Toronto Public School Board trustees failing kids & taxpayers

Okay, sure, Ontario municipalities are in the midst of school trustee elections, so it’s good politics for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee Josh Matlow to let the public know that there is something not right about the TDSB’s spending priorities. But he is also bang on because the voting public has a right to know to what extent the TDSB has ignored a broken infrastructure, including repairs and upgrades needed in school science labs. As this Toronto Sun article states:

“The TDSB continues to mismanage its spending priorities instead of focusing on fixing broken infrastructure, said Trustee Josh Matlow. As a result, students are suffering. I haven’t seen much evidence of (the labs being fixed), but that can be said about many priority needs around the system,” Matlow said. “That’s why I get so upset at the board when they spend money on things like expensive rallies at hockey arenas and other frivolous mis-expenditures that don’t reflect the needs of our students.

Do you know the board has not painted a single school since amalgamation in 1998?” he added. “There are fields looking like mud pits along with the (neglected) science labs. This is all politically charged. All the while, kids are waiting.”

The worse thing is that the neglect and spending on other priorities is essentially being rewarded by the Ontario government, who is allegedly going to provide the TDSB with an EXTRA $42.2 million this year to make repairs to schools, including the science labs — even though it is estimated that $82 million will be needed just for the science labs alone.

So, its now up to Toronto voters to only re-elect those trustees who have had the courage to speak out on behalf of the kids and the taxpayers. Sure, each such trustee is only one voice, but if the people of Toronto want more like that, then they are going to have to boot the rest out.

In fact, that would be a good message for all Ontario communities. On October 25th, 2010, don’t just vote in your municipal election for names of people you recognize. Whether for councillor or school board trustee, re-elect only those who have tried to listen to their constituents. Otherwise, elect a brand new mayor, as well as a brand new slate of candidates, school trustees included.

24 thoughts on “Toronto Public School Board trustees failing kids & taxpayers

  1. Matlow is correct regarding the extravaganza Chris Spence “I am the boss, it is all about me rally” . The idea that there is enough money in the system to provide a quality education, however is a pathetic joke. The funding formula makes running a quality system almost impossible. every trustee in the province will tell you the same thing whether they are catholic or public, conservative liberal or NDP. Rozanski said that Harris stole $2 billion that has never really been returned and in todays dollars we are about $4 billion short even considering the ELP. Most provinces and states in North America pay far more per student. We are listed alongside Mississippi and Louisiana.

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  2. Doug — Absolute B.S. Harris stole nothing. He equalized the funding formula so that the Catholic system gets the same dollar as the secular public — meaning the latter got an initial cut of 20%. However, when the Harris gov’t (not Harris personally!) was elected $12 BILLION was being spent on education. When the PC’s left office it was up to $17 Billion. By my books, that is hardly $2-4 billion short.

    Now, the education budget is nearly double that amount. More money obviously does NOT mean better services and programs. It simply means a deeper black hole for the money to go into.

    We should also check out just how much of every single increase in education funding has gone to salaries — and no teachers are not part of “learning conditions.” That’s B.S. too. Learning conditions are textbooks, computers in the classroom, resources in the libraries, up-to-date science labs, equipment that works, and so on.

    Your refrain that everything wrong with the system is Harris’ fault is getting really tiring. You are beginning to sound like a broken record that is stuck on “all we need is money.”

    Note, I will not approve any more of your comments that simply trash Harris or claim all the system needs is more money. The Harris gov’t was in power seven years. The McGuinty Liberals have been in power seven years. Time you started talking about their record. Also, it would be nice if you could think creatively once a while and not just through your left wing prism. I have plenty of posts that show I can look at an issue from several angles, but not you. You continue to claim that the “idea that there is enough money in the system is a pathetic joke.” No, your claims to the contrary are the pathetic joke.

    Good grief man, step outside your narrow minded box.

    One last thing — Why do you NOT blame the federal Liberal government of Jean Chretien for stealing the so-called $2 billion? Remember, it was his government through former Finance Minister Martin who stole from the provinces, particularly Ontario, with reduced transfer payments for education and social services all during the 90’s. In other words, Harris had to deal with the deck he was given but somehow he to blame for the consequences of what the federal Liberals did on the backs of the provinces.

    I’m simply sick of your illogical and revisionism ranting.

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  3. S.D. I didn’t approve your comment because you went away off topic into a subject I simply don’t want to discuss on this blog. Sorry.

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  4. Doug, I just read your comment to my husband, a retired teacher. He just laughed and said people like you are precisely why Rob Ford is likely going to be Toronto mayor and why there are so-called Tea Party movements in the U.S (and now Quebec). People are not racist, red necks and bigots. They are just fed up with the assumption that more taxes and more money will fix everything.

    In fact, the reverse actually seems to happen. And, no I don’t what to hear about Finland, a small homogeneous society that doesn’t have Canada’s diversity.

    Ford may be a blowhard to some but he is obviously in the right place at the right time. My sociological research on “systems” back in the late 1990’s clearly proved that systems expand and contract based on the funding they receive and more does not necessarily mean better.

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  5. The rally cost somewhere in the range of $ .50 per student so, for better or worse, it was a rounding error in terms of the TDSB budget. The real issue is how a board with a budget in excess of $ 2.5 billion per year can’t seem to find money to do basic maintenance. If a reasonable level of service can’t be provided I suspect +/- $. 50/student is the least of the problems.

    As to the rest of Doug’s assertions they’ve been dealt with already. Dubious claims don’t become more credible simply by being repeated over and over againg. Nuff said.

