progressive path or down a deepening divide. We need our school board to tackle the real, pressing issues facing our schools and act as our line of defence against Ford, to protect our students and help make sure our schools create the opportunities that will make Toronto a city that works for all.
In no particular order, what follows are 20 of some of the most pressing issues and possible solutions facing the TDSB in the new term.
The TDSB must advocate to reform the provincial education funding formula, so that it is more needs-based and reflects the supports that students need to be successful learners.
In 1997, Ontario introduced a provincial education funding formula. The funding formula has remained largely unchanged, and still does not provide enough funding to address the fundamental needs of students and schools including: funding for libraries, guidance, music, art and physical education and funding for school operations and maintenance.
The TDSB needs to oppose cuts to special education supports and advocate for greater supports and resources for special education.
It is important for every student to get the support they need to thrive, particularly students who have special education needs. The province directs funding to school boards for special education resources, but it falls short of the immense student need, so the TDSB has consistently spent more from their budget than is allocated.
The TDSB must advocate for equal access to EDCs to ensure developers pay their fair share to help fund schools.
Toronto is experiencing rapid population growth and that trend is set to continue. This means that there will be more pressure on city infrastructure, including schools. While Toronto’s Catholic and French-language school boards can access funds through Education Development Charges (EDCs) — fees collected from developers to help pay for the cost of education infrastructure required due to growth — the Ontario government does not allow the TDSB to access these charges.
The TDSB should support community access to school spaces and to house community services in schools, such as child care centres and public recreational facilities.
From child care centres, to recreational and literacy programs, schools in the TDSB have long been identified as community hubs. However, the Ministry of Education only provides funding to operate schools for educational purposes.
The TDSB must strengthen its commitment to equity and inclusion.
In October 2016, the TDSB launched the Integrated Equity Framework Action Plan. The TDSB must continue its efforts around equity and inclusion at the TDSB to improve student achievement, close opportunity gaps, and support student well-being.
The TDSB should end EQAO testing in TDSB schools.
Many have advocated for the elimination of EQAO, arguing it is costly, puts stress on students, and that the teachers administering these tests often struggle to teach the required curriculum in sufficient depth. Other school boards across Ontario, such as the Peel District School Board have recently voted to suspend EQAO testing.
The TDSB must not bring back SROs into our schools and instead must work to bring more caring adults in schools to create a safer school culture and environment.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) program was eliminated in TDSB schools. More caring adults that work to meet the needs of all students, such as guidance counsellors, youth support workers, and social workers, were a key recommendation of the Falconer Report on school community safety.
The TDSB must advocate for funding to fix our schools.
One of the top priorities facing public schools in Toronto is the need for adequate funding to repair schools. The TDSB’s Renewal Needs Backlog (RNB) list identifies 22,686 different repairs needed in over 500 schools. The TDSB should advocate for more provincial resources to fix the school repair backlog and for funding solutions to address this so that students are in safe and comfortable conditions.
The TDSB must oppose the sale of schools.
In the past, the TDSB has explored shutting down and selling schools as a desperate move to raise funds to deal with school repairs. However, given the growth pressures we are facing in Toronto and the use of schools as community hubs, this is shortsighted and a response to a broken funding formula that the Province needs to fix.
The TDSB should not turn to private partnerships to solve inadequate public funding for our school facilities.
In the past, the TDSB has entered into public-private partnership for the operations of school facilities, as a way to deal with the inadequate funding schools receive from the provincial government. The result of these partnerships is private companies profiting from public land and and creating barriers to access and use for the local community. The TDSB should oppose such partnerships between the TDSB and private companies.
TDSB trustees must support active parent engagement across the TDSB.
Parent engagement is an important part of student achievement. Study after study has shown positive effects when parents play an active role in their children’s education. The TDSB should support, recognize, and encourage many forms of parent engagement in the TDSB, including regular meeting opportunities in each ward.
TDSB trustees must support mental health and student well-being.
The TDSB has identified student mental health as a board priority, and has implemented strategies that work to promote positive mental health, such as the Mental Health Strategy. The TDSB should allocate resources to initiatives like these that ensure that mental health supports and well-being are integrated into the experiences of students.
TDSB trustees must support our educators.
School trustees have an important oversight role to play in collective bargaining negotiations. The TDSB should uphold the principles of collective bargaining of Toronto educators to ensure the process is fair and balanced.
The TDSB should support equitable access and distribution of french immersion and art-focused schools across Toronto.
Although TDSB students have the option to enroll in an art-focused school and french immersion programs, concerns have been raised about who ultimately benefits from these specialized programming. French immersion programs are not distributed evenly across the city, and a recent study showed that students in art-focused schools are more than twice as likely to be white.
The TDSB must vote to support the phase out of academic streaming.
Academic streaming is a widely criticized process, many pointing out that children are not being placed on a pathway that’s taking them to where they need to go. Studies have shown that students who are Black, from low-income backgrounds, or from historically marginalized communities are overly represented in the applied stream of classes.
The TDSB must achieve Vision Zero in School Zones.
A child is seriously injured or killed every 17 weeks on their way to or from school on Toronto’s roads. The city’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan works to address safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and school children.
The TDSB must advocate for a progressive curriculum that includes Indigenous education, and the 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum.
Recently, the province announced their plan to scrap the 2015 sex-ed curriculum, and cancelled curriculum-writing sessions meant to enhance Indigenous perspectives. Indigenous education and a curriculum that teaches consent, boundaries, and sexual health is vital.
The TDSB must ensure that GSAs are protected and supported.
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are student-run clubs that provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ2SI+ students, as well as straight allies. Trustees play an important role in protecting GSAs and ensuring that all schools are welcoming and safe for LGBTQ2SI+ students. Some school boards in Ontario have attempted to ban students from creating GSAs.
The TDSB should oppose the “snitch-line” and instead, support the existing, formal complaint process and protocols.
Doug Ford has set up a “snitch-line” that encourages parents to anonymously report teachers. This ignores an already-existing complaint process that has been in use for years and has been built to get results for students, parents, and teachers.
Trustees must work with other politicians and use their power to both vote in opposition to and voice their opposition to Doug Ford’s attack on our public education.
Premier Doug Ford poses a serious threat to our children’s education, safety, and well-being. He has already cut millions of funding for school repairs. And he has scrapped the 2015 sex-ed curriculum and dismissed plans to update the curriculum with Indigenous content. We need our Trustees to stand up for Toronto and stand up to Doug Ford.