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  6. John L. Nuff said is right. It takes quite a bit for me to bite back but I am just sick and tired of the anti-Harris refrain and the lack of accountability re the Chretien gov’t.

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  7. “Do you know the board has not painted a single school since amalgamation in 1998?” he added.

    Trustee Matlow must have faulty information. My school was painted year before last. The principal told us the cost — something in the neighbourhood of $200 000 (it’s a large school). Most of the work was done during the summer, but some rooms and hallways were done during the school year. I *saw* the painters painting, so I know it happened.

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  8. Sandy, you are in the Toronto area correct? Do you know Josh? How about doing a story on who Josh recommends we vote for in the city re: School Trustees? This is important and an area that the media does not cover in Toronto. This should be something that you would have some expertise and interest in covering I’d think.

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  9. TDSB — Glad to hear that. But, obviously the science labs have been neglected. The reality is I live just outside the GTA and when I drive around, most of the secular public board’s schools are run down and in need of maintenance. Yet, I see just the opposite with the Catholic schools. And, no I’m not a Catholic. I think Matlow’s point is that infrastructure in the TDSB needs a lot of attention.

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  10. Doug — It really doesn’t matter to me if Josh is Liberal or not. He has always made good sense. But, it is interesting nonetheless. But judging from the comment from someone calling themselves TDSB, some schools did get painted. The problem with that is that is if he made one mistake, can we trust everything he said? While I may have been born in TO, but I don’t live there now, I’ll leave that to others to decide.

    Real Conservative — Just for the record, I live in the Niagara area.

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  11. I suspect Matlow just got a little caught up in hype. Having said that he does come across as one of the more coherent of the TDSB trustees.

    As to him being a “Liberal” it is possible to belong to a party/philosophy without it becoming the overwhelming determinant of one’s worldview.

    As to Harris, he’s been gone for years, student numbers have plunged (or had until Daltie goosed them up again), spending has skyrocketed and yet, still, we’re told the TDSB is unable to pay for what other boards do as a matter of routine business.

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  12. I find it interesting that people are challenging the actions of trustees. They heard the information and made a local decision. Did they want the province to overrule and cancel the event?

    There is also the conflicting view points that Toronto needs to make better decisions and close schools that are under-enrolled. On the other hand, the parent choice views have often supported the idea that turning these schools into alternative schools warrant keeping them open.

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  13. I have nothing against trustees making decisions, however I do expect that they’ll also take ownership of the consequences.

    Consider:

    The decision to keep open a school that isn’t required has all sorts of implications in terms of costs for staffing, maintenance, etc so that decision impacts on the resources available elsewhere in the system. If trustees do bow to pressure from “parent activists”, neighbourhood groups, politicians, etc they have to be held responsible. Spending money to hold on to unneeded space then crying poverty doesn’t fly. You were elected to make difficult choices.

    On the issue of parents in favour of more school choice I suspect most of them are thinking of alternative schools outside the PS system, not a PS with a different name. An “alternative school” inside the TDSB will still be governed by the same policies, rules, collective agreements, etc that burden the rest of the system.

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  14. I have supported almost everything Matlow has done and I’m no Liberal, they are FAR too right wing for me. He is a bit of a headline hunter but that does not mean he is wrong. The TDSB needs him, too bad he will be elected to city hall.

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  15. I think a post of mine was “lost”. I pointed out that the only way to measure a cutback is in inflation adjusted “constant dollars” . Rozanski basically said, the provincial funding was $2Billion behind after Harris in what it would purchase in labour and materials. This is how economists measure cutbacks. There is no point in raising the budget from $12-17 billion if the compounded inflation rate is even more. Boards need MORE money in constant dollars not less.

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  16. Your post must have been lost because I don’t remember it. In terms of Matlow, he is now following me on Twitter. I hope he gets elected to City Hall. Rather than headline hunter, I prefer to think of him as media savvy. Sure can’t hurt. I have some relatives who plan to vote for him. I don’t know if they live in Ward 22 or own businesses. Where exactly is Ward 22?

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  17. Oh good heavens Doug. I just went to Josh’s website. I can now see where Ward 22 St. Paul’s is located. But, to have Carolyn Bennett’s testimonial right on the Home page? Good grief, what can he be thinking? The woman has no credibility at all, regardless of the fact she is a federal Liberal. Here I thought Matlow would get along with either Smitherman or Ford.

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  18. The inflation rate has been virtually zero for several years, while education funding has exploded. There’s no way in the world boards haven’t more than made up for any money “lost” during the Harris years. I put lost in quotes to highlight the rather dubious claim that Boards have a god-given right to perpetual increases in funding and if they don’t get it they’ve “lost” it.

    Then you get into the issue of massive increases in budgets in the face of massive declines in kids…

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  19. That certainly does put trustees in a rather dubious position when they claim to be representing the interests of their constituents. This adds more ammo for those who claim that the whole concept of local school boards no longer works.

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  20. The issue of trustees receiving so much of their funding from employee groups over which they have a direct impact could, or should be, a huge issue for the electorate.

    How credible are these people in acting in the best interests of the public they’re supposed to be representing if they’re beholden to employees to the extent they are?

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  21. John L — Read my latest post. It is not about “funding.” It is about “donations” to campaigns. And, if we assume unions shouldn’t donate, then parent groups, businesses and others shouldn’t be allowed to donate either. Because the latter also benefit by providing goods and services. And, parent advocacy groups benefit too because they want the board to provide special programs, etc.

    It’s a slippery slope to pick on one group. We are talking about a trustee candidate campaign. I nearly ran this time and it is very expensive. Do we want only the rich to try for public office? Who can donate or endorse is all about fairness, free speech and democracy.

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